Hank Roberts

Hank Roberts + Cello = ❤

Hank Roberts Sextet

How the music and the ensemble came together.   I lived in New York City in 1977, and throughout a lot of the 80’s. I moved to Ithaca, NY in 1989, but shared an apartment with a friend in Hoboken for a while after that. Then, starting in the early-90’s, I spent more time in Ithaca with my family.  Some people think that I retired from music, but that’s not accurate. I continued playing and composing, with a goal to work as a professional musician: teaching, playing concerts, touring (although traveling on a more limited basis than in the 80’s), writing music for various ensembles based in Ithaca, and working with musicians from all over the world, particularly after 2002. As my children grew up and became more independent, I started working more outside of Ithaca. This has been happening over the past 12 years, and then on August 15th 2015, I began subletting apartments in New You City. I stayed in 3 different places in the fall of 2015 before I ended up in a room at a friend’s apartment in Brooklyn in January 2016 for an extended stay. Each one of these four locations had pianos in them, and I spent a part of my time writing new music. While staying at a studio apartment at West Beth, I was inspired by the piano, and the ability to work for long hours without disturbing neighbors. The first three days I was there, I barely left the apartment. Luckily, I brought a lot of food with me from Ithaca. I composed, played the cello, and started going out to see and play with other musicians in the city.   I connected with friends from the past, and with a lot of new friends, as well. Trombonist/composer Brian Drye was one of the first people to get in touch after I starting spending more time in the city. He invited me to play a concert with his group ‘Bizingas’. Being a trombone player myself from years ago, it was great to work with such a talented composer, and an amazing player on that instrument. He introduced me to reed player Mike McGinnis through a session at iBeam. I was previously interested to play with Mike after connecting with him via Facebook, and listening to some of his tracks on-line. Mike put together a very satisfying session with me and the great drummer Vinnie Sperrazza.  We all played several sessions together in different combinations. I played with violinist Dana Lyn when I was subbing for Marika Hughes in Gina Leishman’s group. In addition to appreciating Dana’s sound and playing, I was inspired seeing her website which featured her playing, composing and art work. All of the players in the Sextet are excellent composers, and bring that developed sensibility to the music, particularly during improvisational sections. I had been watching Jacob Sacks online, and thought his brilliant work would be great for the music that I was writing at the piano, if I would be lucky enough to get his involvement in the project. Brian offered me a 2-night run at iBeam in late April, and so I asked the above players to perform with me. Motivated by the upcoming concert, I found a new intense focus to expand the composition that I had started to work on in the fall. I began to think of the piece in relation to writing for Dana, Mike, Brian, Vinnie and Jacob.   Writing ‘G’ was mostly a very slow and meticulous process, although some parts of it came together very quickly once I had identified the direction for the different sections, and worked to compose the raw musical materials. I developed the piece starting from a variety of harmonic statements and frameworks that came from my initial compositional ideas, and then found a way to combine the original material with expanding harmonies, rhythms and sonic/timbrel ideas.  I’ve always enjoyed creating music in a new environment.  I found inspiration from that, and from the highly developed, unique musicality that each of these players exudes. In the middle of it all, from a compositional perspective, I felt as if I was having success with working from conceptual angles that were creating something very grounded in more traditional constructions, while highlighting more expansive and abstract ideas at the same time. I was excited to work with players who had the musical tools technically and conceptually to expound on what I was putting together compositionally, and I can’t say enough about the positive and extraordinary musicianship that comes from them.   ‘G’ was written from a variety of perspectives:   1. A range of perceptions reflecting on ‘the laws of the universe’ as an idea framework to compose music.   2. Although a lot of the music is tied together from various concrete harmonic and rhythmic motifs, and extended ideas developed in the initial stages of composing, some of it was written totally in terms of what I freely felt in the moment with seemingly no consciously motivated concepts attached. This relates conceptually/thematically to the piece, by way of my reflections on ‘unexplainable phenomenon’ in the universe: occurrences not definable or ruled by any framework of human conceived/perceived ‘laws’.   3. When considering a title for ‘G’, a phrase/subtitle came to mind that spoke to what the piece might at least partially mean to me at the time: ‘The Coded Ethics of Tempered Universal Confusion’.   4. Improvisation from a variety of conceptual approaches with relative degrees of defined structure is also a major component in the piece.   Here's a short Soundcloud sound file with recorded examples (from one of our first concerts) of the music. 

How the music and the ensemble came together.

 

I lived in New York City in 1977, and throughout a lot of the 80’s. I moved to Ithaca, NY in 1989, but shared an apartment with a friend in Hoboken for a while after that. Then, starting in the early-90’s, I spent more time in Ithaca with my family.  Some people think that I retired from music, but that’s not accurate. I continued playing and composing, with a goal to work as a professional musician: teaching, playing concerts, touring (although traveling on a more limited basis than in the 80’s), writing music for various ensembles based in Ithaca, and working with musicians from all over the world, particularly after 2002. As my children grew up and became more independent, I started working more outside of Ithaca. This has been happening over the past 12 years, and then on August 15th 2015, I began subletting apartments in New You City. I stayed in 3 different places in the fall of 2015 before I ended up in a room at a friend’s apartment in Brooklyn in January 2016 for an extended stay. Each one of these four locations had pianos in them, and I spent a part of my time writing new music. While staying at a studio apartment at West Beth, I was inspired by the piano, and the ability to work for long hours without disturbing neighbors. The first three days I was there, I barely left the apartment. Luckily, I brought a lot of food with me from Ithaca. I composed, played the cello, and started going out to see and play with other musicians in the city.

 

I connected with friends from the past, and with a lot of new friends, as well. Trombonist/composer Brian Drye was one of the first people to get in touch after I starting spending more time in the city. He invited me to play a concert with his group ‘Bizingas’. Being a trombone player myself from years ago, it was great to work with such a talented composer, and an amazing player on that instrument. He introduced me to reed player Mike McGinnis through a session at iBeam. I was previously interested to play with Mike after connecting with him via Facebook, and listening to some of his tracks on-line. Mike put together a very satisfying session with me and the great drummer Vinnie Sperrazza.  We all played several sessions together in different combinations. I played with violinist Dana Lyn when I was subbing for Marika Hughes in Gina Leishman’s group. In addition to appreciating Dana’s sound and playing, I was inspired seeing her website which featured her playing, composing and art work. All of the players in the Sextet are excellent composers, and bring that developed sensibility to the music, particularly during improvisational sections. I had been watching Jacob Sacks online, and thought his brilliant work would be great for the music that I was writing at the piano, if I would be lucky enough to get his involvement in the project. Brian offered me a 2-night run at iBeam in late April, and so I asked the above players to perform with me. Motivated by the upcoming concert, I found a new intense focus to expand the composition that I had started to work on in the fall. I began to think of the piece in relation to writing for Dana, Mike, Brian, Vinnie and Jacob.

 

Writing ‘G’ was mostly a very slow and meticulous process, although some parts of it came together very quickly once I had identified the direction for the different sections, and worked to compose the raw musical materials. I developed the piece starting from a variety of harmonic statements and frameworks that came from my initial compositional ideas, and then found a way to combine the original material with expanding harmonies, rhythms and sonic/timbrel ideas.

 I’ve always enjoyed creating music in a new environment.  I found inspiration from that, and from the highly developed, unique musicality that each of these players exudes. In the middle of it all, from a compositional perspective, I felt as if I was having success with working from conceptual angles that were creating something very grounded in more traditional constructions, while highlighting more expansive and abstract ideas at the same time. I was excited to work with players who had the musical tools technically and conceptually to expound on what I was putting together compositionally, and I can’t say enough about the positive and extraordinary musicianship that comes from them.

 

‘G’ was written from a variety of perspectives:

 

1. A range of perceptions reflecting on ‘the laws of the universe’ as an idea framework to compose music.

 

2. Although a lot of the music is tied together from various concrete harmonic and rhythmic motifs, and extended ideas developed in the initial stages of composing, some of it was written totally in terms of what I freely felt in the moment with seemingly no consciously motivated concepts attached. This relates conceptually/thematically to the piece, by way of my reflections on ‘unexplainable phenomenon’ in the universe: occurrences not definable or ruled by any framework of human conceived/perceived ‘laws’.

 

3. When considering a title for ‘G’, a phrase/subtitle came to mind that spoke to what the piece might at least partially mean to me at the time: ‘The Coded Ethics of Tempered Universal Confusion’.

 

4. Improvisation from a variety of conceptual approaches with relative degrees of defined structure is also a major component in the piece.

 

Here's a short Soundcloud sound file with recorded examples (from one of our first concerts) of the music. 

THE MUSICIANS

MIKE MCGINNIS

Clarinetist/saxophonist/composer Mike McGinnis a musical explorer who will not be limited by stylistic barriers.  He can swing in the straight ahead tradition or improvise on the furthest edge of the avant-garde, bringing the same deep commitment and personal vision to every musical situation.  His open-minded and determinedly individual approach has led to work with jazz innovators like Anthony Braxton, Alice and Ravi Coltrane, Steve Coleman, and Lonnie Plaxico; Parliament/Funkadelic keyboardist Bernie Worrell; indie rock mainstays Yo La Tengo; the Afro-Baroque band Stew & The Negro Problem, authors of the Tony-winning musical Passing Strange; as soloist for the Tony-winning Broadway hit Fela!; and as co-leader of the inventive Chamber Grunge group The Four Bags. The prolific McGinnis’ wide-ranging imagination comes stunningly to the fore on his latest critically acclaimed releases, Road*Trip and The Ängsudden Song Cycle, both of which feature extended compositions showcasing McGinnis’ skills as both composer and improviser.  Road*Trip for Clarinet & 9 Players (RKM) received a rare 4 ½ Stars in Downbeat Magazine  and was picked by David Adler of the Village Voice as one of 10 Best Jazz Albums of 2013 The Ängsudden Song Cycle (482 Music), a landscape tone poem in collaboration with painter/poet MuKha who’s LP Release concert was named one of the best live performances in NYC of 2013 by the NYC Jazz Record. 

http://www.mikemcginnis.com

DANA LYN

Multi-instrumentalist and composer Dana Lyn has performed at New York’s Lincoln Center, Beacon Theater, Carnegie and Town Halls, as well as folk festivals and dive bars the world over. As a violinist and keyboard player, she is at home in multiple musical worlds, ranging from classical to folk, contemporary and improvisatory music.  

 

She has worked and performed with Grammy Award-winning vocalists Susan McKeown and Loudon Wainwright; Tony Award-winning musician and playwright Stew; Irish poet Louis de Paor; actor-directors Ethan Hawke and Vincent D’Onofrio; performance artist Taylor Mac; D’Angelo and the Vanguard, Sting, Will Oldham and the Elysian Fields, among others. As a composer, Lyn has received commissions from the Brooklyn Rider, the Apple Hill String Quartet, the National Arts Council of Ireland and the New Orchestra of Washington.

 

Lyn is also a well-versed fiddle player in the Irish tradition and was featured on The Raw Bar and Geanntraitwo documentaries on traditional Irish music that aired on national television in Ireland. She is a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.

 

www.danalynmusic.com

www.slimboneheadvolt.com

www.danalynkylesanna.com

BRIAN DRYE

Trombonist and pianist Brian Drye leads the group Bizingas whose debut album was hailed as “one of the best introductions to a new band” by The New York Times. As a founding member of the eclectic chamber ensemble “The Four Bags”, his compositions have premiered at Lincoln Center, Symphony Space and BAM. Brian has lent his unique trombone voice to groups as diverse as balkan brass juggernauts Slavic Soul Party and Frank London’s Klezmer Brass Allstars.  He has performed and recorded on both piano and trombone with Tony award winner Stew from Stew and the Negro Problem. Brian has performed with Billy Martin, Steven Bernstein, Clark Terry, The Wood Brothers, Andrew D’Angelo, Kirk Knuffke, Shane Endsley, Ches Smith, Oscar Noriega, Marcus Rojas and Mark Helias. Brian spent his formative years touring the nation with The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, Paul Anka and The Four Tops.  In 2008 Brian created Ibeam Brooklyn, a performance space and home for creative music in Brooklyn, NY.   Brian is a teaching artist for Carnegie Hall and has worked as a coach and mentor for music educators throughout New York City. http://briandrye.com/bio/

Trombonist and pianist Brian Drye leads the group Bizingas whose debut album was hailed as “one of the best introductions to a new band” by The New York Times. As a founding member of the eclectic chamber ensemble “The Four Bags”, his compositions have premiered at Lincoln Center, Symphony Space and BAM. Brian has lent his unique trombone voice to groups as diverse as balkan brass juggernauts Slavic Soul Party and Frank London’s Klezmer Brass Allstars. 

He has performed and recorded on both piano and trombone with Tony award winner Stew from Stew and the Negro Problem. Brian has performed with Billy Martin, Steven Bernstein, Clark Terry, The Wood Brothers, Andrew D’Angelo, Kirk Knuffke, Shane Endsley, Ches Smith, Oscar Noriega, Marcus Rojas and Mark Helias. Brian spent his formative years touring the nation with The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, Paul Anka and The Four Tops. 

In 2008 Brian created Ibeam Brooklyn, a performance space and home for creative music in Brooklyn, NY.   Brian is a teaching artist for Carnegie Hall and has worked as a coach and mentor for music educators throughout New York City.

http://briandrye.com/bio/

VINNIE SPERRAZZA

Vinnie Sperrazza is a Brooklyn-based jazz drummer.  His first album as a bandleader and composer, Apocryphal, was released by Loyal Label on September 9, 2014.

Originally from a small town south of Utica, New York, Vin moved to NYC right after college, and he's lived in Brooklyn almost long enough to say he's from Brooklyn.

He's played lots and lots of good music with many amazing musicians, but he feels self-conscious about dropping names, so he's not going to do it, save mentioning the late great Mr. James Williams, pianist, with whom Vin played many memorable concerts.

He's in lots of bands, spent a recent summer at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival as an actor (he played a drummer- not much of a stretch), is on some cool records that have just come out (Dana Lyn/Vincent D'Onofrio Slim Bone Head Volt, Sperrazza/Sacks/Kamaguchi Play Tadd Dameron, Jacob Garchik Ye Olde), and as of this writing, is listening to rough mixes of three new projects:  Apocryphal II (with the returning cast of Loren Stillman, Brandon Seabrook, Eivind Opsvik, produced by Geoff Kraly), a quartet date with Chris Speed, Bruce Barth, and Peter Brendler, and an album of music by Lee Morgan for Fresh Sound Records, all for 2017 release. 

http://www.vinniesperrazza.org

JACOB SACKS

Jacob Sacks is one of the most creative pianists on the NYC jazz scene today. His strong individual voice has been heard in a variety of settings ranging from the mainstream jazz traditions of the Mingus Big Band and Orchestra to the open approach of the Paul Motian Septet to the vamp based fusion of David Binney’s Balance.

Originally from Michigan, Jacob was a 1995 Presidential Scholar In The Arts before he moved to New York City to study with Garry Dial at the Manhattan School Of Music. After graduation in 1998, Jacob was a finalist in the 1999 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition.

In the last 12 years, Jacob has been a member of many different ensembles, recorded several albums, and has toured the United States, Europe, and Canada several times.  He has performed with musicians such as Clark Terry, Joe Maneri, Terumasa Hino, Charles Gayle, Eddie Henderson, Christian McBride, Brian Blade, Tony Malaby, Jacob Garchik, Ben Gerstein, Ohad Talmor, Chris Potter, Mark Turner, Ben Monder, Adam Rogers, Kenny Wollesen, Gene Jackson, and Matt Wilson.

Current projects include a longstanding duo with vocalist Yoon Sun Choi, with whom Jacob recently released a critically acclaimed album of Joe Raposo’s music; the quartet “Two Miles A Day” co-led with bassist Eivind Opsvik, featuring violist Mat Maneri and drummer Paul Motian; and a trio with drummer Dan Weiss and bassist Thomas Morgan.

Jacob currently resides in Brooklyn where he is working on several recording projects and teaching 15 or so students in his private practice.

HANK ROBERTS

Photo by Linda Wyatt Over his nearly four-decade career, Hank Roberts has forged a compelling original voice as a cellist and composer, encompassing abstract improvisation and soulful folk melodies, intricate new-music compositions and vigorous rock songs. (see bio page for more extensive information) http://www.hankrobertsmusic.com/bio/  

Photo by Linda Wyatt

Over his nearly four-decade career, Hank Roberts has forged a compelling original voice as a cellist and composer, encompassing abstract improvisation and soulful folk melodies, intricate new-music compositions and vigorous rock songs. (see bio page for more extensive information) http://www.hankrobertsmusic.com/bio/  

Copyright © 2015 Hank Roberts