This month’s journal is a-jumpin’ full of hyperlinks, offering you more content while I write less. And it has been all about the snow while on tour in the Midwest, whether filigreed cherry trees or treacherous black ice that makes one hobble around like a West-coast ninny. Water is so creative!
I have just finished touring with the Caravanserai ensemble, a nine-member gaggle of seven musicians, one photographer and one tour manager. Much music and testosterone from the visitors, and much snow and kindness from our hosts in Grand Forks (ND), Fergus Falls (MN) and Traverse City (MI). You can visit Caravanserai’s official blog for a narrative of our collective journey, and their official photo narrative.
Some things stand out from our tour, because, well, you know, the Mid-West is truly another country and the US is so bloody big. Dog-sized jack rabbits in the midnight snow as we trekked back from a pub in Grand Forks. Substantial funding of the arts (particularly in Minnesota thanks to their taxation-as-social-contract) – cavernous music departments with arsenals of instruments that would make any Oregonian jealous. Generous percussion professors (Keith Aleo, Mike Blake) who let us use their rooms and percussion so that Terry Longshore and I could rehearse our upcoming Caballito Negro tour. The ecstatic audience members who have embraced their identities as Muslim Americans with many cultural roots, with passion and generosity. And most of all, the way in which our music effortlessly blended Arabic, Urdu, Hindi, American music traditions and Somali poetry, thanks to the visionary compositions of Ronnie Malley and Zeshan Bagewadi. Human bodies all over the world yearn for the same kinds of pitch tendencies and rhythmic grooves, so raga-motown is perfectly logical.
My flute and percussion duo Caballito Negro has launched its own website – many thanks to Punkt Digital for their cheery creativity – they are lovely to work with! Terry and I begin our Songlines nomadic trek on Feb. 17 in Monmouth (OR), ending Feb. 29 in Roseburg (OR). It’s a loop-de-loop of workshops and concerts that also includes Corvallis (OR), Portland (OR), Port Angeles (WA), and Lincoln City (OR). We’ve had a great year of nurturing new ideas into beautiful syncretic forms, and we would love to share that with you. Great collaborators are rare birds, and I feel truly blessed.
Caballito Negro’s new EP, Songlines bursts into life on Feb. 17. It will be available on our tour as a download card, available at CDBaby, iTunes, Amazon, and many other online music vendors. It features the premiere recordings of Music for South Africa by David P. Jones (arranged by Caballito Negro) for alto flute and marimba/vibraphone; Encounters XVI by William Kraft for flute and percussion and This Is Like Jazz! by Ivan Trevino for contrabass flute, marimba, and spoken word.
I recorded another track in early January for my solo CD, Alex Shapiro’s lovely homage (with real recordings) to the humpback whale, Below. This humpback sings unadulterated 4 to 6 note phrases constructing her own songline over vast ocean paths. Alex lives the sea in her writing – it’s worth checking out her blog and other compositions.
Finally, in December, Canadian pianist Christine Eggert and I recorded some excerpts of Poulenc, Debussy and Roussel, to kick off our flute-piano-narrative project that will evolve some time this year. We share a passion for French music, want a lot more than the usual concert hall experience, and can indulge in our Commonwealth idiosyncracies when our American colleagues aren’t looking. I can write “colour” and “cheque” and not be corrected (damn you spell-check). We can talk about low cost/free education and healthcare not as a novelty, but as the norm that we both grew up with. Makes me quite nostalgic.