Second Story Garage: Meyer, McLagan and Ellis

Our first foray into jazz turned very experimental with this trio. Saxophonist Danny Meyer, bassist Kent McLagan and drummer Jay Ellis improvised all three of the songs they played for us, without so much as a few words beforehand.

Well, at least not any words about tempo or key changes. The conversational back-and-forth between these three was as natural and unpredictable as their music. Since the songs were composed on the spot, none of them had titles until the meandering conversations turned up something everyone liked.  Here Meyer, McLagan and Ellis perform “Bicycle.”

Meyer and Ellis are also part of The Bottesini Project, an improvisation-based jazz group Ashley wrote about last fall:

This riffing, and this in-sync way of thinking, if exactly what The Bottesini Project is about. It started in 2006 with Paul Riola and an ever-changing roster of musicians. The idea was that he could bring in different personalities and instruments to create the specific sound he wanted for a performance, something he calls a “programmatic approach to free improvising.” That means, for example, he might bring in a violinist and accordionist to get an Eastern European Sound.

The Bottesini Project wants improvisation to sound like written, rehearsed music.

What they brought us: A preserved scorpion paper weight. Yep. Ellis said it helped him overcome a bout of writer’s block after he skilled a few scorpions scurrying around the cabin he was working in.

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