Photographed by Stephen Longley at Roeder Studio
during the recording Joni Mitchell's "ALL I WANT" for the
new CD, Knot the Thought that Counts.
|The COMPLEXBLUE Story Was it the seven year itch? It had been about that
long since I had done anything serious with music. I kept plenty busy with lifes
other tasks and distractions, and though it bothered my conscience a little bit, music
seemed stuck on the back burner. Then sometime early in 98 I began to hear something
in my mind: the sound of band fronted by two saxophones, particularly soprano and
baritone. There was something about the ranges, the textures, the blend of the fat reed
and the skinny reed buzzing together in my brain and it wouldnt go away!
For me, the thing that most stimulates musical creativity is simply the Sound of it - when it's right. The building blocks need to be there too, of course: melody, rhythm, harmony, groove; but for music to transcend its structure, there needs also to be that intangible ingredient, the thing that makes the air vibrate just so, the one element that can connect to the emotions. I dont know what else to call it but the SOUND. So driven by the joyful noise of saxophones playing in my mind, and the quest to find that Sound, I got busy writing.
When it came time to put this music to the test I needed some real players. Chris Bacas and I met when we played in a quartet together briefly in the early 90s. We were neighbors in Silver Spring, MD and had remained good friends over the years. His playing was always a thrill to hear: great ideas with passion and nuance in every note. Rob Holmes, whom Id met at the Monday night jam sessions at State of the Union on U Street in DC, is a warm, soulful, and inventive player. I knew his tone would blend with Chris and that his style would provide necessary contrast. Eventually, with some nervous apprehension, I asked these two guys to come over and read through my sketches. Though my expectations were modest, what I heard in my living room that day was astonishing. There it was: The Sound! What a thrill it was to hear it come to life. Then came the additional surprise: Chris and Rob, these consummate jazz pros whose playing I admired so much, were just as enthusiastic as I was and eager to work on more!
Who would complete the band? I had known Aaron Clay for a few years. He was also someone from the U Street crowd. I loved his taste, big tone, and impeccable time, and Id always pestered him about doing a project someday. Well, the time had finally come. That left only the piano chair to fill. I asked Chris for some suggestions and he gave me his A list. At the top of it, underlined in bold, was another Silver Spring resident, Harry Appelman. How was it that I had never heard of this fine musician who lived only a few blocks from me? I called him right away. Now when I listen to Harry play, I have to say that Chris' suggestion might be the best advice I ever got.
When it came time to put a name to this group, I knew that calling it something predictable like The Lex OBrien Quintet would be wrong. This just isnt one of those bands with a starring leader and a bunch of sidemen. Far from it! So, I went looking for the unpredictable: a word or group of words that might imply the nature of the music, but with a little of myself in it too. COMPLEXBLUE felt like the right amalgamation. COMP: short for composition, the reason all this got started. BLUE: because if a color can have a sound, thats it: the sound of jazz. And there I am in the middle of it, just where I want to be!
L.O. - Takoma Park, MD