Solo improvisations - a 1-month reflection

Sometime in the last few days I hit the 4-week mark of having done a 10 minute solo improvisation every day, and with only one or two exceptions in the morning fairly soon after waking up.

I've been improvising for over 10 years, first on keyboards and then on accordion as it became my primary instrument. But improvising solo had never been a huge priority for me - I had done it as a way to assist in composition, or sporadically to prepare for gigs where improvisation was a primary focus. In performing, I had always done it groups - first with various configurations of the New Haven Improvisers Collective, and then primarily with Broadcloth, as well as various duo and trio configurations with folks in New Haven and New York City. I've learned a lot from these experiences, but always had a certain frustration in not always being perceptive in the moment of what was good improvising - what in my playing enabled the type of interplay and dialogue that I value most as a listener and consumer of improvised music.

So I started working on a solo set around March of 2014, trying to see what, if anything, I could learn about my improvising when I didn't have other people to play off of. I learned a lot from the first performance of that material and the week or so of work leading up to that date, most notably that in many cases I had a vocabulary more than I had a language - a lot of techniques and approaches that worked well on the accordion, but were in many cases bound to certain contexts and approaches, rather than being able to be fluidly spoken, understood and reacted to.  Between then and now, I've had the chance to perform that material on two other occasions, and having the chance to revisit it has given me a solid marker on which to judge some of my progress in that regard - even as this awareness started working its way into my practice, into my solo An Historic sets, and all around my consciousness. The goal was very clearly to discover how to respond to myself as well as I sometimes responded to others - when to push, when to pull, when to allow heart or head to take the lead interchangeably, and how to be aware of time and shape while I was playing.

So this practice of daily improvisations has helped in trying to increase my awareness of all these things both as a solo performer and as a group improviser. The collaborative playing I've done since beginning this practice seems to have benefited from it as much as my solo playing has - both in playing with new people (like Friday 2/27 at XFest) or with long-time collaborators.

I've been uploading two of these a week (what I consider the best of them) to my Bandcamp page as a subscriber bonus. Here is an 'outtake' from the practice, not one of the two uploaded this week, to give some idea of what I'm talking about:

The other motivation for this practice of daily improvisations has been to gear up for the recording of this material that first took shape about a year ago. The plans are slowly coming together, and I'm excited to talk more about that in the future.

If any of this means anything to you, I ask that you consider subscribing - not only because you'll have exclusive access to these improvisations, but also because you'll help me be able to afford a proper recording and release of this material. Thanks for reading!


When suddenly, you must be restored + subscriptions

Today, (2/23/15), I've released "When suddenly, you must be restored" under the name Gzara (formerly known as G. Zarapanecko). The album is a long time in the making - two tracks were recorded in the summer of 2012, and the rest were recorded and completed between December '14 - January '15. It's hard to say what, if any, future this project has, but for the time being I'm proud of this work and the work I've done with it in the past. It's available for $5 on my Bandcamp Page. (Note the different URL for my bandcamp page: http://anhistoricmusic.bandcamp.com)

Lys Guillorn, a colleague and friend in the wide world of Connecticut songwriting, interviewed me recently for the webzine Lonesome Noise. You can check out the interview HERE, where we talking a bit about this album as well as the progress of An Historic.

Appropos of nothing, here's an ask: Bandcamp has started offering a subscription feature, and I'm taking advantage of it. For $20 a year, you'll have access to everything I've ever released, plus easy access to anything else I put out (like today's release) through the Bandcamp app. Consider it a way of investing in my development as an artist. At the moment, there is some subscriber-exclusive content available - my daily practice includes a 10-minute solo improvisation every morning, and I'm uploading the best two of them per week into an ongoing album. If nothing else, you can think of them as evidence of the work I do outside of releases and live shows - and in the future, subscriber-exclusive content will also include live shows from various projects, works in progress, and music videos.

OK that's all for now. I've got a TON of shows coming up including appearances with brilliant MC Ceschi Ramos, and Orkestar BAM, the Yale Balkan music group. Take a look to the right for a recently-updated list!


Winter Updates

Trudging along. Naturally it is much easier to forget clerical work during the winter, at least for me. So here's a long overdue, and probably too-brief update.

On February 23rd, I'm releasing "When suddenly you must be restored" by Gzara. It's a 5 song EP of instrumental music touching on ambient, folk, jazz, black metal and noise in varying facets, recorded in two sessions - first in July of 2012, and then in December of 2014. This project has been on more or less of a hiatus since early 2011, with the exception of a handful of live performances and the aforementioned recordings, and for the sake of transparency I have to say I'm honestly not sure what future recordings under the name will hold. As a companion to this release, I recorded a drone improvisation on solo accordion, set to video of a blizzard in progress. You can watch it here if you want. Audio will be included as a bonus in the purchase of the album.

Other than that, the performances bar has been updated through to April, and there are a few things pending that I'm pretty excited about too. Take a look at the Accordion Covers page for several updates I've made in the new year as well!


Song for Ferguson

I'll make a separate post at a later date talking about some of the other dates I've got coming up, now that I've finally updated my calendar. There's a lot good to look forward to, but that's not what this post is about.

I'm hurt, and pissed, about the Grand Jury's recent decision regarding the murder of Michael Brown, Jr. on August 9th of 2014. Other people will be more capable of giving an eloquent rundown of why the situation there since that day has been cause for outrage; mine would include a lot more swearing than I feel comfortable typing out right now.

I wrote a song in the hours following this news, and did a home recording of it just two days later. I've chosen to release it today, on what is known as Black Friday, because a lot of protest movements are organizing around a boycott of commercial/retail businesses on a day that is normally a shopping frenzy. The song is very direct, and personal, and, to quote the great Nina Simone, "I mean every word of it." You can stream the track below, as well as a version of 'Strange Fruit' that I recorded for this release -  but read on to find out why you should consider donating for it:

Here's a statement I wrote earlier, which you can find on my Bandcamp page, going into some more detail:
This album is released as a Pay-What-You-Can download. All proceeds from the sale of this release will be donated to the St. Louis Area Foodbank, which has been helping to address the food desert conditions of Ferguson, MO in the last several months.
I began writing this song on Monday night after the grand jury decision was announced. Like many, I was overwhelmed by anger and pain, but in my heart I knew I was expecting this, despite the valiant efforts of protestors in Ferguson and many on the Internet trying to keep attention on the story and expose the corruption of the Ferguson police department and the legal apparatus that led us to this point. 
This keeps happening, and with increasing frequency, and there continues to be no accountability in this. As a light-skinned black man I am relatively lucky to have avoided a lot of the harassment and violence that has left us with so many dead Black children, women and men - victims both of police aggression and of vigilantism that refuses to recognize the humanity of Black Americans across this country. The murder of Michael Brown is only an exception with regards to media coverage, the way Travyon Martin's murder was - and even still, most coverage is slanted against the victims and against the people rallying in their memory. So many more murders like this go completely uncovered and forgotten by the media - and even more so when you factor in intersections of identity, as with the many stomach-turning cases of violence against Black transgender women. This is not just a Southern issue or a Midwestern issue, as many people believe in various places I've lived in the Northeastern US. I wrote this song to reflect on this situation and my position in it, and I've posted the lyrics in the individual song page to be 100% clear on what I mean. 
The album also includes a cover of "Strange Fruit", penned by Abel Meeropol and made famous with versions by Billie Holiday and Nina Simone. The song was written in reaction to the climate of lynching of Black Americans in the 1930s, and continues to be relevant today - it is hard not to draw parallels between the lynchings of the Jim Crow era, and the extrajudicial murders of Black Americans in the present day. The statistics are indicating that they happen at about the same rate, and are punished about as infrequently.

I will post updates to keep a record of how much is earned from the sale of this single, and in turn to provide evidence of the donations.

Thank you for reading and listening.


A brief update

As the school year (and my teaching hours) get settled and underway, I'm realizing that this fall will be an extremely busy one. But once again, I find myself excited for what's to come, including some things that are too early to announce. In the mean time, there are a few gigs in the next two weeks worth mentioning:

on Friday, September 19th, An Historic will be performing a solo set at Willimantic Records alongside George Hakkila and Jorge Verde. The show begins at 7PM, and I'm really happy to be playing at Willimantic Records again. My wallet might not be - the selection was amazing last time and everything I made on tape sales got turned right back around into their cash register.

Later that night, An Historic is doing a full band set at Three Sheets, in New Haven. The touring artist is Joshua Burnside, and local guitarist Michael Kusek is opening with a solo set. It'll be the first full band An Historic show since March, and I'm excited for you all to hear some of the new material I've been working on in this format. The following day, Dr. Caterwaul's returns to the Milford Farmer's Market. 10AM to 1PM. Come on down if you're in the area and help us keep the vendors entertained!

Finally next Thursday, September 25th, I'm part of a truly diverse ensembled cultivated by Ras Moshe, performing "Music for John Coltrane and an Imagined Revolutionary Film." The playing I've done with Ras Moshe over the last year and a half has been really revelatory, and I'll be excited to meet with him again amid this sextet lineup.

That's all for now. More as it breaks.


Summer Shows

As with last year, this summer threatens to be too busy but so far has been manageable, between my own work and various commitments and jobs and the like. Besides the aforementioned shows with Mario Pavone (the first of which, on June 19th, was a blast and gave me a lot of hope for the rest of them), I've got a few other dates of note on the horizon:

June 30th - (hey that's tomorrow!) An Historic solo, with Jordaan Mason, S. Ayton and Guilt Mountain. This is at Three Sheets in New Haven, starting at 9PM, and is free. I've actually not been to this bar since it changed from being the Elm Bar (it will probably always be called "Old Rudy's" to some New Haveners), but I've been hearing great things from folks that have done shows there, and I have always loved the room no matter what name it was under. All the touring folks have either just released or are gearing up to release killer EPs and I have been enjoying listening to all of them. I'll do some new songs, too.

July 19th - Dr. Caterwauls performs at a block party in partial celebration of Mark Oppenheimer's 40th birthday. Mark is an editor of the New Haven Review, which is, well, kind of the literary version of Dr. Caterwauls if you wanted to really simplify it, and we're glad to be helping him bring in his 4th decade. It's in the Westville neighborhood of New Haven, starting around 6:30ish.

July 23rd - Broadcloth is performing! We'll be glad to see Nathan at least once this year and get this opportunity to play as Broadcloth. The amazing vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Jen Shyu is also on the bill, doing a solo set of her music, which is always amazing and multifaceted in terms of linguistic and musical influences. The show will be happening at The Big Room in New Haven, at 319 Peck St. Time TBA, and more info as the show approaches.

see you at one or all of them!



I don't believe in this spring. I want to offer it words of encouragement so the season can get its act together and we can all go on sneezing in a pollen vortex but I suspect it's not quite that simple.

Nevertheless, the cold, while toying with my emotions, has been good for creativity, and I've written a bunch of songs recently. See them at an An Historic set soon, like on April 23rd at the Way Station in Brooklyn, or April 28th at Cafe Nine in New Haven. The former show is a Tripeg Lobo production, where songwriters are invited to cover a song from the first record they ever bought, and then write songs connected to the record or the experience in some way. For me, the record is Seal's second self-titled album from 1994, and I realized at some point that there are several tunes I've written which have had some connection to this album lyrically and musically, so referencing the thing was not difficult. The second is in support of Woody Pines, a rootsy trio playing original songs with influences from early country and folk. An Historic will be a full band for this date.

Also, I've been continuing work on improvisation and composition with guitarist Chris Cretella, with whom I work in Dr. Caterwaul's. Playing with him is always fun and the recent effort has been towards a set that hints at both of our long-standing interests in metal (especially, for him, Thrash, and for me, black metal). We'll be playing as a duo on April 22nd in support of Keir Neuringer, and cannibalizing those efforts in trio format with drummer Dave Parmalee on May 13th in support of the Ava Mendoza Trio. See the sidebar for more info.

Keir has put out an amazing solo record recently, and the April 22nd show is the first night of his tour in support. The album, Ceremonies Out of the Air, is amazing, and you can hear a preview track HERE.

Finally I have to announce that on May 5th, the An Historic "Sings Peter Hammill" will be available for free download. Made as a labo(u)r of love between January 27th-30th and April 16th-19th of 2014, the EP contains renditions of 6 songs spanning Hammill's solo catalog. Stay tuned for further info regarding that release as it approaches.
It is warmer now than it was when I began writing this post.