Tell us about your recording with the Bergen Philharmonic that was released January 7, 2022 of the ‘Manmade’ Concerto for saxophone and orchestra. How did this project come together and what was it like recording with the group?
I was contacted in 2018 by the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra because they wanted to commission a 30-minute-long piece. I asked them if they wanted me to write it on my own or if they wanted me to collaborate, and they said they wanted to collaborate. I had played with symphony orchestras before with my own jazz group, but in those settings, you have the drummer to keep time. It will be ok in the end because you can feel the beat. But this? It posed a challenge because of the lack of rhythm section. The first thing to consider was how to spread out the rhythmic figures across the ensemble to make sure the group could hold together. Some places were very interesting because the subdivisions were spread out in the strings and winds as well as the percussion section. That took a lot of creativity, and I changed it a lot of times, but it was worth it in the end because the orchestration ended up being very colorful.
Playing tight rhythmically was the real challenge because, of course, it is an acoustic setting and there could be 20 meters between you and the section holding the time. We really had to experiment with staging with myself and the other players. In the recording, I stood in the middle of the orchestra to get the best placement. I’m also not used to looking at a conductor, so at a certain point, I had to just put my head down and trust that we would all come in together. Also, as much as possible I wanted to avoid the appearance of the orchestra as a backing band to me as soloist. To accomplish this, I divided things up between the strings and winds in groups of three of a larger 15/8 pattern. It eventually started to have a swing feel to it, which was so cool. There was also some Messiaen-inspired stuff in there that turned out really nice. My big thing was trying to make these ideas develop and bloom out of each other so that by the end, there are all these different sounds playing out, but they are all linked by the original idea which, by the end, is completely absent! As for the title of the piece, it was just something I came up with. It’s inspired by lots of different inventions from human beings in the last 200 years. Of course, the music is manmade, but it also has a sense of inspired creativity. If you would like to hear the music, you can do so here.
What future projects do you have on the horizon? Any other things coming up that you would like to promote?
I will start work on an album that will be recorded in Spring 2022 with musicians from all around Europe. I’m not 100% sure of all the members, but it will be a quintet with a horn section. Some parts of it will be inspired by Earth, Wind & Fire, which is going to be so different from this current orchestra project. Hopefully, it will be completed by late Fall 2022, and we will be doing a release tour at the same time. I have a regular quintet that I’ve been playing with for six or seven years now, but I think the sound of this group will be a bit more electric. I have written almost everything for the project, but I’m still tweaking things. Whatever happens, I know that I want to do something new, which is harder and harder these days. I want to do something exciting, something original. That’s where I’m at now, and I’m looking forward to what the new year will hold.
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