Friday, September 9, 2011

Community Pool: Deep End series announces new season at the Black Dog

Brian Roessler by John Whiting
Formerly known as Fantastic Fridays, the Community Pool: Deep End series is about to begin its fifth year—a respectable number for any live music series, especially one committed to improvised music.

The fall concerts begin on Friday, September 16, and continue through Friday, December 16.

Earlier this month, I spoke with bassist Brian Roessler, who co-curates the series with saxophonist Nathan Hanson.


Pamela Espeland: First Fantastic Fridays, now Community Pool, but always at the Black Dog Coffee and Wine Bar in St. Paul. How did that relationship begin?

Brian Roessler: During our first Fantastic Merlins tour in 2005, the last show we played was at the Black Dog. That was when we met [Black Dog owner] Sara Remke. She liked the music, and we liked playing there, so we hit it off and started talking. Eventually, she asked Nathan if he wanted to curate Friday nights there. We got to know Jean [Rochard, Remke's partner and founder of the French record label NATO]. He liked what we were doing, and we had a lot of interesting conversations, one of which led to our last record with Kid Dakota [How the Light Gets In].

PLE: Why the name “Community Pool”?

BR: Nathan and I share an interest in trying to use music, and art in general, as a way to build community. Not on a grand scale, but from the personal connection with other artists and with audience members. It’s a reflection of our view of the interconnected nature of the world and society, artists and listeners.

In the town where I grew up, the local swimming pool was called the Community Pool. I always thought that was cool.

PLE: You describe Community Pool as an “adventurous music series.” What do you mean by “adventurous music”?

BR: One thing that’s notable about that phrase is the absence of the word “jazz,” which is intentional. We’re interested in music and art as being independent of category. It may be strange to think that makes it “adventurous,” but it does, because the usual way to approach things is by asking, “What is it?"

It’s normal and healthy to categorize things, but in terms of the music we play, and the music we present, we prefer that it be thought of as music, not as any particular genre. Also, genres can be alienating. I’ve heard people say, “I hate jazz, but I like what you guys are doing.”

As a player, I don’t categorize myself. I don’t think Nathan does, either. The musical vocabulary I use comes from lots of places. We think about music without definitions or limits, so we can have Todd Harper come in and improvise melodies over Carl Sandburg poems, or Eric Fratzke rip your face off with a distorted electric guitar solo, or Pat O’Keefe do an ethereal improvisation with Viv Corringham. To me, all those things go together. That’s what adventurous means to me.

I don’t believe there’s anything exclusionary or elitist about this kind of music. It only requires that you listen. People think they need to understand, but all they need to do is listen and be open.

[I asked Brian to comment briefly about each event in the fall series.]

Friday, September 16: “High Dive into the Deep End” with Eric Fratzke (guitar), Nathan Hanson (saxophones), Brian Roessler (bass), Peter Hennig (drums), and Peter Leggett (drums).

BR: It’s a remarkable group of musicians. Fratzke is an underappreciated treasure. The way Pete Hennig and Peter Leggett play together is spectacular and magical. The whole group functions in a great way. We’re excited about having that as the first piece of the puzzle.

Friday, October 7: Nathan Hanson (saxophones) and Peter Hennig (drums)

BR: They’re going to improvise, possibly with a third person. More about that later.

Friday, October 21: Todd Harper’s Full Moon Rabbit

BR: "Full Moon Rabbit" is Todd’s name for his crazy ensemble. Todd is a pianist and composer who lately has taken to singing and playing the ukulele and tin whistle. He has no sense of musical boundaries. What are you likely to hear? A glorious mess. Todd’s music, to my mind, comes out of the Sun Ra tradition. Jubilant, funny, beautiful, messy, and real.

Thursday, November 3: “International Waters” with Das Kapital

BR: This is a trio from Europe. We share a booking agent there. German saxophonist Daniel Erdman, Danish guitarist Hasse Poulsen, and French drummer Edward Perraud. They just released their second recording of music by Hans Eisler, a 20th-century German composer who wrote the East German National Anthem and worked in the US as a film composer until he was hounded out of the country by the FBI. He wrote gorgeous songs, also astringent classical music. If I didn’t tell you it was Eisler, you’d think they were playing Ornette Coleman tunes.

Friday, November 18: Pat O’Keefe (clarinet, bass clarinet), Nathan Hanson, Brian Roessler

BR: Nathan and I are great fans of Pat O’Keefe. We want to play with him, and we want people to hear him.

Friday, December 2: Pat Moriarty (saxophone) and Ellen Lease (piano), Nathan Hanson and Brian Roessler: Two duos and a quartet

BR: I’ve never gotten to play with Pat or Ellen, and I’m really looking forward to it. They don’t play out very much.

Friday, December 16: Brad Bellows/Donald Washington Quartet: Brad Bellows (trombone), Donald Washington (saxophone), Brian Roessler, Pete Hennig

BR: Donald is an underrepresented gold mine of music in our community. He brings such depth and beauty to what he does. He’s great to play with, great to listen to. The last time the four of us played, it went really well.

These are all serious artists who play music worth listening to. This is what we’re trying to do—what this series is about.

Community Pool: Deep End was selected as a recipient of St. Paul's Cultural STAR program. Concerts begin around 8 p.m. and end around 11 p.m. The Black Dog features a casual menu, coffee, wine and beer. Shows are all ages, no cover.

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