Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The first multimedia document: Atalanta Fugiens -Uccello style-



My older brother Joe is an amazing artist, he was self taught for a long time, sometimes toiling away for years on one drawing, developing his intricate skills, and most importantly, his own style. Now years later he's a totally 'legit' artist and he runs Viatorium Press. But remembering back, one of his early training techniques was to put on music, completely surrender to the sounds and then literally DRAW THE MUSIC, as he heard it. His tastes were consistently as varied as Japanese Shakuhachi music, Pakistani Tar music, Persian Classical, Chinese Guqin music, Jazz, Blues, various Ambient artists, even bands like Black Sabbath and Hawkwind, to name only small fraction of what he listened to, and indeed, still listens to.

Truly I say that for my brother Joe music is a bigger part of his life than anyone I know. He’s doesn’t play seriously himself (though he has the talent to) but the priority he gives music in his life is awe-inspiring. He listens to music for hours, ingesting it, letting it shape his mind, spirit, and heart. He listens more than most musicians I know and it’s awesome to see that there is someone who makes music such a big part of their life! In this age where people have so much music smashed into low-grade mp3s into their Ipods (I am sort of included in this category;) that there’s no possible way they can even listen to it all in their lifetime, here is a gem, someone who still truly values the WORTH OF MUSIC.

I used to watch him work on his drawings and I would be aware of which musician he was ‘drawing’ and one of my goals as a musician, aside from ‘paying my dues’ and getting my skills together and surviving as a full time musician (which I have done for 12 years) was to be one of the musicians that Joe ‘drew’. Thus the birth of our music/art collaborative group ‘UCCELLO PROJECT’ in 2005 was a major step forward for us as brothers, and for my creative core as a musician. It was a reclamation for me to go back to the original creative impetus that made me want to be a musician in the first place. We then went on to create yet another side project called 'CLARIFIED BIRDS'. It’s been amazing, having completed two works together so far: ‘Symmetria’, (under Uccello Project) and 'The Forest that Hears and the Field that Sees’ (under Clarified Birds). The Forest That Hears And The Field That Sees is based on the Hieronymus Bosch painting of the same name-actually on that one we switched it around and I 'played the drawing' & Joe did a letterpressed art piece inspired by the Bosch painting.

Now we are in the process of tackling our most massive project yet, our tribute to the famous, ‘ATALANTA FUGIENS’ by composer/physician/alchemist, Michael Maier (1568-1622). Combining 50 fugues, 50 emblems, and 50 epigrams, this work is considered by many to be the first ‘multi-media’ document in history. The intention of Maier being that people would get together to sing the 3 part fugues, inspect the art of the emblems, and discuss the philosophy and meaning behind the epigrams. This all started when sometime in early spring 2010, Joe sent me the sheet music for about 30 of the fugues, curious to know what they'd sound like if I read them down with bass. Somehow the fugues fit the bass really well and we were encouraged. Many different 'ensembles' were tried & finally we've settled on bowed upright with two electric basses (one fretted & one fretless). I feel thankful to Joe for discovering this music and passing it on to me, it's been a joy recording these fugues. Now, of course, we are going to build our own multi-media document that will honor the original, yet also bring something fresh to it.

So far, our intention is to create a fine book that includes a CD along with it. Joe will be toiling at length as he’s planning to create 50 emblems of his own inspired by and based upon the original 50! The epigrams may receive a similar creative treatment by Joe, or possibly a translator may be employed, or we may try to gain permission to use translations already in existence.

As for my part, the fugues, I am recording them myself using the art of ‘live looping’ and a three voiced ‘BASS CHOIR’ comprised of BOWED UPRIGHT BASS, ELECTRIC FRETTED BASS, and ELECTRIC FRETTLESS BASS. By the way, I use a Looperlative 1, the best looper in the world, hand built by Robert Ahmstadt. If it was not for the high def sound and ease of control (all with my feet) this project would have taken soooo much longer to track. It’s been such an experience of growth for me musically and spiritually, I really feel this project is making me a better person, I know that’s sounds over the top, but that is my sincere feeling at the moment.

There’s so much more I’d love to tell you about regarding this esoteric project, but I feel I’ve already run too long. One thing I do really want to mention is that I am reading the transcriptions by the great Joscelyn Godwin during my tracking. There is just such a multi-layered complexity behind this work that I’m going to go ahead and link to some cool stuff I found on the web regarding different aspects of this amazing work:

Monday, January 10, 2011

Uccello Project 2010 highlights:

2010 was a really great year for the Uccello family. There were lots of fun times and lots to keep us busy. It’s just been a blast to be with Kathy and our little one Viola (getting bigger all the time!). It’s been amazing seeing Vi grow so fast and learn so much in such a short amount of time, I’m blown away by her intelligence! Musically 2010 was filled with various and numerous gigs, recording sessions, and jams, that I’ve not only played bass for, but also some lead guitar, mandolin, and cello.

2010 was also a great year for my solo outlet “Uccello Project”. I got to meet so many amazing folks and play my music in some really fun situations. Here are some of the highlights of this past year:

-I played on KPIG radio as a solo artist for the first time and debuted my song ‘Hillcrest’

-I held a house concert at my home in Monterey which featured the amazing duo of singer/songwriter/pianist Kira Small and bassist extraordinaire Bryan Beller. They were so fun to meet and to listen to and I was so proud of my crowd for coming out on a rainy weeknight to catch the show. Adding to the host duties, I also opened the show with a few of my songs and got to do a little improv bass jam with Bryan too!

If you want a little taste of how awesome a house concert with two such beautiful musicians can be-follow this link to a song from that night on Kira’s youtube channel


Played with master guitarist Rob Michael of ‘Atmos Trio’ in his ‘Live Stream Jazz’ online concert series. It was such a pleasure to play with Rob in a duet format. Not only did he arrange the whole show and record it, but then turned around and mixed an album of the whole show! The cover was by the wonderful artist Linda Mills.

Here is my tune ‘All Right, Right Now’ that Rob sight read beautifully!


-I opened for singer/songwriter Kim Boekbinder (formerly of Vermillion Lies) at The Alternative Café, in Seaside. Super fun show, but no recordings to share here, unfortunately, but I think a song or two of mine may be archived on Kim’s ustream channel.

-My good friend/singer-songwriter/house concert organizer Nancy Cassidy had me open for another good friend of ours from Spain: ‘Nueva Cancion’ singer-songwriter, Juan L. Sanchez at a house concert at her Palo Alto home. It was really a treat to share some of my original music with Juan’s audience, and to feature the amazing Dayan Kai on clarinet with me for “Golden”.
-A real treat for me was playing bass and a wee bit of tenor banjo in Jackson Stock’s group ‘Taking Stock’ at the Monterey Jazz Bash. The group also featured virtuoso saxophonist Gary Meek (plays w/ Dave Weckl, Brian Bromberg to name a few). I learn so much from playing with guys like these!


I discovered the insanely cool bassist Juan Garcia a.k.a. ‘Snow Owl’, who plays a custom contra-bass-guitar (6 string bass an octave below the guitar), and the sound of his music inspired me to try to have a Resophonic contra-bass-guitar made for me. Through my research of builders I found a master luthier of Resophonic guitars: Paul Beard. I discovered him through the website ‘Reso Hangout’

and contracted him to make me, what might be the first ever Reso-contra-bass-guitar.

-I put on a bass looping themed house concert: “Bass Looping On The San Lorenzo”. Bass phenom Dan Robbins headlined, and the show also featured Matt Bohn a.k.a. ‘The Bass Doctor’, Zack Parkes, myself, and percussionist Armando Mafufo. Here’s a vid of Dan, Armando, and myself from the show playing ‘Magnetic Domain’ –it was awesome to have a little ensemble for this piece…


May saw me mostly doing a lot of gigs. Jazz gigs with Hot Club of Watsonville, playing the Hyatt jam with pianist Weber Iago and guitarist Michael Lent. The ‘Mushroom Mardi Gras’ with the John ‘Broadway’ Tucker Blues Band, some children’s shows with Nancy Cassidy, and Rancho Cellars with pianist Bob Phillips and saxophonist George Young. I also co-founded a little R&B band with the mind-blowing singer Malinda DeRouen. Also there was a lot of planning going on for shows and continued dialogue with Paul Beard.


For the last few years I’ve played a little bass at Mike Marshall’s and David Grisman’s ‘Mandolin Symposium’. This year I got to play with blues mando man Rich DelGrosso as well as jazz mandolinist Don Sternberg, not only at the Symposium, but also at the Freight And Salvage in Berkeley, CA at Mike Marshall's International Mandolin Celebration. I am a part time mandolin player and I love getting to be involved in this wonderful event every year.


I played some shows with Keith Greeninger and Dayan Kai. Most notably we opened for the band Little Feat at the Chico Brewfest. We also did a house concert in Oakland at a unique venue called “The Boathouse”. I played the tune ‘Golden’ solo in the middle of the show-I really enjoy bringing my brand of instrumental ‘bass-music’ to a folk/vocal audience and having it received well, it means a lot to me to successfully cross lines like that ☺


Right at the top of the month I opened for singer-songwriter Saul Kaye at The Venue" in Seaside. What a great musician and a really cool guy, he also is quite the Live Looper! Then Kathy, Vi and I went to upstate New York for Kathy’s sister’s wedding. I played acoustic guitar for the ceremony, Kathy was a bride’s maid and Vi had her first gig as a flower girl-it was insanely cute! Around this time I was also regularly meeting with master luthier Rick Turner as he was installing a custom pick-up system onto my upright bass. Some of you might remember me referring to this process as my ‘tone quest’, alas- ‘tis fulfilled!


September started with a bang, a big-bang to be precise, The Monterey Bay Jazz Orchestra reconvened to play a show together at the Aquarium. So nice to jam with cats like Paul Contos and Eddie Mendenhal! Then there was the streaming Jazz show in Berkeley with Rob Michael, Dave Hoffman, Jason Parker, and Darin Wilson. After that it was up to Sister’s Folk Fest in central Oregon to accompany Dayan Kai on upright bass. Jazz Festival weekend I played a gig with the local Monterey Jazz group ‘Along Came Betty’ in Big Sur.

A visit to KPIG again with guitarist/looper Bill Walker started out the month. Then I played in Santa Cruz at the Y2KX International Live Looping festival-had a great time playing, as well as listening to, and meeting other musicians. I played two of the “Atalanta Fugiens” there for the first time live. Lots of good firsts for me this year it seems.

I also did a show with guitarist Bill Walker at The Alternative Café. Here is us playing ‘Chiral’ together-double slide action!

-On 10-10-10 my new virtual duo ‘sung’ with the Australian percussionist/composer Nat Grant released “Melbourne, Monterey”. It was the first collaborative record I’d. Though it’s an online project the CD came out sounding like a very intimate performance. One of my bass heroes, the inimitable Jeff Schmidt, created a very cool podcast about the making of “Melbourne, Monterey”. If you would like to hear it, check out the post on this blog about our ‘virtual duo’ sung. This also inadvertently led to doing some collaborative recordings with Jeff Schmidt, which will hopefully surface in 2011!


Yet another visit to KPIG, this time it was to advertise a house concert with singer songwriter multi-instrumentalist Amy Obenski. We had a really nice show together at Nancy Cassidy’s Santa Cruz house concert venue. I opened the show, and also sat in with her and her awesome cellist, Dan Brown. We did some double bow low string playing together, what a rush!


I played a show at the Corralitos Cultural Center with my good friend and long time musical co-conspirator, Dayan Kai. I played a few tunes of mine as well as accompanying Dayan and, we both did a bit of live looping. Here’s a good old Dayan song called ‘When You Know”

There’s lots more between all the cracks, I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but for now there’s the ‘progress report’ on Uccello Project, I’m looking forward to an even better year in 2011. I hope you all are making big plans for the upcoming year, also I’d love to hear about them, please leave a comment so I can keep an eye on what’s happening ☺