|Lucian Ban (b. 1969, Cluj-Naboca, Romania) began talking to me about a tuba band I think as early as 2002, perhaps 2003. In the Spring of 2004 he managed to put together a group. In the late Winter of this year, after first listening to some impressive examples of that group playing Lucian's music, we arranged to do a CIMP session of what Lucian feels is the most exciting group/music that he and Alex Harding (b. 1967, Detroit, MI) have collaborated on (the two have been collaborating since 2000). As those who have heard him know, Alex is a highly distinctive and forceful baritone saxman. He was also a former teacher of J.D. Allen (not to be confused with the country singer of the same name) back when J.D. (b. 1972, Detroit, MI) was a student in Detroit. J.D.'s introduction to listeners most likely started during his tenure with Betty Carter. J.D. has also led sessions underhis own name for Red and Criss Cross Records. Derrek Phillips (b. 1975, San Francisco, CA) is a former student of, among others, Tony Williams, a graduate of The William Paterson University Jazz Studies program, and has been a regular member of the Charlie Hunter and Greg Osby groups. Bringing up the bottom, so to speak, is Bob Stewart (b. 1945, Sioux Falls, SD). Bob is a notable veteran who's covered (and observed) it all from trad to avant, has not only led and recorded his own groups but also played a notable role in so many of Gil Evans' efforts, and has had a recurring stint as partof the Globe Unity Orchestra.
Lucian is an assertive fellow, quick to opine, and very enthusiastic about his music and musical projects, yet I am always surprised at how quick he is to consider and often accept suggestions or a group concensus in tweaking a composition's direction or architecture. This was true in previous recordings and also came into play from the beginning of this session. Alex is the other directional force of this group. Best described as affable, with a quick and robust laugh, he displays a spirit and gameness that is notable and reflected by the forwardness and physicality of his baritone sax work. When watching Alex play, one can almost see the instrument as an appendage to and within his body. Between these two contrasting individuals with their dissimilar strengths there seems to emerge a synthesis which symbiotically complements itself in the depth and spirit of the music, no matter the configuration.
This configuration brings together Messrs. Stewart, Phillips, and Allen, who are all a pleasure to work with and bring with them competency as well as intelligence and determination. The overriding color here is the tuba. It is omnipresent, but, in Bob's hands, gives an integrated color that provides the material a firm foundation and is a fine launching point for J.D.'s modal musings as well as a fine backdrop for Derrek's rhythmic configurations. Lucian told me he chose Derrek specifically for his technical abilities as well as his "infectious swing, even in so-called Free settings."
Although the weather conditions were oppressively hot and humid, this concert went down without a hitch. Well, there was the incident with Lucian's cell phone ("... but I did turn it off."). As an involved observer, for me it was/is a pleasure tohear music that was/is constantly compelling in its various levels, departure from form, and the serious involvement given by the individuals to the space set out for them by the music. Every member of the group invested his energies and inventions with an attitude of giving and professionalism. This is what should be the norm but, alas, is not always the case.
If you listen carefully to all parts of this music, I think you'll hear the strength, energy, and joy of this music (that's usually Alex yelling support). To be on the receiving end was a pleasure and I hope that pleasure comes across to you, the listener, and is rewarding of your focused listening.
Robert D. Rusch - July 20, 2005