Category Archives: Press

Wood/Metal/Plastic Rehearsal Video + KPFA Interview

Hi folks, I’m very excited about our Wood/Metal/Plastic premiere next Friday at The Sound Room in Oakland. The music is really coming together and I’m looking forward to getting it off the page and into your ears! (Tickets here!)

Last night I had the chance to visit the great local DJ and music writer Larry Kelp’s “Sing Out” show on KPFA to talk about the project and share some rehearsal audio. You can listen to the show here (for two weeks I believe).

And here’s some footage from our recent rehearsal with snippets of several tunes. It’s a little rough around the edges as we were still working on the music, but should give you a taste of what kinds of things we’ll be up to at the show. Hope to see you there!

WOOD/METAL/PLASTIC: World Premiere 9/22 at the Sound Room

Hi folks! Here’s a press release about the world premiere of my new band on 9/22. Hope you can be there! –Ian

(Tickets available here. )

As a jazz musician and composer, Ian Carey usually viewed string instruments as distant cousins to his musical world, something he deeply enjoyed listening to but didn’t expect to have many opportunities to interact with one-on-one. But a chance musical encounter planted a seed that blossomed into a vivid new musical terrain: his 7-piece chamber-jazz ensemble Wood/Metal/Plastic, which makes its world premiere performance at The Sound Room in Oakland on September 22.

“For years I’ve played with Circus Bella, a great local circus troupe which has a live band,” led by San Francisco accordionist/composer Rob Reich. “Our long-term saxophonist left the group several years ago, and Rob decided to fill the spot with the great violinist Alisa Rose, so I spent the summer listening and soaking up what the instrument was capable of.”

Carey, who at the time was just finishing up several years straight of writing, performing, and recording the epic hourlong suite and album Interview Music (“[an] ambitious compositional vision” –Andrew Gilbert, San Jose Mercury News) with his long-term collaborators the Ian Carey Quintet+1, was looking for a musical change of pace and a new challenge.

He put together a new quartet, the loose and adventurous IJKL, featuring Quintet+1 holdovers Jon Arkin on drums (whose credits range from Lee Konitz to Ben Goldberg to the Afrobeat ensemble Albino!) and saxophonist Kasey Knudsen (who has played with Tune-Yards, Marcus Shelby, and the Holly Martins), and adding Bay Area creative music icon Lisa Mezzacappa on bass (who leads her own Bait & Switch and Avant Noir ensembles and has performed and collaborated with an encyclopedic array of notables across the creative music world); the new group focused on the freer side of jazz, performing new compositions by Carey at Studio Grand and the Make Out Room’s creative music series. “It was an exciting change of pace, jumping from the heavily planned-out world of Interview Music into this unpredictable group based on interaction and never playing something the same way twice.”

When a potential composition grant opportunity arose, “I wondered what it would be like to take our little free-ish quartet and stick it in the middle of a chamber ensemble with strings,” Carey says. He reached out to Rose (whose talents range from high classical to backcountry fiddle) and fellow violinist Mia Bella D’Augelli (who has performed with the traditional string quartet the Town Quartet as well as contemporary composers like Roscoe Mitchell and George Lewis), as well as cellist Jessica Ivry (who performed for a decade with Rose in the Real Vocal String Quartet and is a composer in her own right), and Wood/Metal/Plastic was born.

To prepare for the project, Carey took a deep dive into studying stringed instruments and how to write for them, at one point even renting a cello and spending several weeks practicing the basics to help wrap his mind around how it worked. “I was super-excited when I began to get callouses on my fingers,” Carey says, “but then I suddenly remembered how much time I had left to actually write the music and got back to composing quick.”

The result is a vivid musical palette ranging from lush chorales, to dense contrapuntal thickets, to wild cacaphonies and back again. Carey’s compositions incorporate influences as diverse as 20th-century masters Villa-Lobos and Ravel, chamber jazz pioneers Gil Evans, Jimmy Giuffre, and Charles Mingus, and free jazz adventurers Ornette Coleman and Steve Lacy.

How to bridge the gaps between these diverse spheres of influence? “As much as I love straightahead jazz, and completely written-out chamber music, and free improvisation,” Carey says, “part of my reason for doing this was that I knew I couldn’t resist writing tricky and beautiful things for so many instruments, and by putting together a group like this, with players this good, I wouldn’t have to choose.”

Ian Carey’s Wood/Metal/Plastic is made possible through the Musical Grant Program, which is administered by the San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music, and supported by the Heller Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation, the San Francisco Foundation and San Francisco Grants for the Arts.

Interview Excerpt: On “Definitive Versions” of Tunes and Playing Fast

Here’s another excerpt from my interview in Thomas Erdmann’s book How Jazz Trumpeters Play Music Today. (Part 1 is here. )

On “Definitive Versions” of Tunes

TE: When I interviewed Chris Botti he said that after Wynton Marsalis recorded “Cherokee” no one else should ever record that tune. I beg to differ, and your recording of “Cherokee” [from Duocracy with pianist Ben Stolorow) proves my point. You found a unique and original way to approach the difficult changes by playing a series of wonderfully connected short motives before you work yourself into serving as an accompanying voice to Ben’s solo… When approaching such defining moment standards, such as “Cherokee,” how do you recommend young trumpeters approach the music in order to make a personal statement?

IC: That’s a good question. It’s interesting Botti said that about Wynton, because if you follow that logic, then Wynton shouldn’t have played it because of what Clifford (Brown) did! But thankfully he did because his recording is pretty amazing. By the way, Wynton probably shouldn’t record it anymore either, because he already set his own high watermark!

This sounds a little cliché, but I think for “Cherokee” or “Giant Steps,” —any of those watershed tunes that are really hard and you have to practice the hell out of—that the answer is that you have to learn them so well you can forget them. I would not have tried to record “Cherokee” 15 years ago, or I might have, but it would have sounded pretty self-conscious.

I talk about this with friends of mine sometimes, where you hear a someone playing along, swinging, then you hear something that sounds like a new lick they just learned. They put the lick in the middle of the solo and it sounds totally prepared and out of context; it doesn’t fit. The solution to that is you need to get tunes like that to a point where it is in the subconscious and subsumed into your musical language. When I listen to our version of “Cherokee,” the thing I’m most happy about is how little it sounds like we’re trying to impress anybody.

For tunes like that, the flag-wavers, as one of my old teachers, the great drummer Michael Carvin, said, there are different ways to approach solos. You can start simple and build; or you can take one motive and develop it; or as he said, “You can come in doin’ it, and keep on doin’ it.” I think that’s great, if players are really at that level. For me, I didn’t want it to ever feel like it was a fast tune. Some of the reviews of that recording said we were playing that tune at a “leisurely tempo,” or something like that—but it’s not at a leisurely tempo! We did it at something close to 300 beats per minute. That was gratifying, to me, that it didn’t sound like it was fast. I think the reason for this was because we both internalized it to the point where we forgot about the tune. When you’re able to forget a tune, you can be surprised, and stumble on things, more so than if you are really conscious of the tune as you’re playing it.

On Playing Fast

TE: Talking about playing fast, on “Cherokee” you also play some beautifully constructed improvised contrapuntal lines with Ben after his solo, not to mention the ripping fast notes that are absolutely locked in the rhythmic pocket. You also play fast flawlessly on “Tom/Tom” from Contextualizin’, and rip it up on your Interview Music CD as well. How do you practice in order to be able to play as fast you do, yet still play so cleanly and rhythmically perfect?

IC: Thank you. This goes back a little to what I said about swing earlier, in that I realized, when I was learning lines back in my 20s, that you really want to practice that stuff evenly. I remember Claudio Roditi came to The New School when I was there. His chops were so fluid, clean and smooth. He was giving people a hard time when we were playing Brazilian tunes about how they were swinging too much. He said, “No, no, play straight, play even.” These were kids who had heard all of the (Stan) Getz records; to me Getz doesn’t sound very Brazilian on them. I remember after that going back to my line practicing—like everyone else I was learning ii-Vs and transcribing Wes Montgomery solos and so on—and taking Roditi’s lessons to heart; trying to practice playing lines perfectly evenly from super slow to fast. If you’re trying to learn something and you start at a slow tempo and are swinging it and not playing evenly, then by the time you get it up to a fast tempo it’ll be a jumbled mess. … I also feel like I don’t sit on fast lines for a long time. I like to use them as a color, throw that color and texture out there, let it sit there and allow people to think about it, and not just have a solo be a constant string of fast notes. If you are judicious about playing fast notes they become more effective than if you’re just burning eighth-notes all the time.

“How Jazz Trumpeters Play Music Today” Excerpt: On Practicing

A couple of years ago I was asked by author and trumpeter Thomas Erdmann to participate in an interview for his book How Jazz Trumpeters Play Music Today, along with 11 other players of varying renown including Christian Scott, Wadada Leo Smith and the late (great) Ted Curson.

We had a very interesting conversation covering a lot of ground, but since the book has been out for a while, and isn’t in a price range where most people can afford to pick up a copy (currently around $200, which I guess is the norm for academic publishing these days), I asked Dr. Erdmann for permission to post a few excerpts, which I’ll be posting in bits and pieces. Here’s the first:

On Practicing…

One can’t help but know, in listening to you, that it’s obvious you practice the trumpet; people don’t just pick up the trumpet and sound like you do without putting in the time. What does a practice session of yours look like these days?

Thank you—it has not been a straight-line journey as I’m sure any musician in their middle age will tell you. I went through years of really difficult embouchure challenges that I think were formative for me. I was late in getting serious about practicing. I played the French horn up until high school, and didn’t get serious about practicing the trumpet until I was 16 or so. But at that first burst of trumpet interest things came really easy. I had high chops even though I wasn’t doing it in a healthy way; using lots of pressure and making all of the usual mistakes. In college I was unsatisfied with the pace of my progress and felt I had to move things along faster, so I was going to fix my embouchure for good. At the time I played out of the side of my mouth and so I decided I was going to move my embouchure by playing right in the middle of my chops. That would be the secret to finding a shortcut. Instead of being a shortcut it ended up being 10 years of wandering in the wilderness where I could not count on anything from day to day. It was tough, and there were many times I was on the verge of quitting.

There were some really positive things that came out of this like discovering late Chet Baker after his chops got smashed. I learned how much music there is to be made even if your body is not at its best that day. As messed up as he got he never lost that amazing gift for melody and swing. There is a version of But Not For Me he did on The Touch Of Your Lips where he plays a trumpet solo and then scats a solo and there’s almost no difference in feel between the two of them. The trumpet and the chops have nothing to do with what he was doing musically at that time; he was “letting a song go out of his heart” if you will. To me, that was a valuable lesson. … As things started to slowly get better with the help of teachers as well as dumb luck, and as I worked my chops back to regularity—it’s easy to kick myself over that detour—but as I came back to chops normality after having learned all of these lessons about music, the trumpet and my chops, I think it took all of that mess to be at the level of self-knowledge that I am now in terms of how my chops work and how to play.

I forget who said it, but the saying goes, “There are two things you should work on, stuff you’re good at and stuff you’re not good at.” The reason is that on the stuff you’re not good at you need to develop it, but with the stuff you’re good at you also want to work on it because it will become your sound, your thing. You don’t want to stop working on things you do well, you want to build on those things.

New Reviews for Interview Music + Bonus Track

Interview Music, the new album from my Quintet+1, is officially out there, and some very gratifying reviews have been coming in.

First, from Doug Ramsey at the great music blog Rifftides:

In the articulate liner notes for his fifth album, Carey explains that he writes music not to label it “about something” in order to snag foundation grants, but to employ what he’s learned and make it work for him and his players. Interview Music does that. Even better, it works for the listener. … His sextet plays the five-part suite with drive, wit, swing and a palpable unity of purpose. It is complex chamber music with solo space for Carey, long an impressive trumpeter; bass clarinetist Sheldon Brown; alto saxophonist Kasey Knudsen; pianist Adam Shulman; bassist Fred Randolph; and drummer Jon Arkin. They are among the cream of the Bay Area’s jazz community. In a victory for his creative policy, the San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music supported Interview Music with a grant despite its not being “about something,” which, of course, it is. It’s about music.

From The Jazz Page:

[Carey] has returned with an ambitious new recording that succeeds in its effort. Interview Music is a fantastic suite that sees some of Carey’s most adventurous writing matched with truly outstanding performances. … While the production is one of some range, it is accessible, even as weaves and winds its way forward. … Carey’s writing affords each of his fellow players many moments to exhibit their depth of talent, and in the process, allows the entire project to shine.

And a listener left this very thoughtful review on the album’s iTunes page:

Very inspiring to hear this kind of sophisticated composition and playing coming out of the Bay Area. As an ex professional trumpet player who grew up in Bay Area and studied and played in NYC, this is really the first time I’ve encountered such a high degree of post-bop compositional creativity and craft come out of the Bay Area with the exception of Joe Henderson of course. Also very fine playing all-around, with a special shout out to Ian who is obviously a really accomplished trumpeter and improviser.

The album also got mentions from Marc Myers’ Jazzwax (“this abstract original suite for quintet led by trumpeter Carey has classical overtones”) and Tom Hull (“a sprawling suite with four parts and an interlude, a fine example of postbop composition and arrangement”). It’s great to know people are giving it a listen, 15-minute tracks and all!

Finally, here’s another sample track from the album, the interlude and first half of the fourth movement. If you’d like to hear more, please pick up a copy for yourself!

“Interview Music” Premiering September 20 in Berkeley

Hi folks, I’m very excited to announce the premiere of a new piece for my Quintet+1 which I’ve been working on for the past year. The piece, titled Interview Music: A Suite for Quintet+1, and made possible by a grant from the San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music’s Musical Grant Program, will be presented Saturday, September 20 at the California Jazz Conservatory (formerly known as the Jazzschool) in Berkeley.  It will feature the talents of Adam Shulman, piano, Fred Randolph, bass, Jon Arkin, drums, Kasey Knudsen, alto saxophone, Sheldon Brown, bass clarinet, and myself on trumpet.

Below is a press release about the piece, including what that name means, my own background as a composer, and the history of the band. I hope to see you at the premiere!


 

“The first thing you need to know about ‘Interview Music,'” says Bay Area trumpeter and composer Ian Carey about his new jazz suite, “is that it’s not about trying to get more interviews.” (Though he’s not averse to the idea, he adds.)

The piece, which will be premiered at the California Jazz Conservatory (formerly the Jazzschool) in Berkeley on Saturday, September 20, at 8:00 pm, is a 45-minute, four-movement adventure and Carey’s longest composition to date. It is a vehicle both for his intricate writing and the improvisational chops of his group, the Ian Carey Quintet+1, last heard on 2013’s acclaimed album Roads & Codes (Kabocha Records), which received praise from DownBeat and NPR, and appeared on many critics’ best of 2013 lists.

Continue reading “Interview Music” Premiering September 20 in Berkeley

‘Duocracy,’ Canadian-Style

Even though my most recent record, Duocracy, came out way back in February, it’s nice to see it still getting attention here and there. This is a natural result, I think, of the constantly overflowing state of the reviewers’ inboxes—but just like I will occasionally see a CD laying around which I’d forgotten I bought and end up loving it, sometimes a reviewer will get around to a record long after it’s been released. In this case, the reviewer—Peter Hum of the Ottawa Citizen, a very thoughtful writer whose work I’ve read for years—paired the review with another trumpet/piano duo (Dave Douglas’ and Uri Caine’s Present Joys, which I have to pick up!). Here are some highlights from his very kind write-up:

With their fine and refined album Duocracy, trumpeter Ian Carey and pianist Ben Stolorow have a fresh and rewarding musical partnership. The album appeals immediately because the two San Francisco Bay Area musicians, both in their late 30s, are both lean, polished players with lots of facility and flow, but the good taste too to never throw in extra notes. Their disc reveres jazz tradition but feels unbounded too, blessed with spontaneity, poise and personality. The album presents savvy selection of 10 tracks… Cherokee, while taken at its requisite breakneck tempo, feels like a walk in the park, with Carey and Stolorow playing freely and expressively. Stolorow’s a sensitive and varied accompanist throughout the CD, but on Cherokee he really shines as he finds different ways to keep the tune moving forward… There’s more jazz cred on a rendition of Thelonious Monk’s striking, finger-stumping tune Four In One. … Versions of Gigi Gryce’s Social Call, which saunters nicely, and Comin’ Along, a contrafact built on the chord changes of Benny Golson’s Along Came Betty, keep the bop flame burning. On those and a few other tunes, there are stretches of tandem, contrapuntal improvising that stand out for their clarity and simpatico. Trumpet and piano duets pop up infrequently in jazz. Don’t ask me why. And yet, Carey and Stolorow make the pairing sound like the most natural and rewarding team-up going.

Overall I’ve felt that the press Duocracy received mostly focused on the “straightahead-ness” of the record, and failed to hear the ways that Ben and I tried to take the album out of the standards-jam-session model—especially those “stretches of tandem, contrapuntal improvising” Hum mentions above—so it’s gratifying to hear from someone who really picked up on that.

Hey, This Is Nice!

DB1408-62_risingstar_tptI am under no illusions that the Down Beat Critics Poll is an absolutely objective affair where artistic merit is the only factor (how would you even do that?)—so I absolutely am not getting the idea that I am in the “top” (whatever that means) 20 non-famous (“jazz famous,” that is) trumpeters out there (since I can think of several even within a few square miles of here who regularly kick my butt all over the bandstand), but still—this is nice!

What I take it to mean is that at least a few people (somewhere between 5 and 27) who know this music very well remembered who I am, and that they enjoyed my playing, when filling out their polls—which in this day of hundreds of jazz records released every month is not something I take for granted.

However, I have to say that I’m pretty sure two very big factors contributing to my cracking this list for the first time were:

  • I released two albums in two years; and
  • I hired a very good publicist to promote them.

I know there are many outstanding trumpeters out there who either didn’t release as frequently, or weren’t able to hire someone to bug reviewers to seek them out in the deluge, and they’re at a disadvantage. The whole publicity discussion is one for another time, but I’ve made my peace with the fact that even though a good publicist can encourage a reviewer to dig through his or her overflowing inbox and give a particular album a spin, it doesn’t guarantee the reviewer will like it.  (As a few reviews I could’ve done without can demonstrate.)

That said, I’m absolutely glad the critics remembered me (even though my last record came out way back in February—practically the stone age!), and I’m especially glad to see so many deserving friends, teachers & colleagues—Evan Francis! Dayna Stephens! Maria Schneider! Reggie Workman! Satoko Fujii! Donny McCaslin! Ben Goldberg! Howard Wiley! Kirk Knuffke! Jacob Garchik! Mike McGinnis!—showing up elsewhere in the poll.  I hope we all get more gigs!

(P.S. For an interesting and very detailed breakdown on how one voter approached the ballot, read this.)

3 Gigs + WBGO Show

Hi Folks,

I wanted to let you know about three shows I have coming up this week (all as a sideman for a change!) as well as a very gratifying radio appearance.

First, I’ll be playing with the phenomenal pianist & composer Satoko Fujii and her 12-piece Orchestra Oakland this Wednesday at Duende. Fujii has had an illustrious career performing with luminaries including Paul Bley, Mark Dresser, and Myra Melford. The band will also include a who’s-who of local creative musicians including Aaron Bennett, Larry Ochs, Jordan Glenn, Jon Raskin, and many others. This will be my first time playing Duende (I’ve seen some great shows there) and I’m looking forward to it.

WHAT: Satoko Fujii Orchestra Oakland
WHEN: Weds., June 18, 9pm
WHERE: Duende, 468 19th St., Oakland
HOW MUCH: $15

Next up is a rare band-only appearance by The Circus Bella All-Star Band–we spend all summer backing up the circus troupe but it’ll be nice to have a chance to just rock out on Rob Reich’s great original compositions. With Reich, accordion & guitar, Ralph Carney, reeds & toys, Greg Stephens, trombone, Michael Pinkham, drums, & me. Also appearing will be Beat Circus (from Boston) & dancer Rose Harden.

WHAT: Beat Circus / Circus Bella All-Star Band / Rose Harden
WHEN: Thurs., June 19, 8:30p
WHERE: Amnesia, 853 Valencia St., San Francisco
HOW MUCH: $7-10

Saturday, I’ll be joining pianist Betty Shaw, drummer Ron Marabuto and bassist Adam Gay for some midday jazz & pizza at the Cheese Board in Berkeley.

WHAT: Betty Shaw Quartet
WHEN: Saturday, June 21, 11:45a-2:45p
WHERE: The Cheese Board, 1512 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley
HOW MUCH: Free!

Finally, I’m very flattered that composer, saxophonist, author and historian extraordinaire Bill Kirchner has decided to devote an episode of his great radio show “Jazz from the Archives” to my music. His description: “Carey (b. 1974) is a San Francisco-based trumpeter/composer/arranger of uncommon resourcefulness. His writing for two-horn quintet and three-horn sextet is much more than the theme/solos/theme format usually heard from those instrumentations. We’ll hear selections from three CDs by Carey and other longtime Bay Area colleagues.” The show is broadcast on WBGO on the East Coast, but you can tune in online at WBGO.org.

WHAT: Jazz from the Archives: Ian Carey: Contextualizin’
WHEN: Sunday, June 22, 8pm (Pacific)
WHERE: WBGO.org

Thanks!

‘Duocracy’ CD Release Videos, New Reviews

Thanks very much to everyone who came out to any of our three CD release shows for Duocracy! Ben and I had a great time and were really pleased with the turnout and audience response. We hope to have more shows lined up soon, but in the meantime, here are some new reviews for the CD, plus some video from our Jazzschool (now California Jazz Conservatory!) show. (Also, don’t forget my trio TAKOYAKI 3 is playing Friday, March 14, in Berkeley!)

First, the reviews–I’m really pleased that the CD was selected for a review by Down Beat, which is still the magazine of record for the jazz scene after 80-some years. Here’s what they had to say:

Both busy members of the Bay Area jazz community, 30-somethings Stolorow and Carey pair up here for a duo outing largely focused on tunes dating back a couple of generations before they were born. The tone is set by the warmth of opener “Little White Lies,” accelerated as “Cherokee” finds rapid-fire lines erupting from Carey’s trumpet, and settles back as Stolorow takes a stride-inflected spin on Monk’s “Four in One.” It’s a lively trip down a straightahead path… obviously deriving a refreshing joy from the familiar sights.

We also picked up a nice review from Music Charts Magazine:

Inventive and pretty, the music on Duocracy (recorded in 2013) is reminiscent of that created by Ruby Braff and Dick Hyman on several albums, including Play Nice Tunes (1994), though Braff usually performed on cornet while Ian Carey plays trumpet. Pianist Ben Stolorow and Carey mostly favor tunes from what is often called the Great American Songbook… Jazz writers who decry musicians’ continued interest in such music should listen to Stolorow and Carey’s fresh treatment of standards. Ranging chronologically from the Gershwins’ “How Long Has This Been Going On” and Rodgers and Hart’s “You Took Advantage of Me” (both 1928) to Henry Mancini’s “Two for the Road” (1967), seven of the ten selections are well known. The tempos range from sprightly to deliberate. The briskest selection, “Cherokee” begins with a brief fanfare, as if to announce that something special is coming. Indeed, the trumpet-piano interplay is impressive, as it is throughout this CD. The contrast between “Cherokee” and the next tune, Gordon Jenkins’s “Goodbye,” the longest and least hurried piece, is extreme; pairing these pieces reveals the musicians’ emotional range, from playfulness to introspection. … Hardly radical, the trumpeter and pianist are content to investigate the nuances of mostly established compositions, ones that some commentators consider effete. These tunes have endured because of their attractiveness and richness, qualities that appeal to instrumentalists and singers. Stolorow and Carey’s treatment of them is uniquely theirs. They play nice tunes nicely.

And here’s one from The Jazz Page:

The pared down pairing of trumpeter Ian Carey and pianist Ben Stolorow on their new effort Duocracy is a simple pleasure. It’s not often that we get hear the interplay of the trumpet and piano alone together, and the talents of these two gentleman certainly elevates the caliber of the effort. They primarily cover a nice selection of standards by Rodgers and Hart, Henry Mancini, Thelonious Monk, George and Ira Gerswhin and Walter Donaldson among others. The duo of Carey and Stolorow makes this more than a fascinating concept, instead it’s a fantastic recording.

As promised, here are two videos from our Jazzschool show, each featuring tunes which can also be found on the album–the first is Monk’s “Four In One”:

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And here’s Kern’s chestnut “All the Things You Are…”

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