Biography

I have had a varied "non-career" in music.

Hearing Renaissance vocal music alongside 20th-century classics and jazz at an early age and then later hearing some of the cutting-edge rock music of 1960s Los Angeles and many traveling blues bands at the legendary Ash Grove probably started me on a path that would include many different types of music.

Taking up the electric bass in my early teens, my first playing experiences were, like many of my generation, involved in the rock and blues worlds. In high school I was introduced to jazz, though I often found myself bored with many of the mainstream sounds presented to me and started to search out more "exotic" strains of improvised music. In my early college days, I was lucky enough to find people who were sympathetic and with whom I would have long-lasting musical relationships.

 

At the age of 19 I started a three-year stint playing rhythm guitar with soul-jazz pianist-singer Les McCann (playing on four albums). Feeling the need to develop a broader knowledge of classical music (and to get back to the bass!), I quit Les' band and returned to university, where I studied classical contrabass, music history and composition. During this period I also wrote for and played in original rock and jazz bands.

 

After graduating I realized that the life of a symphony bassist was not going to do and decided to start a rock band. This band (BLOC) eventually went on to get the "fabled" major-label recording contract, put out an album and, like many rock bands, self-immolate. Luckily, I had not put all of my musical eggs in one basket and had been playing with noted saxophonist-composer Julius Hemphill as well as various members of the Los Angeles improvised music community. I was also doing much self-study in "classical" composition.

This self-study resulted in some 20 works, including a symphony, two string quartets, two string quintets, a piano quartet and several pieces for large orchestral forces.

 

During the dissolution of BLOC, I realized that my "calling" was not in line with having a personal involvement with the music-as-entertainment industry and decided to focus my energies on playing improvised music and composing. (Still, I found time to become a sideman for two promotional tours of singer-songwriter Michael Penn - - which helped bankroll some of my creative music projects.) This decision eventually led to the formation of Quartetto Stig (violin, trumpet, drums, contrabassguitar), where I was first able to integrate my compositional ideas with the needs of an improvisational group. The quartet had three well-received CDs on Nine Winds Records (Hommages Obliques, 1993; Lingua Oscura, 1995; Pienso Oculto, 1997).

Being somewhat restless, I disbanded the quartet and embarked on three more or less parallel lines of compositional investigation: Stigtette (originally flute, clarinet, trombone, contrabassguitar; now flute, clarinet, bassoon, contrabassguitar), which elaborates on some of the compositional ideas and techniques first explored in Quartetto Stig; The Mentones (alto saxophone, chromatic harmonica, drums, contrabassguitar), which attempts to revisit American folk music (as exemplified by John Lee Hooker, Howlin' Wolf, Roscoe Holcomb, Hank Williams, etc.) through the prism of "avant-garde" jazz; and a free-jazz-based trio that uses skeletal themes as compositional "way stations" (with multi-reedist Vinny Golia and drummer Billy Mintz), which has two CDs on Cadence Jazz Records (No Train, 1999; Antipodes, 2001).

Pomegranate (2001), which consists of four concerto-like vehicles for featured soloist and a seven-piece backing band (KammerStig), could probably be considered the apotheosis to date of the compositional ideas begun in Quartetto Stig. Besides the obvious challenge of trying to capture the personality of each featured soloist, there are some major differences between the four long-form pieces written for Pomegranate and the long-from pieces written for Quartetto Stig. Whereas the long-form pieces for the quartet are often episodic or based on classical forms (sonata allegro, rondo, theme and variations), the music on Pomegranate is based on the use of form by Stravinsky (and other 20th-century composers) and in the films of Peter Greenaway (The Pillow Book in particular). Another important distinction is that much of the music for the quartet was programmatic in nature - - that is, the music was influenced by or based on a novel, a poem, a painting, a place, a person, etc. - - the music for Pomegranate is, but for one small exception, non-programmatic.

Post-Pomegranate recordings include The Mentones' Locustland and Nowhere Calling, Minim's Quicksilver, Stigtette's Delta, Kelpland Seranades by the Homler/Liebig Duo and On the Cusp of Fire and Water with Vinny Golia and Michael Vatcher.

 

In addition to the projects already mentioned, I have written material for an improvising chamber group, The Meninas Quartet (2005-2006), the "quasi-jazz" horn band Seconda Prattica Quintet (2000-2005), the electric "jazz" group Lane Ends Merge Left (1997-2005), and am developing literature for solo contrabassguitar (AKA Steubig), and continue to conceptualize and write long-form pieces for Kammerstig, the same group that performs on Pomegranate.

In 2005, I was mentioned the Downbeat Critics Poll.

Panharmonicon is a suite that has now been completely written (2005-2006) for saxophone, trumpet, two keyboards, two percussionist and contrabassguitar. I call this music "shiny textures, slamming grooves."

Also completed (2006) is music for something I call the Tee-Tot Quartet, which is music for dobro, cornet, drumset/percussion and contrabassguitar, and incorporates more ideas from American vernacular music mixed with my own ideas from the free improv genre.

Recordings released after 2006 include Sulphur by Minim, Always Outnumbered with the Tee-Tot Quartet and the third disc by the Mentones, Angel City Dust.

Hooked on Lemon Drops is a group of keyboards, woodwinds, percussion and contrabassguitar that makes extensive use of electronics. In some ways it is a continuation of the "shiny textures, slamming grooves" format started in Panharmonicon. There are four three-part suites that have heavy doses of improv are connected by sections of pure improv.

In 2008 i was nominated for the Alpert Award in the Arts for Music. Though I did not win the award, it was extremely flattering to be nominated for this award (and thanks to whoever did so!).