Animation: On The Edge Of Forever

Manhattan is the Edge of Forever. Live here and you are always on the edge, one day away from your destiny, fate, obligation or demise. I have lived in Manhattan for 28 years. On the edge for 28 years. DJ Logic grew up in the South Bronx, the birthplace of hip hop, party DJs, break dancing and social engineering in the extreme. Matt Garrison, our bassist, and Guy Licata, our drummer, have lived their entire lives in the shadows of New York City, either directly or by DNA.  In parallel worlds, Scott Kinsey lives in Los Angeles, an American noir-ish metaphor for the extremes of success, failure and quiet desperation. Tim Hagans has lived close to Philidelphia for most of his adult life. Big cities. But only in Manhattan, is there 24/7 energy, an animated cartoon expressing adventure in the midst of wanton criminal behavior. The sound of street life, club life, studio life, a high cost of living, terrorism as tourism, Central Park, Harlem, Limos, no speed limits, fantastic restaurants, jay-walking as a right, After-hours joints, gangsters, endless parties, police with big guns in kevlar everywhere, all taken in the extreme. At night the city comes alive like no other in the world. At any moment you are working directly with multi-national corporations as if they were local businesses or street hustlers straight out of central casting. In many cases you can’t tell the difference. You may hear English spoken on occasion.You find yourself caught up in larger-than-life events such as the World Trade Center attacks, The Subway Vigilante, Guardian Angels, Gang wars, Wall Street Meltdowns (twice!!), and the media interests for the Western World are within walking distance of my apartment. If you live a life where each day you are compelled by necessity to create a new world that will satisfy your muse, pay your bills or keep you from getting in trouble, surrounded by 8 million other people with the same basic idea, one develops a creative survival instinct that defies logic or reason. If you can make it here you don’t care about anywhere else. And reinvention is the Mantra of Manhattan. You prod the status quo, finding new ways to survive as a creative artist. Its all about how you feel at that moment, your own basic instinct carved from your soul, one challenge at a time because things change here first. Manhattan never stops for anyone, you either catch up or move out. One lives and dies in this city always with a dream to chase, a challenge left unmet, a love never fulfilled, a heart oft broken. And take my word, this city will literally kill you. It is that treacherous to live life on the edge in Manhattan.

The underlying philosophy of this band we call ANIMATION has always been about reinvention (aka ‘re:Imagination’) and creating conflict within the status quo. Either by abandoning the traditions of jazz forms, the melodic and harmonic basis for improvisation and using dynamics as a sonic weapon, ANIMATION was able to invent music at the moment, invent forms, otherworldly textures and colors and improvisational contextualization. While this may not be “innovative”, it is refreshing. Recording for Blue Note Records from 1997-2001, under assumed names, ANIMATION created a unique sound within the framework of 1950s hard bop-inspired label. The recording had the same energy as a Charlie Parker or Art Blakey recording but with a contemporary texture.  Our followup live recording from the Montreal Jazz Festival did much to further the cause of progressive jazz within the conventional public discourse, bringing elements of Drum & Bass and electronica into the Jazz Melting Pot. We also received two Grammy nominations in the Contemporary Jazz
Category (Tim Hagans “Animation: Imagination” in 2000 and Hagans/Belden “Re:Animation LIVE! in 2001).

Early in 2006, ANIMATION was invited by Francois Zalacain and Brice Rosenbloom to create a performance (scheduled for) December 9, 2006) as part of a concert series based on covering classic jazz LPs. To fit comfortably within the programming I chose Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew”, thinking this would be a good opportunity to demonstrate our approach to jazz improvisation and add to the bands oeuver. After the usual logistical stresses everyone magically arrived mid-afternoon on the 9th of December at West 67th street instruments in hand. We rehearsed about 30 minutes, enough to understand the phrases that defined the compositions. As our music has evolved into creating phrases as opposed to reinterpreting melodic forms, it was very natural to adapt to the phrases of “Bitches Brew.” Performing in Manhattan sharpens your artistic senses and reflexes. If you close your eyes, having read the above description of the city, you may hear the life and energy of this urban dystopia come alive in your animated imagination.

Each musician brings a unique voice to the performance. Tim Hagans has followed the path of great trumpet players by forging his own intense style, with an emphasis on tightly focused solo statements that resemble an electric guitarists efforts more than your typical trumpet expressions. Scott Kinsey has taken the language of the synthesizer to the highest level in our modern times as he is the first generation of keyboardists who developed electronically as opposed to the acoustic-centric classic piano model. Matthew Garrison has similarly improved the language of the electric bass and his unique technique allows him to redefine the the possibilities of the instrument within modern electronic ensembles. Guy Licata represents the next wave of drummers to emerge from the shadows of sampling, electronica and drum machine programming, and he has an endless supply of drive and energy that has few rivals in jazz. DJ Logic adds his input from a variety of sources, both from the street and from the penthouse, becoming part of the groove or texture, but always hovering about the textures.

This recording is an unfettered representation of the spirit of jazz; improvisation. We could not prepare to regurgitate what we rehearsed in the live performance so the decision was made to abandon intensive preparation and to emphasize the thrill of hearing music created for the first time in front of people. Most bands do not take this kind of risk these days. Many groups are intensely rehearsed and arranged more to show off the ability to rehearse and arrange but reiteration is not improvisation. In a marketplace that values fast tempos, loud grooves, pre-planned climaxes, cliche forms and presentation patterns that go back to the roaring twenties, to approach performance and recording as an act of pure improvisation is becoming a luxury. Often musicians feel that complexity means quality or virtuosity and in some genres this is held to a higher standard than creativity and taste. This is the mark of a desperate ego, a ‘me-and-only-me’ approach to making music (not creating). With ASIENTO, there was no me but us. We are all traveling very fast down a road with only a sketch for a roadmap in a Ferrari with no brakes and a reckless disregard for the dangers that lie ahead.

Cheers to you all.