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Kneebody - You Can Have Your Moment


 


 

By combining sophisticated compositions and virtuosic improvising, the American avant-garde band Kneebody has created a diverse, loyal fan base in the United States and Europe. The five musicians Ben Wendel (saxophone and bassoon), Adam Benjamin (keyboards), Shane Endsley (trumpet), Kaveh Rastegar (bass) and Nate Wood (drums) can in the meantime look back on almost ten years of band history. The musicians knew each other from hometowns and college. Kaveh and Shane met in Denver and played together in a bunch of bands there, before Kaveh teamed up with Ben, Adam and Nate as a quartet called "Wendel" with a weekly residence at the Temple Bar in Santa Monica, California. In the year 2000 Shane Endsley made his first solo recording and all of the Kneebodies played on it. In the following year the five finally decided to go on as a unit. Kneebody has built upon an impressive array of individual resumés and conservatory training to create a truly singular voice within the instrumental world and have since developed one successful project after another. The band has become the state of the art in genre-bending postmodern music. Drawing from a wide range of musical influences – the band members count Wayne Krantz, Steve Coleman, Ralph Alessi (who teached most of the musicians), Kurt Rosenwinkel, Paul Motian, Ron Miles, the Miles Davis Quintet and many others among their most important role models – they have created a cohesive group sound at once singular and familiar.
Their Grammy nomination 2009 for the Winter & Winter album »Twelve Songs by Charles Ives« with singer Theo Bleckmann – this unique project was initiated by Munich’s opera chief conductor Kent Nagano and the Munich Opernfestspiele – was the group’s starting point with Winter & Winter. They masterly transformed classical music combined with improvisation and jazz elements into a new listening experience.
Their new album »You Can Have Your Moment« is the first band album for Winter & Winter. It was recorded at Steve Wood's (Nate Wood's father) studio in Laguna, California; a gorgeous place overlooking the ocean. The very comfortable atmosphere in the studio was the basis for the musicians to produce organic and homogeneous music.

The entire recorded material of »You Can Have Your Moment« was created during rehearsals and concert tours within a year. And the group's general rule that all pieces are also taught and learned by ear helped them to retain the tunes so much better and livelier and to get deeper into the parts quicker.
For Kneebody improvising may not only be applied on the music, but also how the musicians organise their concert life given that the musicians live in different cities and it can be hard to find rehearsing time together (Kaveh remembers to have taught his tune 'You Can Have Your Moment' to everybody at Ralph Alessi's space in Brooklyn).
"Musical improvisation was essential for this album", Shane Endsley explains: "My pieces ('Nerd Mountain', 'High Noon', 'Held' and 'Teddy Ruxpin') are vehicles for improvisers and they absolutely depend on an enthusiastic interpretation by the players. The forms are usually determined in the moments of performance and are usually not predetermined." Kaveh Rastegar adds: "In the past, we've been learning how to have a balance between the different writing styles that come from the members of the band and also the improvising language that we have developed over the last ten years. We have different types of compositions in the band. Some of them are more through composed songs that would involve detail and variation in the performance or the feel but have little improvisation and some are more open ended pieces – like Shane's songs 'Held', 'Teddy Ruxpin', 'High Noon', 'Nerd Mountain' and Adam's song 'Unforseen Influences'."
That all band members interact on an equal footing with no leader becomes also evidently clear in the finding process of the composition titles: "We have a thing in the group where if someone hasn't titled their song after a while it can become fair game for another band member to title it for them. Thus, the name 'Nerd Mountain' (composed by Shane) came from Nate, 'Teddy Ruxpin' (also by Shane) from Kaveh."


Composition Information Shane Endsley:
Nerd Mountain – "A piece with two sections sharing a common underlying rhythm. We change sections when someone plays a bit of the melody from the section we are heading towards."

Teddy Ruxpin – "Two sections also except that these change at regular intervals unless the band decides otherwise in the moment."

Held – "A longer form and a lot more harmonic info than I usually write into my Kneebody tunes. This one is in 3 parts. The first a section for improvising wherein the harmonic changes are cued by melodic phrases. Then comes the melody and then comes a C section which serves as a release from the broad, anthemic nature of the first two sections."

High Noon – "A rhythm cycle experiment. There were originally 3 parts in different beat cycles and a melody to be played by rhodes that was comprised only of notes from the other 3 parts. That is to say, as the 3 parts cycle against each other the rhodes illuminates a melodic thread that runs between them. I shelved the 3rd part and we are left with a bass line in 9, and a sax background in 7, and a rhodes/trumpet melody drawing on the two played parts and the missing part. I reset the cycles after a few times through to make it more manageable for improvising. The parts are technically interchangeable and can be played by anyone. Throughout the performance you hear the band shuffling through the different orchestrations."

Composition Information Adam Benjamin:
Unforseen Influences – "A piece I wrote for Kneebody to improvise with using our cueing system, in which we can alter the form while we play by playing transparent musical messages to each other. It has a regular yet fluid form, and each performance of the piece will elaborate on a different element of the form."

One Unheard Message – "A piece I wrote for student ensembles that I coached at CalArts and at the Banff International Jazz Workshop. It's a simple form with only two rhythmic layers, meant to be "frozen" and "unfrozen" using our cueing system. Thus, sections can be extended for improvisation, or the form can be played in a more traditional jazz way."

Entrepreneur – "A melodic etude written for bandmate Ben Wendel as a sequel to his songs "Comedian" and "Politician". Our arrangement is lovingly backwards, as the horns use effects pedals to play harmonic pads over which the electric bass and rhodes play the soprano melody."

Desperation Station – "A piece about getting through the darker places in life. It was written in silence in the middle of a noisy night of Santa Ana winds and came to me in one complete thought. The title is derived from an exercise I invented while going through some personal rough times – in the shower, I would sing improvised lyrics about the troubles I was facing in life in the style of a cheesy Broadway musical. The awkward rhymes and melodrama forced me to laugh at my problems. Thus, Desparation Station."

Composition Information Ben Wendel:
Call – "I wrote this song in Pennabilli, Italy – the group played at a very old theater built in the opera house style from the 1700's. It was a beautiful city and space – I was thinking about two part chorals at that time and that's how the piece began. I was also thinking about different meters and imposing rhythms over them (in this piece we incorporate 2, 3 and 4 over the 5/4 time signature)."

No Thank You Mr. West – "The title of this song comes from an interview/article in which I was severely misquoted. My wife (a violinist) was touring with Kanye West at the time – the reporter asked me if I would like to tour with him. I politely replied that I wanted to concentrate more on instrumental music and composing and probably wouldn't tour with Kanye – the article ended up being titled 'No Thank You Mr. West'."

Composition Information Kaveh Rastegar:
The Blind – "A song that I wrote on guitar that I taught to the band members at a workshop we were doing in NY. It is titled the Blind because I think there are different ways of seeing the world and also not to see the world around us. Some of us are blind to reality because of who we are and some are blind because of who they choose to be."

You Can Have Your Moment – "A song that I also wrote on guitar on a tour in Brazil. When I taught it to the band, I loved the beat that Nate came up with on the drums and how the rhythm section sounds during the more open B section. The title implies optimism, a little sarcasm and teasing as well. We can all have our moments and they can be good, bad, glorious, shameful typical or exceptional. And they rarely last longer than a moment."


Musicians   Compositions
Adam Benjamin: Fender Rhodes, Effects
Shane Endsley: Trumpet, Effects
Kaveh Rastegar: Electric Bass, Effects
Ben Wendel: Saxophone, Melodica, Effects
Nate Wood: Drums
  1. Teddy Ruxpin [S. Endsley]
2. Held [S. Endsley]
3. The Entrepreneur [A. Benjamin]
4. No Thank You Mr. West [B. Wendel]
5. You Have One Unheard Message [A. Benjamin]
6. The Blind [K. Rastegar]
7. You Can Have Your Moment [K. Rastegar]
8. Desperation Station [A. Benjamin]
9. Nerd Mountain [S. Endsley]
10. Call [B. Wendel]
11. Unforseen Influences [A. Benjamin]
12. High Noon [S. Endsley]
Kneebody - You Can Have Your Moment 


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