Mark Weaver’s Brassum | Warning Lights | Plutonium Records

PLU-003

Dan Clucas – cornet, flute  | Michael Vlatkovich – trombone | Mark Weaver – tuba |  Harris Eisenstadt – drums

Recorded April 28 2003 in Los Angeles CA. Recording / mixing / mastering by Wayne Feet, Kfllzone Music Plutonium Records

Tracklist: 1. Seven Enchiladas (3:09)  2. Riparian Creatures (6:50)  3. Minus (3:52)  4. Clear (2:32)  5. Movie (5:00) 6. Avenue (4:09) 7. Elastomeric (5:40)  8. Elements (7:15)   9. MesaNegra (7:56) (all compositions by Mark Weaver)

It was another one of those crazy trips to LA for me.

Four performances, three rehearsals, and a recording session, all in five days. I was becoming accustomed to the whirlwind visits, having made six similar trips in the preceding year to play music with my Southern California friends. But this time tight schedules meant that we could only conduct our brassum recording session on the same day as the gig we were going to play at the Salvation Theater in Silverlake.

Harris (who raced home from his morning gig playing for dance class at CalArts), Dan, and I arrived at Wayne Feet’s place only slightly late for our 1:00 pm Monday recording session, it being always a challenge to negotiate transportation options and LA traffic. Michael of course was already there, warming up, and Wayne was setting up gear in his cramped but super-cool studio (with a nifty isolation booth perfect for Harris). We spent five hours getting our music recorded, taking only one short break, then it was off to grab a quick burrito dinner (at a fantastic place Harris knew of in Venice) on the way to the gig.

Beautiful gig! After a wonderful bracing solo set of clarinet/bass clarinet by Lynn Johnston (on his 50th birthday), brassum played a set of eight out of the nine tunes from that day’s recording session, [note: a very demanding day especially for the trumpet and trombone players!]

The series at the Salvation Theater, called linespaceline, curated by LA musicians Jeremy Drake and Chris Heenan, normally features a carefully considered line-up of chamber free improvisation solos and small ensembles. So brassum was somewhat out of the ordinary, maybe a bit rambunctious for the small (30 seat) space. But having previously played with Harris in two different trumpet/tuba/drums trios in the Theater (one with Dan, and one with Kris Tiner – another excellent LA trumpeter deserving of wider recognition), I knew I liked the sound of brass horns in there. Plus Harris is the most sensitive of drummers, a total musician who I think could probably make just about any group sound good in any space. (Actually, it was Harris’ comments after our trio performance with Dan in June 2002, about how it would be nice to have the same group but with a third brass player, specifically trombone, which eventually led to the formation of this quartet.)

What a nice audience! Dan’s parents came in from Upland, our good friend (poet and music lover) Dottie Grossman was there, guitarists Noah Phillips and Carey Fosse and G.E. Stinson. My old friend Jeff from Albuquerque now living in LA was there, Dan’s girlfriend Whitney, Harris’ girlfriend (the amazing bassoon player Sara Schoenbeck), percussionist Brian Christopherson. Very good vibes all around, one of my favorite gigs ever.

Next day, after a stupendous Ethiopian meal with Dan, he delivered me and my tuba to Union Station and I got on the train (on which I have become accustomed to traveling) back to Albuquerque, a 16-hour scenic ride back to my regular life in the New Mexico desert. Wayne did all the editing and mixing for this project based on long-distance communications (only possible because of his dual background as a distinguished performing musician/composer as well as recording engineer, and his typically outstanding careful attention to the project, not to mention his excellent ears). We hope you like the music! — Mark Weaver (7-1-03)

mark weaver's brassum | warning lights | plutonium records 003

Tuba player Mark Weaver

is one of a group of fine jazz and improvising musicians who’s chosen to settle out in the New Mexico desert, which explains why he pops up quite frequently on Albuquerque poet / raconteur Mark Weber’s excellent Zerx label (Weaver also plays in The Bubbadinos, perhaps the best – and most criminally neglected – avant-folk outfit west of the Mississippi). From time to time he heads west into the smog, though, and this quartet date with Dan Clucas (cornet, flute), Michael Vlatkovich (trombone) and Harris Eisenstadt (drums) was recorded in LA in April. It’s a tasty set of nine Weaver originals, craftily arranged and powered forward by Eisenstadt’s kit. Weaver has a certain fondness for irregular meters, but despite the intricacy of the rhythmics the music is never coolly abstract – Vlatkovich’s dirty smears and strong mute work (cf. “Minus”) keep things agreeably sweaty. Imagine the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, or half of them, reschooled by Threadgill, Lake and Hemphill. The sedate chorale of “Clear” is a fine example of how to make three instruments sound like twice as many; there’s plenty of space for Eisenstadt to stretch out in this and the following uptempo “Movie”, and he also slips in some deftly understated funk into “Avenue”. The broad, brassy melodic sweeps and occasional voice-like inflections of Clucas’ cornet recall Lester Bowie on a number of occasions, and Weaver reveals once again – for anyone who’s never heard Joe Daley or Kirk Joseph – that the tuba is just as agile and versatile as a string bass.— Dan Warburton (Bagatellen.com 07 November 2003)

Given its name

which reflects its brass-heavy instrumentation, you’d expect Mark Weaver’s Brassum to be a celebration of the brass band tradition with evocations of marching bands… But with leader and tubaist Mark Weaver taking on the role of the string bass, this band really is a free Bop ensemble with catchy, intriguing tunes setting up edgy blowing.  Little Weaver plays wouldn’t fall easily under the fingers of an adept bassist.  That’s not to say that his big brass bass doesn’t add a dominant color to the date.  The tuba’s expansive sound envelops the ensemble with a golden fog.  Even when vamping, Weaver’s lines (and this applies as well to the undisputed master of this school of tuba, Bob Stewart) resonate with the other horns in the way a string bass does not.  Weaver and Eisenstadt prove to be a playful rhythm section.  Clucas works well within the context of Weaver’s compositions.  Vlatkovich further lifts the session with his robust, ripping trombone lines.  …this music, through crafty writing and daring playing, achieves a sound larger than you’d assume from the seemingly meager complement of instruments. —David Dupont (Cadence magazine vol.30, No.6, June 2004, p.46-47)

Considering

its impressive range and flexibility, the tuba often gets overlooked in the modern rhythm section, but Mark Weaver aims to correct all assumptions that the big horn is lacking mobility.  Joined by fellow brass players Michael Vlatkovich and Dan Clucas on this set of original tunes, Weaver delivers bass lines with a buoyant feeling and deep tone, laying the bottom down heavily on the languid “Avenue”, his natural groove enhanced by Harris Eisenstadt’s imaginative, uncluttered drumming.  It provides a setting made to order for Vlatkovich and Clucas who respond with punchy concise solos, notably on “Minus”.  Some of this music is almost programmatic; its easy to imagine a track like “Clear” evoking the rugged New Mexico area where Weaver lives.  These nine compositions inspire the players to show off some skillful work, Weaver’s slow-themed “Elements” allowing Eisenstadt maximum room to play around the time, reaching for tympani-like effects on his drum kit as the horns swell with glowing tone. —Steve Vickery (CODA magazine, Issue #314, Mar/Apr 2004, p.32)

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