Chronicles #4: Astronomos


Chicago is truly one of the great music cities in the world. There is so much diversity and so many small venues offering creative music each night of the week. I always feel fortunate to be able to play at a venue there. This album was recorded live at Brown Rice (named after the Don Cherry song), on March 18, 2008. The space had formerly been The Candlestick Maker, drummer Michael Zerang’s longtime studio and concert venue. I must have played at The Candlestick 2 or 3 times over the years. I’d also attended a lot of concerts of creative music there and would have gone to many more if I’d have lived closer than 80 miles away. 

The place looked the same (what could you really do to change it?). It was a small room with red painted paneling on the walls. There was a small office up front and a storage room & bathroom in the back. For a small space, the acoustics were perfect if you didn’t over power things. So my percussion always sounded nice in there. 

I hadn’t played a Gong set since November of 2007, when I finished a short series of dates out East (my Whirled Tour), so it felt good to get out there again and create some music. This was a full gong concert. When I had played The Candlestick Maker, I was still using my large drum set up and mixing that up with the gongs. I remember this being an inspired night, with some interesting improvisations and versions of my compositions.

Performing on the Kulintang at Brown Rice in Chicago. (photo by Joel Wanek)

Featured among the many instruments I brought along were my Kulintang—a set of 8 pentatonic horizontal bossed gongs from the Philippines—my melodic gong play (on the far right of the photo above), a table with small gongs and bowls (front left in the photo), and a wide array of large gongs of various types. The music came from 4 different solo percussion recordings of mine: Stars Show the Way, Labyrinth, Meridian and Microcosm.

My memories of this concert were the small, but appreciative audience, the familiar space, and being grateful to be playing a solo concert once again. The next night I played a duo concert with Jim Baker at Fred Anderson's Velvet Lounge on the far south side (unfortunately this concert was not recorded).

Astronomos is Spanish for astronomer, which I felt was a fitting title for the album,  as many of my compositions were about the sky and heavenly bodies. I've always had an interest in the heavens since I was a young child. I remember my parents giving me a telescope for my birthday when I was about 9 or 10. I spent many night looking up at the stars with it.

~ MB

Chop Wood / Carry Water / Play Gongs™

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