What makes a great live album? High-fidelity recordings? A wide variety of songs? Intense rehearsals beforehand? Having all the tracks be from the same show or tour, for continuity’s sake? On Weird Funk in Small Bars, Middle Blue adheres to none of these very logical conclusions. Instead, we’re presenting four long tracks from four different shows. Four different lineups. Three venues. And two songs created on the spot. All recorded on a Zoom or an iPhone. We aim to be prescient, not precious.
We’re also proud of our band vision, as summed up by the album title. If someone asks us to play a fancy jazz club or big rock venue, we’re there! Why not? But for now, we’re just playing our strange tunes in little spaces. People can actively listen, or allow us to be the soundtrack to their night. Either way, it’s an honor.
Live at Troost (Brooklyn, NY) on 11/21/15
Ben Goldberg (clarinet), Dave Sewelson (bari sax), Brad Farberman (guitar), Danny Tamberelli (bass), Tim Kuhl (drums)
This one’s a free improvisation, and it truly just sprang from the earth and disappeared. Music is magic. Improvisation is magic. I love the warm, grateful melody. When Ben Goldberg starts unraveling his clarinet lines, we’re really leaving the planet. Bassist Danny Tamberelli and drummer Tim Kuhl have a special hookup, and you can hear its relentless forward motion here. Almost exactly halfway through, we transition into a second, weirder groove. I start playing a three-note riff, and Goldberg and Dave Sewelson are free to wander over it. Bari sax and clarinet is a cool combination! A little after nine-minutes, Danny and Tim start taking a more active role and the intensity grows. I had been a fan of Goldberg’s for a long time, having seen his bands Go Home and Unfold Ordinary Mind, so I was honored to have him with us at Troost on this night.
Live at Troost (Brooklyn, NY) on 4/22/17
Jeremy Danneman (alto sax), Dave Sewelson (bari sax), Claire Daly (bari sax), Brad Farberman (guitar), Joe Exley (tuba), Mike Marcinowski (drums)
“Leany Lean” is a nickname I have for my wife, the visual artist Alina Gregorian. On Middle Blue’s first album, Love Chords, this tune runs a little over ten minutes; here, live at Troost in 2017, it’s almost twice that length. Our special guest for this track is the incredible bari saxophonist Claire Daly, who has a two-bari group with Sewelson called Two Sisters Inc. With three saxophones, tuba, and the unstoppable Mike Marcinowski on drums, we move almost into the New Orleans brass band universe on this one. At 10:17, I take a guitar solo that I’m actually happy with, which seems impossible. When I stop playing, you can hear a bunch of people chatting and it’s a beautiful moment. We’re the funky backdrop to their fun night out!
Live at the Falcon (Marlboro, NY) on 4/5/18
Jeremy Danneman (alto sax), Brad Farberman (guitar), Jamie Saft (keyboards), Danny Tamberelli (bass), Mike Clark (drums)
“Melvyn” is dedicated to my father, Mel Farberman. He passed away in 2016. When Mike Clark enters on drums, it instantly feels like we’re flying. The highlight of this track is the trio jam offered by Mike, Danny, and Jamie Saft. Danny’s bass playing bubbles up underneath Saft’s ecstatic organ while Mike keeps everyone on their toes. When I come back in on guitar, Saft instantly grabs the riff I make up and it sounds like we rehearsed. But of course we hadn’t. Thelonious Monk referred to rehearsing as “cheating.” He was right.
Live at Fox & Crow (Jersey City, NJ) on 4/6/18
Jeremy Danneman (alto sax), Brad Farberman (guitar), Danny Tamberelli (bass), Mike Clark (drums)
A second free improv to finish out the album. I asked Mike to start this one, and his intro is a mind-bending mix of groove and abstraction. What hurts my brain even more is that Mike has been doing this for five decades now. And no one has been able to replicate what he does! We go to some strange, secretive places on this one. Jeremy prays on sax. Danny’s bass comes up for air and then dives back down. I love that we have no idea where we’re going. About halfway through, we enter a more meditative zone. But it doesn’t last. This is some of my most distorted playing on record. I should do more of that.