Horns and Wires

In the city where traditional jazz is still king, the phrase “electronic improvised jazz” may raise a few eyebrows. But a group of New Orleans musicians are trying to push the envelope with two new electronic music albums, Beautiful Bells and Box3.

The Beautiful Bells liner notes read, “All music was composed, performed, arranged, mixed, designed, dissected…by Justin Peake.” When Peake isn’t playing drums for New Orleans avant-garde jazz group the Magnetic Ear, he’s making music on computer. “When I was in college I studied philosophy, so I didn’t have people telling me what I could and couldn’t be doing musically. Which is really cool,” says Peake. “I think more in sound fields on any instrument rather than in proper technique.” Peake’s friend and collaborator Dan Oestreicher plays percussion on one track for Beautiful Bells, and late last year they hooked up with Magnetic Ear trombonist Jeff Albert for the Box3 project.

The idea for Box3 came about during an anniversary show for Rob Cambre’s Anxious Sounds performance series. “The show coincided with the death of a British trombone player named Paul Rutherford. There’s a Rutherford album that both Jeff and I are big fans of called Iskra3,” says Oestreicher. “Two guys used computer set-ups, both taking the microphone signal from the trombone and processing it, so we thought we’d do that as a tribute to Paul Rutherford.” The trio’s anniversary show performance at the Circle Bar received such a positive crowd response that it was only logical an album was the next step.

The album was recorded entirely in the living rooms of Oestreicher and Albert in fall of 2007. Oestreicher’s set-up, however, didn’t lend itself to the processing of a trombone, so Box3 features Oestreicher on modular synthesizer, Albert on trombone, and Peake on software environments. While most of the tracks on the album were improvised, they did try to add structure to the music. “Some of the tracks we would start with a vibe like, ‘Let’s try to be really minimalist for this one’ or ‘Let’s think rhythmically for this one,’” says Albert. “Sometimes we would set a real mild parameter to start us in a direction.” Peake and Oestreicher spent a great deal time in production constructing, editing, and mixing the improvised results to impose a sense of composition on them.

The album release concert for Box3 is Wednesday, February 27 at the Blue Nile. It will be a part of the Open Ears Music Series, an improvised music series organized by Albert that takes place every Wednesday night upstairs in the Blue Nile. Justin Peake’s Beautiful Bells CD-release party will be held at the Hi-Ho Lounge on Friday, February 29. For more information on the Open Ears Music Series, log on to OpenEarsMusic.org.