Nick Calligeros Quintet Rehearsal Bootleg (2014) and Some (Further) Thoughts On Composing

By October 27, 2019 No Comments


Here are some track from a phone recording from a rehearsal of some original music I wrote in 2014.  The  were digitally cellared until just the other day when I happened to lay eyes and ears on them. Listening through I noticed there were no full takes. With my new found productions chops I thought it an educational experimental to construct something continuous and/or coherent from the different rehearsed sections.

So yes, excuse the sudden groove and tempos changes and other inconsistencies. These Frankenstein recordings are more artefacts than art. They sound like tertiary jazz students navigating dots and lines with a bunch of clams and funny apologies for those clams but they are also a piece of the Nick Calligeros music puzzle I’m trying to present here.

Below is a little bit about them and some thoughts on it all…


Back in 2014 I wrote half a dozen or so songs for a “jazz quintet”. Ever since Adrian Klumpes changed my life by letting me borrow Phil Slater’s The Thousands back in 2009 it became a dream of mine to lead my own quintet.  When I finally convened my very good pals past and present of David Allen on piano, Harry Day on drums, Nick Henderson on bass and Nish Manjunath on tenor to play my tunes in 2014 it was already well overdue.

The rehearsal went well enough, but for a number of reasons- invariably to do with my ego, which was conflated/deflated due to a then recent embouchure collapse- I never reconvened the group for a follow up play or gig. Man…. Silly boy!!!!!

Recollecting those times, another contributing factor was a lack surety in how accurately they expressed my musical identity- five years on and I’m still unsure if they paint an honest picture of Nick Calligeros.

I reckon the reason why is because composing is fucking difficult. Conceiving and fleshing out initial inspiration can feel like milking a brick but the real doozy is distilling one’s taste accurately and effectively throughout the entire process. That shit takes as much practice as getting good at your instrument.

One of my favourite words of wisdom comes from a now forgotten source who mentioned how as musicians and artists we intrinsically have a valued sense of “taste”- we are in the business of curating and conceptualising after all (but yes, not everyone’s taste aligns with yours). The trouble starts when it comes time to manifest that taste through your chosen medium; there’s a disconnect between our concepts and it’s conception. I find this very apparent with improviser-composers because few of us are learnt or studied composers.

Serendipitously I was reading the linear notes from the North of North (Pateras/Tinkler/Velheim) and The Moment In and Of Itself where Anthony Pateras where he posed just that idea to the Tinkler and Veltheim:

‘Composition is becoming very fashionable to improvisers and composers are becoming increasingly involved with improvisational concepts. My problem with this is many of the composers writing for improvisers are not high level spontaneous players themselves, and on the flip side, improvisers who write pieces haven’t really spent the hours it takes writing (which is ultimately practicing) to compose at a convincing level. Both ways, there’s a kind of umbrella, general approach- the subtleties of structure and performance are compromised by peoples very insecurities about their own practice…’

I agree. Consider how long it’s taken us to even partially realise something honest on our instruments. Now consider how long it took for someone like Arvo Part or Peter Sculthorpe to realise something honest through their medium of composing. Who the fuck are we to think we can write something honest and reflective after bashing away at the piano for a bit. Of course there are exceptions but I’m not one of them.

Since this period of writing, I’ve spent a lot of time attempting to realise a conceptual framework (mostly for my acoustic music writing) that more accurately reflects “Nick Calligeros” and his musical taste. I’ve also spent a lot of time generating musical tools that effectively communicate those concepts. For one, I’ve elected to write more open and suggestively than these dot and line heavy tunes because I find the potential energy of hand picked musicians wading their own way through musical waters far more exciting than fucking up some shit I’ve written.

If I had to answer whether I believe these tunes sound like me I would probably say no. I can hear some ideas that have stood the test of time and critique to become apart of my current compositional framework but also much that I’ve realised I don’t desire in my music.

But hey it came from my from my brain and I kinda like ’em. Maybe you do too.