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Sunday, May 04, 2008

Kinetic Union Jazz Orchestra Sails Uncharted Improvisational Waters

Kinetic Union Jazz Orchestra is the new name of the latest incarnation of Durham/Chapel Hill-based improv band Onomata, since drummer Ian Davis moved to Nebraska (that's right, NEBRASKA!). I asked bassist Brian Preston about the band.

What is the new lineup?

Nathan Logan on drums, Marc Medwin on keyboards, Corey Sims on trumpet, accordian, ukelele and stuff, Todd Barbee on saxes and wx7 and Brian Preston on bass.

How did you come up with the new name?

We kicked ideas about for a while and Nathan brought this name up from a past idea he had but had not used and it has stuck with us. The "KUJO" moniker can be implied (as a reference to "Cujo" the book/movie by Stephen King) but it's not meant to be fierce, scary or creepy. We prefer rather more emphasis on the 'kinetic' implying movement and the unity of separate forces in motion.

How does KUJO operate musically? Are there composed pieces as well as improv?

Nothing is truly composed. So far KUJO is developing its improvisational vibe and approach. It is similar to ONOMATA since 4 of the players are the same and our general approach is the same. But when you introduce a new cerebral cortex into the mix you do get difference, and that is good. That is the true joy of improv music; it changes every time and always holds the potential of something exciting. So, to operate musically within KUJO one needs these ingredients: a musical vocabulary to bring to the session (chops/technique), complete absorption into listening and reacting to the other sounds, and the ability to shut off the left temporal lobe's need for reason, language, and analagous thinking. With the right hemisphere opened up in this context, very exciting things can happen.

Glad to hear you have a new rehearsal space now. Are there recording plans and releases in the works?

Uh, yep and yep... we have a good recording from our Fuse gig made by Ted Johnson on his new Zoom mobile digital recorder. Very nice, and you can hear one or 2 tracks from that on our MySpace page.

How has the band's sound changed since Ian left?

Our sound is a mix of those who are playing and even changes within that context. Nathan is bringing in more dynamics in my opinion... more energy in some ways also, so we are all enjoying the places we are going since Nate's in the band. Todd and Corey's playing has really been gelling even more lately with horn harmonies in various complex arrays glistening in my ears. There remains a strong comparison to Miles Davis, late 60's and beyond era.

Will you do a Steven King "Cujo" tribute in keeping with your new name?

So is it spelled with a "C"? I hadn't read that in like 20 years. Wasn't that a weird dog that killed people and was a creepy Steven King supernatural force or something? If so... then, yeah, we'll probably do a whole set of Cujo related pieces...bared fangs dripping blood...or maybe not...

Tell us about your upcoming shows.

We played at Fuse a few weeks ago and we are playing next at Caffe Driade in Chapel Hill on May 9. After that we are planning more gigs at both of those venues plus other area avant garde jazz/art clubs and music festivals. I think our sound can be appreciated by a wide audience; from the jam band scene folks through art rock, indie, alternative, and jazz or "nu-jazz.".

Anything else you would like to tell the world?

Improvisational music is like dancing on the edge of a volcano, balancing on the edge between total safety and total annihilation takes complete concentration with mindfulness and complete relaxation with mindlessness at the same time. It can be a great moment in time and air sculpting. It can also be fun to watch since we never quite know what's coming next!

Thanks to Kinetic Union Jazz Orchestra's Brian Preston for the interview! You can hear their music on their MySpace page. Older Onomata (MySpace) recordings are also available from BitWorks Music.

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