ABOUT THIS ALBUM
Once upon a time … a group of Boston area musicians distilled a band called The Alchemists devoted to the art of free jazz, genre-crossing group improvisation. Our spontaneous interactions sometimes transcend the boundaries of traditional musical forms, other times giving way to melodic, interweaving lines rooted in familiar rhythms.
Our first album, POTIONS, followed this process: First we recorded our improvisations. Then, after the fact, alchemical sounding titles were assigned to each track. Then a backstory was conjured that linked the tracks to an alternative history framework. Suppose that a group of renowned alchemists from all historical eras was summoned to late 16th century Prague by Emperor Rudolph II to engage in experiments intended to push the boundaries of the craft. Things do not go exactly as hoped. Ah well; perhaps next time. You can read the story at thealchemists1.bandcamp.com/album/potions
JOURNEY TO THE EAST brings together the best of our live recordings from performances at the Lilypad, a cozy venue in Cambridge, Mass. As before, a thematic framework for the album was devised, but only after recordings were made. In this sequel, Rudolph sends the alchemists back in time to 12th century Constantinople, where they will join a caravan preparing to travel through Cappadocia to Aleppo and Baghdad. From there, they are to proceed east along a major spur of the Silk Route, stopping at fabled cities in Central Asia and China, from Bukhara to Chang’an (Xian), to gather artifacts and ideas that may prove useful to Rudolph. You are invited to join us along the way!
Follow The Alchemists at www.facebook.com/thealchemistsbostonband
Tom Hall - Tenor Saxophone
Tom plays on tracks 2, 3, 4, 6, 7
Instructor at Brandeis University, where he founded the Brandeis Improv Collective Ensemble; Tom tours widely and has appeared on over 30 CDs; he is author of "Free Improvisation: A Practical Guide” and the host and creator of ImprovLive 365.
Matt Langley - Soprano & Tenor Saxophones
Matt plays on tracks 1, 5, 8, 9, 10
Matt teaches at Shaker Road School (Concord, NH) and is on the faculties of the Portsmouth (NH) Music and Arts Center and the Concord (NH) Community Music School. He performs widely around Boston and the Maine-NH seacoast in such bands as In Ears ’n Eyes, Sojoy, Mother Superior and the Sliding Royales and Ourbigband and has recorded with the Pandelis Karayorgis Quintet and the Charlie Kohlhase Quintet, among others.
Jerry Leake - Percussion
Associate Professor of Percussion at Berklee College of Music and faculty member at the New England Conservatory; Jerry is a founding member of the world-music ensemble Natraj and Club d’Elf; he authored eight widely used texts on North and South Indian, West African, Latin American percussion, and rhythm theory.
Dennis Livingston - Flute, Sopranino & Alto Recorders
As a composer/lyricist of cabaret and jazz songs, Dennis’ work has appeared in four ASCAP-MAC Songwriter Showcases in New York, while revues of his songs have been presented in Boston, Washington, DC, and New York. As a performer, Dennis has been an improvising jazz flutist for many years.
Bob Nieske - Bass
Professor of the Practice in Jazz at Brandeis University and on the faculty of New England Conservatory; Bob’s compositions have been performed around the world by his own groups, The Either Orchestra, Matt Wilson and Jimmy Giuffre 4; he has performed with Charlie Byrd, Eartha Kitt, Dakota Stayton, John Blake, Richie Cole and Larry Coryell and recorded with Alan Dawson, Dave Grisman, Stephane Grappelli and George Russell, among others.
Randy Roos - Guitar
Associate Professor of Guitar and Music Systems at Berklee College of Music, following 14 years in the New England Conservatory jazz department, he has participated in many recordings from Photogenic Memory (Agharta, Japan), George Jinda and World News (JVC) and the Narada label, among others and has composed music for hundreds of television shows, including programs from Scientific American Frontiers and the PBS NOVA series.
How does this kind of music happen? By careful listening to each other, quick glances from one musician to another, body language, paying attention to when it feels appropriate to join the music making, play a solo or drop back for a time. To ensure variety, we sometimes began with a certain beat or particular instruments - or no rules at all - always letting the music go where it wants to go.