I have completed a new project that has brought together many of my past influences as well as some of my favorite musicians who have been most important to me up to this point in my musical journey. We have recorded some new music conceived and written especially for this unique group of players. I am calling this project "Undiscovered Country" because it brings together musicians from the various places I have lived and been inspired by and also because the entire process is new, one in which you as the listeners can see into the process. More than just buying or downloading the CD or mp3, you as participants will also be able to follow the inside story of how this project took shape through photos, video, updates and interviews with myself and the other musicians in this project.
The title, Undiscovered Country, is from Shakespeare (see Hamlet, the "to be, or not to be", speech) and while the reference there is to death, I am choosing to see it in this context as a willingness, or even a need, to step off into the unknown; not recklessly or lightly but to do so fortified and accompanied by strong allies while using the lessons of the times and places and people I have known on my own journey.
These musicians are:
Saxophonist Erwin Vann, a native of Antwerp, Belgium, currently living in Brussels. I have known Erwin since 1988 and he was a part of my quartet in the 90's and played on my two recordings, Mercy Angel and Believers. His unique sound and approach was in large part responsible for my move to Belgium from 1998 to 2000 to play more with him and learn more fully about the musical environment he came from. That is also where I met,
Guitarist Augustin Foly, a native of Togo, resident in Belgium for many years now. I had the honor of playing in his band and it remains one of my brightest musical memories of my time in Belgium. On the recording, he paired perfectly with:
Guitarist Colter Harper from Pittsburgh, PA. I met Colter while living in Pittsburgh from 2000-2002 and he was and is an inspiration. He is also a brilliant photographer, has studied extensively in Ghana and is pursuing a Doctorate degree in Ethnomusicology. He also plays with the band, Rusted Root.
Allison Miller is one of the finest drummers around. We've played together with Susan McKeown and she was also the driving force on my CD, Don't Count on Glory. She currently plays with Ani DeFranco and anyone else lucky enough to get her.
Percussionist Jeff Berman is another of my musical mainstays. This native New Yorker now living in Pittsburgh has played with far too many people to name and more of my projects than I can remember, including the band Splendid Splinter that had something of a cult following in the late 90's. He plays about a thousand instruments, all of them masterfully.
Violinist Rob Thomas is one of the few players making a strong, individual statement in jazz and improvised music on his instrument. Originally from Portland, Oregon, we are neighbors in the "upstate Manhattan" section of New York. Rob also is a great bassist, a skill I plan to exploit if we ever get to play this music live. This will enable me to play some of the other instruments that I play.
And finally, one of my musical heroes, the great Andy Irvine, agreed to be a guest on this project. A true legend of Irish and World music (before the term "World Music" existed), Andy has inspired me since I was a lad. I played on a recording of his called Way Out Yonder back in 1999 and it remains one of the recordings of which I am most proud. Ireland and its music has always been central to my development as a musician (and a person) and I am truly honored that Andy has agreed to be a part of this endeavor.