Steve H. LINK TO ARTICLE http://lance-bebopspokenhere.blogspot.co.uk/2017/09/sean-noonans-electric-trio-jazz-cafe.html
Click on Journalists to Read Full Article
“Novi album bubnjara Seana Noonana svakako predstavlja eklektično glazbeno djelo koje posuđuje iz raznih žanrova i podžanrova, od jazza preko klasične i suvremene improvizirane glazbe do world musica.”
“Американский ирландец Шон Патрик Нунан подобен Протею: в каждом новом проекте он иной и пристегнуть его творчество к какой-то определенной стилистике просто невозможно. http://jazzquad.ru/index.pl?act=PRODUCT&id=4918”
“Sean Noonan è un batterista e cantante di origine irlandese che si è trasferito in USA dove ha suonato con tanti musicisti locali, in tutti i generi. Jazz, rock, avanguardia, punk, afro, tutto rielaborato dalla sua fantasia in gruppi diversi.”
“Skąd bierze się ten rozdźwięk? Cóż, jeśli ktoś inspiruje się takimi artystami jak John Zorn, Frank Zappa, Béla Bartók czy Captain Beefhart i romansuje z nimi wszystkimi na jednej płycie, to efekt nie może być inny.”
“Sean Noonan nowojorski perkusista i „opowiadacz historii” (lub jak kto woli storyteller) przyjechał do Warszawy zaprezentować swój solowy materiał „Bruised by Noon”, na którym – ni mniej ni więcej – gra na perkusji i deklamuje/śpiewa/krzyczy/melorecytuje surrealistyczne opowiastki.”
“Sean Noonan jest nie tylko kompozytorem wszystkich utworów, ale również ich narratorem. Za pomocą pary magicznych pałeczek perkusyjnych przenosi nas do baśniowego świata kopalni. Odkrywamy ukryty skarb strzeżony przez Skarbnika (Hidden Treasures), a także spotykamy Białą Damę wraz z jej krasnoludami, które błagają aby zabrać ją z kopalni (White Lady Wieliczka). Tematy tych utworów brzmią jakby były zapożyczone prosto z polskiego folklor”
“Imagine a head on collision between Swell Maps, Gong, the Residents, the Magic Band and the Modern Lovers. Freeform jazzy struts, too many notes; outrageous, dayglo sonic curlicues. A singer-drummer barking at the moon (imagine Michael Mooney laying down his proto Can vision on Sesame Street). ”
OCTOBER 2017 BAD ALCHEMY http://www.badalchemy.de/
SEAN NOONAN Man No Longer Me (Haldern Pop Recordings, HPR-124): In welcher Gesellschaft finden wir Noonan denn da: Den melodramatischen The Slow Show aus Manchester? Fabrizio Cammarata mit seinem sizilianischen Sonnenfinsternisteint? Bergfilm, Synthiemelancholikern aus dem Kölner Tiefgebirge? Noonan kanns egal sein, er ist ja selber ein anderer, ein Boxchampion, ein afrokeltischer Storyteller. Auf dem Cover steigt er als 'Great Silkie' aus dem See und als Werwolf. Seine Gefährten sind hier fast unüberschaubar. Ich erkenne mit Johnny Richards (keyboards) & Michael Bardon (bass) das EU-Line-up von "Memorable Sticks", dazu kommen an der Gitarre Norbert Bürger von Brooklyn Lager, der Mödlinger Saxer Harry Saltzman, Trompete und Posaune und zwischendrin der 4-stimmige Sardinian Choir plus das Ligeti String bzw. ein polnisches Streichquartett. Denn eingerahmt mit bekannten Stories wie 'Man vs. Machine', 'Not I', 'Bia' und 'Lost in Günter's Wald' gibt die 'Füllung' mit 'Pussy Cat's Gone Wild', 'Cupid's Packing Heat' und 'I Am Your Pineapple' einen Nach- und Vorgeschmack auf Noonans 'Zappanation Rock Opera', die beim Festival Ai Confini tra Sardegna e Jazz im September 2016 Premiere hatte. Wobei Strings ja schon bei "A Gambler's Hand" (2012) im Spiel waren und hier noch bei der polnischen Mythopoesie von 'He Skarbnik He'. Mit allem Drum und Dran ist das also eine Revue aus Noonans Fantasien, funky, crazy, jazzy, cheesy. Richards, der Tastenmann auch bei Shatner's Bassoon, ist zwar nicht unbedingt the Machine, aber Noonan ist definitiv the Man. Seine Musik durch die Bläser so funky wie noch nie, wobei selbst das nur wieder seinen versponnenen Stories dient. Die aufgestockte Besetzung, getopt mit Swinglesingerei und Katzmiau, bringt Süßes und Saures mit Finesse und mit Power auf einen zappanoonan'schen Nenner. Um Skarbnik, den dämonischen Schatzmeister in polnischen Minen, zuckt ein stampfender Frühlingsopfertanz, Cupido versetzt hymnische Vokalisation und Blaxploitation-Funkiness in Wallung. Noonan serviert sich selber als saftige Ananas, auch das ist eines seiner Oldies. Bei 'Eat My Makeup' spielt er den verliebten Spiegel, die Strings spielen ganz royal auf, und der gekitzelte Günter mampft wieder, diesmal im memorablen Trio, Pilze (ohne die Packungsbeilage zu lesen). Wir brauchen weder Pilze knabbern noch Kröten lecken, einfach nur Noonan zu lauschen verleiht Flügel. [BA 96 rbd]
“Live Music Review: Sean Noonan Memorable Sticks Trio at Bonington Theatre Nottingham”
Sean Noonan’s Electric Trio @ The Jazz Cafe September 22
Steve H. LINK TO ARTICLE http://lance-bebopspokenhere.blogspot.co.uk/2017/09/sean-noonans-electric-trio-jazz-cafe.html
“La chiusura della serata spetterà al batterista Sean Noonan. Già ieri Noonan ha dato dimostrazione di come le sue capacità tecnico-compositive siano smisurate e stasera metterà la sua arte al completo servizio di Zappa in un progetto a lui dedicato ed intitolato Zappanation.”
“Inspiracją może też być poezja, malarstwo, przyroda, wydarzenie historyczne, polityczne, data itd. Dla irlandzkiego perkusisty Seana Noonana inspiracją była wizyta w kopalni soli w Wieliczce, a w szczególności związane z tą kopalnią legendy.”
“Andare coraggiosamente dove nessun batterista è mai andato ”
“Sean Noonan na nowej płycie zabiera słuchaczy na muzyczną wyprawę do kopalni soli w Wieliczce.”
If you are interested in commissioning Noonan to compose or make a special performance or simply wish to support any of Noonans projects, please contribute here! All funds go directly towards the request you make.
May 2015 Brooklyn Lager Review by Alexander Fischer
"This is full-frontal jazz for the muscular-minded. It’s music for those who know it's not just about cosy handshaking, but also digging in and going the distance. This applies to life in general, and especially when stellar musicians like Norbert Bürger (guitar) and Harry Saltzman (saxophones) are on the starting line. It’s even more the case when they meet a firebrand from Brooklyn - a drummer, Sean Noonan, who has turned expressionism in jazz into an art form. His brain is fizzing, and his blood boils in his veins. When the trio met in the Big Apple, sparks flew; an instant connection between the Brooklyn and Bavarian artists. They were on the same wavelength, and in the blink of an eye they made music the world had never heard. Finally, an entire album was born. But the baby needed a name! Noonan was drinking something at that time, which he called Brooklyn lager. It cannot have been beer, at any rate not what Bürger and Saltzman call beer. But because it tasted deliciously unusual and took some getting used to, just like the sounds that the three had created, they decided to call themselves “Brooklyn Lager”. That was many drinks of beer and even more live gigs ago: since then, Brooklyn Lager has found their fan base, over here and over there. Audiences adore their original sound, so energetic, unorthodox and on the edge. It is just the thing for lovers of the avant-garde, the theatre of the absurd and all strong performance. The good news is that nothing’s running out. The trio have just recorded a new album, with crazy tracks reminiscent of Zappa-esque rock opera, on the brink of ecstasy. Meaty, tightly-packed, it makes you want more loud, free-spirited music. In short: this album is a reincarnation of everything that defines fusion and free jazz. And it also indicates where Brooklyn Lager’s journey is going - to the heart of joy. "
Ich weiß nicht, ob in dem aus Chicago stammenden Bassisten Tim Dahl und seinem
in Brockton, Massachusetts, geborenen Drummer-Buddy Sean Noonan die Jazz- oder
andere Roots überwiegen. Die beiden sind jedenfalls mit Leib & Seele Dirty
Jazzer. Vervollständigt mit Saxophonist Paul Meurens, bilden Dahl & Noonan in
Brooklyn seit 1998 die unspektakulär getauften THE HUB. Andererseits heißt hub
soviel wie Dreh- und Angelpunkt. Und Noonan, dem man nicht anmerkt, dass er bei
einem Verkehrsunfall auf der 2003er Tour beide Beine gebrochen hatte, besteigt
die Bühne im goldenen Mantel eines Boxchampions. So auch am 4. November 2006 im
Würzburger IMMERHIN, in Fortsetzung der Jazzcore-Reihe des nulldrei. Und jetzt
bin ich da, wo ich hin will, wo ich immer schon hin wollte - bei DER BESTEN
LIVEMUSIK ALLER ZEITEN (wie sie im TV immer blöken).
The Hub machen TOTALE MUSIK. Noonan, ein nicht gerade durchtrainierter
Wuschelkopf, entpuppt sich als ultradynamischer und hyperkomplexer Trommelteufel.
Wie elektrifiziert zappt er in Sekundenbruchteilen von Go auf Stop, von laut auf
zart, von Beat auf Noise, mit Stock, Besen, Schlegel, barfuß, eine einzige
Schleuder für Schweißtropfen und krummtaktige Exaktheit und Power. Dahl, der
immer mal wieder Partituren umschlägt, bekrabbelt dazu seinen E-Bass mit Fingern,
schneller als das Auge. Dazu triggert er mit Fußpedalen Fuzz- und
Overdriveeffekte, spielt Slide, geradezu akrobatische Arpeggios. Aber eben nicht
als bloße Virtuosenwichsgriffelei, sondern mit der gleichen Eat-Shit-
Angriffslust wie Noonan sein Schlagzeug traktiert. Noten werden mit ganz flinkem
Hackebeilchen in Sechzehntel und kleiner geschnetzelt, Taktwechsel übers Knie
gebrochen. Um im Handumdrehen eine Jazzmelodie aus dem Ärmel zu schütteln oder
einen Headbangergroove zu zupfen und zu klopfen. Um mit allen Vieren abzuspringen
und rohe Eier aus der Luft zu pflücken. Das nämlich macht The Hub erst so
unglaublich spannend und lustvoll, dass neben konvulsischen Mathjazzzuckungen
immer wieder auch die Aufmerksamkeit darauf fokussiert wird, Stecknadeln fallen
zu hören und das unkalkulierbare Timing ihrer Kapriolen zu erahnen. Was für ein
Thrill. Meurens Alto jedoch, sein Gesang, seine ebenfalls mit Loop- und
Splattereffekten angereicherten Wechsel zwischen Diskant und Rubato, macht diese
Musik erst so richtig schön. Und zwischen all dem heißen Shit lässt er auch noch
einen Archie-Shepp-Blues wie blaue Tinte aus seinem Horn fließen.
Musik, so furios, so funky und dennoch wahr, ließ die Freaks, die sich ins
IMMERHIN hatten locken lassen, jegliche Contenance verlieren. Ungläubiges
Staunen schlug in Euphorie um. Ich sah Menschen headbangen, die das für den Rest
ihres Lebens bestreiten werden. ROCK'N'ROLL-Rufe überschlugen sich. Selten wurde
ein zweiter Set so heiß erwartet - und bis auf die letzte der noch einmal 50
Minuten ausgekostet. Mit leuchtenden Augen, wie man es sonst nur bei
[gekürzte Fassung, das Original gibts im Fanzine BAD ALCHEMY,
CHiPs Aram Bajakain/Sean Noonan (Innova)
This duo is Sean Noonan of The Hub (drums) and Aram Bajakian (guitar). This promises to be only one of a future collaboration between Aram, master of "mysterious" guitar, and Sean's jazzy, no wave percussion. In this project the group veers from quiescent, tranquil ruminations on a simple melodic theme to stormy free jazz excess. This is what I would imagine collaboration between Fred Frith and Whit Dickey to be like.
Tom Schulte Sean Noonan / Aram Bajakian - CHiPs
CHiPs Aram Bajakain/Sean Noonan (Innova)
The duo of Sean Noonan on drums and Aram Bajakian on guitar is an inventive pairing. Eight duo pieces take them through a variety of improvisational styles that present interesting rhythmic ideas and guitar techniques. Both players are technically on the ball, utilizing unusual approaches in frequently shifting pieces that are playful and quirky, rhythmically assertive, sometimes melodic and often aggressive. Titles like "Scabies" or "Car Bomb" give an idea of where they're coming from. Unfortunately the pieces also have a tendency to noodle around. Good ideas occasionally go into left field or are eaten up by technique for technique's sake. It's fun, but not always satisfying.
On the flip side, two longer works with Jim Pugliese, Thierno Camara and Dan Magay are inserted into the program. Most notable is "Masana" composed by Camara, the only truly melodic number on the release, which shows a much more sophisticated and focused piece of music. "Essi" for the same grouping is by Noonan and presents a more developed sense of composition, with a lilting melody line and a great groove. If all the pieces were as thought out as these two, the release would be a real winner. Instead it's an inconsistent but definitely catchy set of pieces, diverting but not fulfilling.
Phil Zampino Sean Noonan / Aram Bajakian - CHiPs
I’m not really sure whether or not Marc Ribot plays jazz. What I am sure of is that, when you boil it down, I don’t really care. Ribot is possessed of a savage, singular guitar voice, one he has applied to a variety of styles and projects, ranging from the cutting-edge work of saxophonist John Zorn to the sultry Cuban arrangements of his own Los Cubanos Prostizos to sideman duty with household names Tom Waits and Elvis Costello. His hipster credentials are impeccable, the result being that major music-press organs seem to have permanently attached the descriptor “downtown guitar hero” to his name. So it was a nice twist to tweak that stock phrase last Saturday night and catch the Marc Ribot trio at Northsix in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg. Northsix is a welcome respite from the claustrophobia and money hemorrhages so common at Manhattan venues. The drinks are affordable ($3 Pabst Blue Ribbon, anybody?), the bathrooms aren’t frightening, and the performance area is roomy.
The Hub warmed the room up with just the sort of set you’d expect from a band opening for Ribot. This saxophone - bass - drum trio plays an angular, accomplished, and self-consciously challenging brand of music. Their complex arrangements interweave scattershot lounge grooves with bouts of musical violence.
Drummer Sean Noonan (decked out in a complete Boston Celtics uniform) played a kit which included an electric pad in lieu of toms or a kettle drum, and The Hub does give the impression of a band that doesn’t have time to futz around with toms -- it’s all snare drum, all the time. While the instrumentation mirrors that of the underappreciated, defunct trio Morphine, the sound here is more akin to the class room wonder drug, Ritalin. This impression is bolstered by the mannerisms of group’s musical lynchpin, hyperactive bassist Tim Dahl, and the style of Noonan, who plays the drums like a man having a seizure. Sometimes lost in this attack is the delicious phrasing of saxophonist Dan Magay, whose tone and appearence suggest that he’s spent time at the John Zorn Academy of Atonality and Personal Dress. Whether or not The Hub is your cup of tea, it’s encouraging to see such unique, genre-defying music finding a stage.
Ribot arrived on stage in his perpetual outfit of jeans, white t-shirt, and leather jacket. His trio (which he selflessly refers to as the Young Philadelphians) is rounded out by the drummer Calvin Weston and bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma, whose sharp suit and furry hat may well have been purchased at Dolemite’s yard sale. Tacuma is a colorful, prolific bassist who’s playing style is best described as “free funk.” Both musicians have done time with free jazz giant Ornette Coleman, and Weston’s association with Ribot goes back more than a decade, to their shared work in The Lounge Lizards. He’s also garnered notice through his collaboration with Billy Martin of Medeski, Martin, and Wood.
As for Ribot’s playing, it is unmistakable and honest. A sit-down player, he wrestles with his guitar like Joseph with the lion, practically strangling the music out of it. Throughout the set, Ribot alternated between the luscious, lyric tone of his hollow-body guitar and the gritty, quick-and-dirty sound of the solid body.
Set highlights included the second tune, a country-western demolition featuring some outstanding grooves from bassist Tacuma, who settled into a sort of post-modern funk. Next was a Hendrixy blues breakdown with a twangy edge. In contrast to the members of The Hub, who were in constant eye contact with one another, Ribot’s trio communicates in a nearly telepathic manner, simultaneously listening to each other and branching out into wild improvisations, assured that they won’t leave their bandmates behind.
Ribot wasn’t the only one to experiment with far-ranging tones, as Tacuma flirted with a warped bass tone that brought a science-fiction edge to the flamenco-flavored coda of the third tune. He also contributed a Herculean bass solo later in the set, full of addictive riffs and suggesting a perpetual funk-motion machine.
Someone walking into the set cold might have a hard time describing the style of the music, as the trio borrowed and exploited a number of idioms, from bluesy riffs to a rocked-out epiphany in the fourth song that even jam-band fans would have appreciated. But while this is no music for jazz purists, the void of ego in the performance, the sincerity of the playing, and the emphasis on improvisation and difficult musical choices place the sound closer to the jazz camp than any other.
That said, the set’s final, and perhaps most rousing song was a cover of the Led Zeppelin blues “Since I Been Loving You.” Ribot never gives it less than his all, but his playing was especially adamant here. Sweat dripping down his nose, he wrenched notes from all over the fret board in athletic bouts. His playing doesn’t just have teeth, it has ugly yellow fangs with carrion stuck between them. I can’t think of a guitar player who I more admire.
March 13, 2003
The publicity photo of The Hub, if seen without their music playing for context, would lead one to believe they are a metal band of one form or another, probably thrash. Two of them have their faces hidden by long, disheveled hair, and the third is wearing a Boston Celtics jersey. Okay, that has nothing to do with anything, but I couldn't leave him out of the conversation. The thing about The Hub, though, is they don't play thrash metal, death metal, precious metal or any other kind of metal, though at times there's an inclination, due to the attitude, tone and crunch in a song, to call their music avant-gardgebanger.
Yes, The Hub are definitely advanced musicians, playing compositions that draw on jazz, funk, and several sub genres of rock. Often disjointed and jolting, their music can also dissolve into moments of calming beauty - just before hitting the gas and spinning out onto the wide open highway once again, where you never know what to expect. Drummer Sean Noonan lays down the tracks without a map, or so it seems to the listener, rarely playing it particularly subtly, a move that would be a big mistake guaranteeing he'd be lost in the mix under the absolutely monstrous sound of bassist Tim Dahl, who is not - I repeat, not - using an acoustic bass here. It's electric, often distorted, and LOUD! Noonan and Dahl are brilliant together on these 11 compositions, which are their own. They write alone, and the tally is Dahl 7, Noonan 4.
That leaves one non-writing member of the band. Dan Magay's alto sax work is not only up to snuff, it snags your imagination and makes you forget everything around you except the music. The guy's dynamite. First string. Some of the pieces call for rather simple honking, or more like seemingly simple honking, which will last a minute or so while Dahl or Noonan lays down something worthy of careful study. Then, when you've forgotten all about Magay, the guy takes off like a terrified, electrified swallow, painting notes in places you weren't expecting to hear them. It's fun stuff for the avant-garde fan, and good material to show someone you're trying to turn on to avant-garde, because the timing of most of the songs seems to be 4/4, a rarity in this kind of music and a miracle when it works so well. What I want now, besides more CDs, is more information. Precious little info shows up on the Net, and I want to keep a close eye on this trio. Hey, a band with music this exciting, unusual and explosive doesn't come around every day, you know?
© 2003 - DJ Johnson
Sean Noonan, Aram Bajakian - Chips
Review in All About Jazz, New York September 2003
CHiPs (as in the ‘80s television series about the California Highway Patrol) gets off to two separate starts. The first track, "CHiPs", is a hyperactive, tongue-in-cheek quickie. Aram Bajakian's guitar is steeped in over-the-top vibrato, and Sean Noonan gives his drums a real punishment. The second track is built on a slowly building repetitive figure. Noonan is subdued in the background, and Bajakian is restrained and thoughtful.
Each of these tracks does what it does, in blissful ignorance of the other, and each is a sign of things to come later on the CD. As the disc goes on, each of the duo's styles, the fast and aggressive approach and the patient and layered approach, develop into fully realized expressions. Maybe it is because the styles are completely at odds with one another that they never meet, and the duo is always doing one or the other.
With the layered approach, Bajakian does his best work. He comes up with haunting, airy textures that he repeats and changes. Sometimes, he loops the patterns and stacks further developments on top of them. His playing is expressive and feels like it could be the soundtrack to a walk through a middle American ghost town, except, notably, in the case of "Karaslama", which is based in Armenian folk music. When Bajakian plays without hurry, Noonan listens carefully. He lets the music speak, coaxing it along with cymbal accents and expansive beats.
And then the two will rock out. Noonan plays better here, technically, but it does not feel as valuable as his slower work. Further, his drumming up a storm and Bajakian's playing with his effects processors adds up to a lot of treble. Fortunately, later in the CD, they are joined on the more aggressive pieces by Dan Magay on alto sax, Thierno Camara on bass and veteran Jim Pugliese on percussion.
With a full band, the music is more sonically balanced, and the wildness of Noonan's and Bajakian's aggressive playing is rooted to a clear center. But when they settle back into patience, the sound of the two alone is what makes the disc worthwhile.
The Hub at the Vortex, London
Tuesday November 5, 2002, The Guardian,UK
By John Fordham
Wherever the Hub comes from, it isn't the Charlie Parker school of jazz. If this Brooklyn power trio hasan obvious guiding spirit, it is probably John Zorn -plus a lot of general mind-jangling listening to subterranean thrash-metal bands.
A look at the band's European gig-list indicates that they could be on the road about as much as Pat Metheny, albeit visiting rather tattier venues, attended by much younger audiences who aren't fazed by the lack of regular tunes. At the London stop of that tour, the trio were maniacally exhilarating. They look like an American college rock band (the drummer came on in a singlet, shorts and a headband), but that is where all links to the familiar break down. Their music is loud, fast, indifferent to traditional build-ups and resolutions, often refers to jazz but in a broad-brush (or hurled bucketful) manner rather than in studied detail, and is as exciting in its twitchy energy as it is often unlovely in its textures and tone.
The band's sound unceremoniously switches between tautly organised ensemble music and howling abstractions. This performance took in a jigging, squirty, Ornette Coleman-like alto sax theme from Dan Magay over Sean Noonan's thrashing drums, with intervals for Noonan's furious nickety-nacketing on the woodwork of the kit. The remarkable electric bassist Tim Dahl, meanwhile, swapped his fast, rubbery, stream-of-sound improvising for eruptions of raw noise.
The trio's skillfulness in sustaining and varying a regular groove is matched by a periodic indifference to the usual rules of steady tempo. A bass figure faintly reminiscent of an old Headhunters lick pulled the saxophonist into a lurchingly jazzier manner,while Noonan's drum pulse remorselessly changed tempo beneath. But the trio can also be conventional, as with an unexpectedly gentle visit to samba, Magay's sax carrying the tune in high, breathy exhalations. Sporadically, Magay also accompanied his fierce alto sound with harmony-generating electronics, while Dahl's fast, jazzy bass-walk under a free-sax blast of sound was gripping in its precision and energy. A real breath of fresh air, even if it hits your eardrums at dangerous velocities.
The Hub and Squall
The Prague Pill,Prague, Czech Republic,October 18, 2002
By Jeremy Hurewitz
When it comes to the expression of complex musical ideas, few genres can touch jazz for its range of possibilities.
The newest of these possibilities is a New York-based movement called “dirty jazz.” Inspired by John Zorn’s Naked City albums and Sex Mob’s deconstructions of pop songs, dirty jazz is a uniquely postmodern bouillabaisse of disparate influences that maintains the disciplines and ethos of jazz at its core. Sex Mob played Akropolis about a year ago and Zorn visits Prague on occasion, but the New York trio The Hub has been the most active force in bringing dirty jazz to Europe.
The trio, composed of Sean Noonan on drums, Dan Magay on Saxophone and Tim Dahl on Bass, has been called “awesome and unforgettable” (The New York Post) and “their strikingly sharp and fresh” sound “unlike any in the new millennium” (The Boston Globe). The Hub has toured Europe twelve times since their inception in 1995, and this month’s Prague stop marks the band’s sixth visit. A typically memorable and bizarre show at the touristy Jazz Club Zelezná last year was marked by a dozen shocked Germans walking out after the first few loud and dissonant notes, leaving Prague music fans scampering into the newly vacated seats.
Last year, their tenth European tour got off to an ominous start when Noonan broke his hand on their manager’s face and was forced to play the entire tour one-handed. When a drunken Norwegian tourist in Prague virtually assaulted Noonan mid-song with a request for “Happy Birthday,” the drummer was able to hold down the complicated rhythm and single-handedly dispatch the lout without missing a beat.
The Hub’s current two-month, 12-city European tour is in support of their third album, Trucker. The album is their first venture to be distributed in conjunction with the label Innova Records, affiliated with the U.S. National Endowment for the Arts. Noonan describes the album as a part of the band’s continuing efforts to “explore elements of jazz, punk, new wave, metal, funk and freeform improvisation.”
The band is heavily influenced by avant-garde composer Charles Ives, a reclusive insurance salesman who wrote some of the most progressive and brilliant music of the early 20th century. The Hub fuses Ives’ explorations of dissonance and aural counter-points with the energy of speed-metal act Slayer and Japanese noise rockers Melt Banana. But the backbone of the music remains jazz, and in their music you can hear elements of such giants as Eric Dolphy, Freddie Hubbard and Miles Davis.
This time The Hub is joining forces with local indie heroes Squall at the hole-in-the-wall venue Belzepub. The combination of these two bands promises to be one of the most exciting and intimate music nights in Prague this fall. The show will mark the halfway mark on the Hub’s current tour and should see them at the height of their energy. Squall will be gathering steam for their first European tour this November in support of their acclaimed album, How Things Work. A strict music curfew means that the music must end at 10, so the show will start promptly at 8 p.m.
As in all good revolutions, those at the frontlines of vanguard music movements aren’t always pretty, but they are always remembered. Don’t miss this unusual music event.
Review of 2nd Annual Crown Heights Music Festival
After a morning of rain, it was starting to clear up. Parents, teachers and children of Crown Heights schools P. S. 161, 221, and 398 began to file under the waterlogged tent to hear the sounds of the Saturday Arts Academy Steel Pan group. The group featured children excitedly playing steel pans, large barrel drums and handheld percussion, and gave the Second Annual Crown Heights Music Festival an approriately festive beginning.
Sean Noonan looked on eagerly at the music, but continued his hurried preparations for the event. As organizer, performer and conductor, he had little time to join the audience. A year ago, Noonan planned the first of the festivals in order to give a venue for the students he was teaching. Drawing from the three schools, he had assembled a mass of young musicians whom he felt needed a performance outlet to reinforce their growing passion for music.
Noonan works with Crown Heights District 17 at P.S. 161 along with teacher, Ann Aviles. Noonan has been able to bring instruments to many children who didn’t yet have a very clear grasp of what it was to play music. Working with the children, Noonan, who majored in Music Education at the Berklee School of Music, has tried to impart his love for his music without becoming overly domineering. He’s even found himself learning a thing or two from his students, who have backgrounds mostly in Church music and Carribbean music.
Though he’s occasionally found odd results of his efforts, like the time that one of his students left her trumpet in the middle of a busy street, for the most part he’s been met with enthusiasm. And the enthusiasm hasn’t just come from the children. At a friends birthday party, Noonan found himself sitting next to jazz great, Mike Mainieri, and their conversation drifted to the festival. Mainieri was touched by the efforts and asked if he could be involved. Not surprisingly, after the steel pan group had finished performing at the festival, the audience found itself watching a group made up of Noonan (drum set) and Mainieri, and Jaleel Shaw on sax and Matt Pavolka on bass.
Mainieri travelled down from Woodstock for the day, only to return just after his performance. After years of experience that date back to his countless nights playing opposite Miles Davis, the vibraphonist picks his involvements carefully.
Other performers included the vigorous duo of Bob Moses and Jacque Swartz-Bart on drums and sax. The Waaw Band, which featured the Senegalize, Theirno Camara on bass and vocals, as well as Noonan, Dan Magay (from THE HUB), on sax, and Aram Bajakian playing the guitar. But the real attention fell on Noonan’s Crown Youth Wind Ensemble. The Wind Ensemble played, in addition to a “Tribute to Monk, Miles and Coltrane,” a reharmonized J.S. Bach’s 23rd and 32nd Chorales, written specifically for the Crown Youth Wind Ensemble.
The children may have missed occasional notes, but they played with a genuine energy that betrayed their growing excitement for their instruments. It is an energy that Noonan hopes they will retain until next year, at least, for which he’s already planning the third incarnation of the festival. He hopes to bring in Yusef Lateef as a special guest, and to draw a larger crowd than he had this year. He’s certainly wasting no time in getting started with the next set of preparations, though he does worry that some of his older musicians (those entering 7th and 8th grades) may drift away from the cause: he’s seen children grow out of their desire to play music before. And perhaps they will, but for the moment they are with him, rapt with attention at his dynamic drum solos. They even call him “Mr. Noonan.”
July 8, 2002
THE HUB, The Wardrobe, Leeds
Review in Jazzwise, UK May 2002
The Hub is a trio which hails from downtown Brooklyn and consists of Dan Magay on alto saxophone, Tim Dahl on electric bass and Sean Noonan on drums. It is a band with an incredibly complex musical identity whose members play with the conviction and ferocity of men with a mission. Categorisation of their musical style is a distinctly incongruous and futile activity because said mission is to eliminate any such misplaced notion of genre conformity thus allowing us to savour instead the diversity that they eschew. Producing a concoction of their own devising that contains elements of jazz, punk, new wave, no wave, funk and freeform improvisation, they are an irresistible force and make for compelling listening. Conversant with, and happy to play in, any or all of these modes at any given time leads to music of great originality but miraculously with not a hint of confusion. Their musicianship and commitment is such that pieces flow with ease and logic through diffuse and often conflicting passages. Playing compositions from their CDs (Vandalism and Accident), the small but equally dedicated audience at Leeds followed every twist and turn with relish and the trio returned the compliment with a relentlessly intense performance.
Dan Magay has a conversational approach to the alto very akin to that of Eric Dolphy. Here the comparison ends for he is very much his own man and can run the gamut from fierce screams to lilting melody variously producing short, staccato bursts of pure energy or long, sinewy lines of bebop-like convolution. His tone is harsh and acerbic (not unlike Lee Konitz) but perfectly suited to quick changes of mood which The Hub¹s music engenders.
Tim Dahl is a bass player with prodigious chops and huge technique. He produces a range of sounds from the electric bass that put his playing firmly into the "how does he do that?" category. At home with pumping out heavy riffs, serpentine complexity or sheer grunge noise, most of the compositional credits come from him and he is overflowing with musical ideas. Indeed they can hardly be contained at times and erupt at will, usurping an already established musical thought in mid stream with a fresh approach that continually surprises the listener yet remains fully integrated within the overall structure (much like the technique adopted by John Zorn in Naked City).
Sean Noonan is a one-off and seems constantly to surprise himself every time he approaches the drum kit. So at one with his instrument is he that it feels like the kit is initiating and eliciting his participation, engaging him in a conversation of call and response. It is the kit that animates him rather than the other way around. This is a phenomenon to behold and produces a level of unpredictability and dramatic tension that is at the centre of the trio¹s music.
Acutely attuned to every nuance of each other¹s playing, The Hub never missed a beat either musically or emotionally and kept their audience totally engaged and on edge at one and the same time. No mean feat and a rare treat.
Trondheim plugs into The Hub
Trondheim, Norway, November 23, 2001
By Baar Stenvik
Some of us have for quite some time now longed for the darker side of jazz-rock. Something with a bite, something a bit dirtier. And then suddenly it came to Trondheim on the November 23, 2001. It came from Brooklyn and its name was The Hub. And then it left again, leaving the lucky 50 or so people who actually showed up at the concert completely baffled.
The Hub went on stage with a minimal setup: a stripped drum set, an electric bass of the good old fender kind, and an alto sax. The music, however, was almost violently intense in its mood changes and constant genre switches. The Hub draws on a variety of styles including metal, hip hop, funk and jazz. And they end up with a sound that is definitely their own Hub-ish mix. At times it sounds like the tunes arise from contrasting textures as much as chords and melodies. Like when bassist Tim Dahl goes straight from sounding like a spastic deconstructionist Jaco Pastorius, to generating a carpet of aggressive, flowing sound with the help of a fuzz box.
The sense of timing of the musical elements is one of the group’s strengths. They know when to groove and when not to, and they do both convincingly. The material is all their own (except a charming tongue-in-cheek rendition of “Doxy” as an encore) and they know the tunes well. The overall feel is energetic, aggressive – but then again suddenly comes a soft peace, and the contrast makes it even more so.
I’m sure many people would shake their heads at the musical leaps and bounces performed by The Hub during this concert. However I find one of the most amazing things is that this sounds so right. So strange, yet so logical. At one moment Sean Noonan is hitting his drums with something that very much resembles pure rage and hatred, and a red-faced Dan Magay is forcing angry and desperate sound from his saxophone – the next moment they are both playing lightly, delicately, controlled, with a subtle sense of humor. And their presence in the music at all times makes it sound like a completely natural musical progression.
I sincerely hope, and I think there’s a very real possibility that I may sometime in the future be able to brag about having attended a The Hub-concert as early as in 2001, at a time when only 50 people showed up, and few of them had ever heard of the band before. It is a shame that perhaps the best concert arranged by Trondheim Jazzforum this year attracted so few people. The next time The Hub show up in Trondheim, I hope the number of attentive listeners will be multiplied at least by five.
THE HUB an Explosive mix of New York
Mooseburgzeitung,Germany, November 3, 2001
By Reinhard Kneiper
Apart from the very few, who took shelter as they were worried about the state of their eardrums, the other jazz friends who attended last Wednesday’s performance at the Stag’s Head Music Bar (Hirschwirt) were in complete agreement that the thunderstorm which they had just witnessed on stage that evening deserved to be labeled as a magical moment. Three young Amercian musicians, all under 25, had decided to stop in Mooseburg as part of their European tour. This tour included many impressive venues that offered THE HUB the opportunity to detonate their explosive mix of New York.
THE HUB is an up and coming trio consisting of the Californian saxophonist Dan Magay, and with the New Yorkers Tim Dahl on electric bass and Sean Noonan on drums. Although still considered by the music business to be an “insider tip” the band has already built up an intricate network on European clubs, concerts, and festivals. During the last four weeks their road tour has literally taken them to every corner of Europe by car. Not to mention the enormous effort put in by their well known “workaholic” Sean Noonan who, without the help of any professional management, organized the band’s European tour from his hometown in New York, a tour stretching from Sweden to Portugal, from Prague to Paris and from Dresden to Mooseburg.
The effort to categorize their own music, which have longer compositions but at the same time is also spontaneous and novel, brought a smile to the faces of the three sympathetic musicians. “Call it what you want! We call it young jazz” was their answer. The music isn’t from the renowned New York jazz clubs. It’s an exciting mixture of punk rock, power jazz and classical avant-garde. An explosive mixture that the trio molded together during a short period when the three exceptional musicians were hired to play at a gala-dinner event in Florida. During the day, when they had nothing better to do with their time, they sat together and challenged one another to play new and adventurous instrumental arrangements.
The result is a sound that causes your hearing to go into a spin. As loud as a rocket blasting from Cape Canaveral, clear as the sky over the equator, and as dynamic as the traffic on 5th Avenue, THE HUB is not exactly music for a dreamy evening in front of the fireplace. Their albums “Vandalism” and “Accident” didn’t exactly get their names by chance. Playing their own compositions “Big Mouth”, “Screaming Contest”, and “Over and Out” almost caused some of the music fans at the “Stags Head Bar” to climb up onto their bar stools! Their musical equipment had to be reduced to a bare minimum for travel purposes and therefore consisted of a bass and snare drum, a hi-hat, two hanging cymbals and a gong, together with an electric bass with three foot pedals and an alto saxophone. As a result this directly reflected in the purity of their sound. No need for any lulling melodies or gimmicks, just and uncompromising polyphony with three instruments, well insinuated breaks and unforgiving eruptions together with some lyrical unison passages, which extenuated the precise arrangements of the band. That was the mix that created an extatic atmosphere in the “Stag’s Head” last Wednesday evening. After the band’s stereotype “thank you” for each of their own pieces there was really only one answer in the end from the crowd, “Encore-Encore.”
THE HUB. The underground from Bedford Avenue
Jazz Special, Denmark, May 21, 2001
By Allan Sommer
In these postmodern times the supply is enormously and the expression are many.
The trio THE HUB are from Brooklyn and they are one of the answers to a high-energetic gathering of different genres melted together to one big organic whole. And especially the great gathering makes it difficult and a little absurd to talk about special movements in the music of today. As the bassist in THE HUB, Tim Dahl, says to the magazine Jazz Special, “ I’m the only movement that I can connect to THE HUB, the movement I see inevery genre today, the fact is that it is a movement based on communication and accessibility. It is a very easy approach to a wide variety of music, so everybody borrows from each other. This opportunity gives us a possibility of making many musical collages, again concerning all contemporary genres.”
THE HUB, who besides Tim Dahl, consists of the drummer Sean Noonan and the saxophonist Dan Magay, have their origin in the underground scene in Brooklyn. Dahl is originally from Chicago where the agenda especially is set by groups like Tortoise and Underground Duo. He thinks that the music especially there is really great, but that the underground in Brooklyn should be setting the fashion he finds a little more doubtful. “It’s only one of the scenes. There are great scenes in Manhattan, especially if you want a place where it is possible for you to practice. I have read somewhere that the biggest concentration of musicians exist in Brooklyn, in fact. Though there are great places to play in Brooklyn, the situation is still that most clubs where you can play are situated in Manhattan. There are also a lot of recording studios in Brooklyn, again because it is cheaper and there are a lot of musicians living in that area.” It’s is Brooklyn that so many outstanding producers like Bill Laswell and Martin Bisi have their studios. There’s no doubt that this area is an inspiring place to begin a musical career. THE HUB has their practice studio on Bedford Avenue, which is the longest street in Brooklyn. “Bedford Avenue has it all; everything from beautiful mansions to urban renewal projects. On top of all this all the ethnic minorities you can ever imagine are represented. I have seen everything from cars exploding to lots of beautiful women, so all in all I can say that it’s a very interesting place.”
Tim Dahl met Sean Noonan at the University of Massachusetts in the early 90’s. In 1995 THE HUB found their final member when they met Dan Magay. Dan had met Sean at the Berklee College of Music. Dan Magay has among others worked with Clark Terry and besides playing saxophone is also a perfect classical clarinetist. Sean Noonan has worked together with the educationalist and the tenor saxophonist George Garzone and John Lockwood. “I was so lucky not only to work with Dan and Sean, but also with Archie Shepp, Stanley Jorday and Yusef Lateef, who by the way still play with. Besides from this I play in the hardcore group Seige, who has a faithful group of cult fans, and I also work with the hip-hop group NYC plus 1. Finally I have a solid background on classical double bass.” Time Dahls says, who by the way has looks of a native Indian, but while giving a smile he swears to Jazz Special that he has Norwegian blood in him. There is no doubt that he is the most attractive guy in the band.
Echoes August 2003 issue
There’s a wicked Dennis Gonzalez track called Free Jazz Is Thrash, Asshole. It might have been written either for or maybe about The Hub. At times the American trio comes across as thrashers among thrashers, a band given to bursts of energy so frenzied and rabid that they sound like they’ve walked straight off the set of one of the gloriously schlock Zombies Take Over The Earth films and picked up instruments for the sheer hell of it. Yet turning up their amps and kicking ass isn't the sum total of The Hub's approach to making music. They have an Ornette Coleman-like attention to detail that can be detected on several pieces on this fun and frolicking record. The ominous barrage of sound that often opens the band’s compositions invariably gives way to pert, compact funk grooves or dippy, intoxicated swing. Which in turn gives way to schlock Zombie-like thrash. Yes, The Hub’s mission in life is to pack as many faux-departs and U-turns into their clenched fist compositions as possible, ensuring that the kicks to the temple are of a rich diversity. They remind me intermittently of Pinski Zoo, Sex Mob, John Zorn, Prime Time and the rather unknown west coast rock-improv group Post-Junk trio. Drummer Sean Noonan, bassist Tim Dahl and saxophonist Dan Magay have that same smart combination of anarchic streak and cast-iron discipline that characterises any band that likes to get its hands dirty and still sound good. It seems to me that The Hub are very much about evoking the sweaty bearpit ambience of gigs where audience and performers are face to face and I can only imagine that this music is thrilling live. At times the leaps and lurches end up stuck in some harmonic dead zones but as they proved on their previous disc Vandalism, The Hub have more than enough substance to take their tunes beyond a facile funk-punk-jazz noise fest. At a time when sedate gloss is all too prevalent on CDs in a lot of genres other than jazz I hasten to add it’s refreshing to hear a band who realise that a sense of the physical exertion of the musician the beading of sweat, the flexing of bicep and the stretching of sinew can make for vital, vibrant sounds. Trucker is all muscle.
THE HUB Wardrobe, Leeds
The Guardian, UK, May 9, 2001
**** out of *****
New York three-piece THE HUB invade the stage like naughty school children, taking up their instruments with manic glee before making the most shocking racket ever played under the name of jazz.
Tim Dahl starts as he means to go on, his bass guitar making obscene belching noises, while Sean Noonan’s snare drum cracks like a revolver going off. Dan Magay on saxophone somehow holds his own amid the maelstrom, curling his sinewy lines that refuse to be intimidated. The band’s music is probably best described as free jazz meets death metal inside the blades of a combine harvester. There is an illusion of chaos-but the presence of sheet music and the expressions of fierce concentration give the game away. This is tightly disclipined composition, the comical stops and starts having been meticulously rehearsed.
The musicians perform with such wild abandon that their antics resemble performance art. Behind the drums, Noonan contorts his body jerking spasmodically as if he’s just stuck his fingers in an electric light socket. He has an extremely unorthodox approach, waving his limbs about in a manner guaranteed to horrify jazz purists, and he occasionally attacks his cymbals in mock rage.
After an hour and a half of this preposterously fiddly noise, your ears start to tire. Just how entertaining the HUB’s music would be with out the fun of actually watching them play is open to question, although they will have no difficulty in cornering the musical masochist market.
Tonight, they remain scintillating and almost frighteningly intense. Everyone laughs when Tim Dahl gleefully announces that the band intend to smash up their hotel rooms after the gig, but it is surprisingly easy to believe him.
THE HUB RETURNS
Think Magazine,Prague, Czech Rep,May 2, 2001
By Jeremy Hurewitz
On May 2nd and 3rd THE HUB returns to Prague to play two highly anticipated shows at Jazz Club Zelezna. Previous shows in Prague and around the continent have left audiences with reactions from bewilderment, offence, curiosity, fright, admiration and loathing.
One of the more cacophonous and adventurous acts that will come through Prague this year, THE HUB is set to light up Zelezna once again when it comes through Prague on it’s “Jacked Up” tour.
What is THE HUB? Why are they so weird? Some say bassist Tim Dahl was dropped on his head when he was a baby. Others say it happened on numerous occasions. Regardless he is composing some truly original and exciting music. Part of the NY underground “Dirty Jazz” scene, THE HUB is a truly modern hybrid of Jazz, Metal, Hip-Hop and Punk. The band skips between these diverse genres with stunning speed and fluidity never once sounding like a fusion act. These are three studious musicians who are bent on speaking that language of music that they have internalized in all its beautiful and craziness.
I caught up with the band when I was in New York recently and was especially taken with Dan Magay’s continuing evolution on alto saxophone. The native Californian has recently moved to New York but the pace of the city hasn’t changed his laid back persona. The vitality and exhilaration of New York, however, has brought out more or the daring Eric Dolphy-like riffs he tears out, red-faced and on the verge of exploding. He was experimenting with a wah-pedal and other effects, which promise to further aggrandize and color the band’s music.
When THE HUB passed through Prague six months ago on their “Vandalism” tour the drummer Sean Noonan had a broken right hand from a fistfight. He had to play all the shows one-handed further baffling incredulous audiences. Hopefully, if he curbs his pugilist Irish instincts, we’ll see him unbound and bashing, in his preferred state where he doesn’t so much play the drums as much as he becomes one with them, sweating and breathing the beats.
Prague’s integration into the west is slowly bringing more and more music to the city but it’s still the too frequent pit-stop for a whole range of dinosaur 70’s schlock-rock and awful death-metal bands. Posters for Marilyn Manson and AC/DC all over Prague 1 tell the story. Those hungry for something more innovative should check out THE HUB at Zelezna.
THE HUB Trucker (Innova 2003)
The hub is an amazing trio, this is their third album, I would give them 5 stars only if the recording quality would be better. but the music itself is fascinating. they mix all kinds of styles into one energetic fusion, on one heand you have Naked City style cut&paste technique, they jump across different styles, you have Ruins-like power rock, Mailt Banana hardcore stuff, with amazing Tim Dahl on bass, on the other hand you have lyrical passages like those from Charles Ives songs. And it's all original, they don't copy those artists, buy they have created their own blend of styles. But THEHUB can't not only mix compositions styles, but the way they perform music is really impressive. the hub is a band to see live, he is excellent performer, tim's bass technique is too fast to be observed , dan's sax playing fits perfectly between two with more melody and balanced playing. the hub is a huge hope for the future, i want to see them live and hear their progress in terms of composing. Artur Nowak
Amazon.com THE HUB Trucker (Innova)
Sean Noonan plies his art
The Enterprise, Brockton, Massachusetts, August 17, 1999
The jazz drummer makes a local appearance this week before resuming his quest for the big time.
By Mike DeCicco
Jazz drummer and Brockton native Sean Noonan just got back from performing in France in France in late July, buy we had to ask him about it quickly-he’s moving to New York. “New York is the one place in the world where you can see the best jazz musicians,” he explained. “I’ll be exposed to some of the greatest dummers. I’ll learn a lot. Boston is a learning environment. New York is a professional environment. I’m going there for the environment.” Noonan as always gone wherever his passion for jazz has taken him. Last month, his band, THE HUB, played for 10 days in clubs in France. The band, which includes Californian Dan Magay on saxophone and Gloucester native Tim Dahl on bass, in now organizing an eight-country European tour for November, and they are hoping to include Italy, France, Denmark, and Scandinavia. The band’s style, Noonan said, “Is all original music, jazz and different styles, from swing to fusion.” Their first European tour was last summer and took them to Porto, Portugal. From January 1998 to May of 1999, THE HUB was the house band for the Old School Theater, Sanibel Island, FL, playing for revues written by noted Broadway writer and musician J.Y. Smith.
One of the performers there was Marnie Nixon, the motion soundtrack singing voice of Natalie Wood in “West Side Story” and Audrey Hepburn in “My Fair Lady.” “We performed eight times a week,” Noonan said. “We were on an island; we had time for a lot of rehearsing. It was a great experience.”
Noonan became a musician after-as a student at Kennedy Elementary School in Brockton- he saw a performance by the Brockton High School Jazz Band under the direction of Vicent Macrina. Noonan said he started learning the drums after Macrina spoke about his band members earning the chance to travel to Disneyworld.
“It was about being able to go to Disneyworld,” Noonan said. “It was in high school that I got serious.” He performed for four years in the Brockton High School Jazz Ensemble, which received five gold medals in the international Festival of the Nations during his tenure. In high school Noonan also received the Louis Armstrong Jazz Award and was chosen “Most Outstanding Musician” in the Southeast District Festival in 93 and 94. He credits his private teacher, Bob Gullotti, with being the biggest inspiration. “He taught me what jazz really was. He was a drummer for the band, The Fringe, the included John Lockwood on bass and George Garzone on saxophone. It was seeing somebody who was a virtuoso on the drums, sitting six to seven feet from them when they played (that) inspired me to go home and practice.” Noonan said another influence was being on the swim team at Brockton High School. His relay team broke the 200 yard medley relay practicing 3 to 4 hour every day. “It helped me learn how to motivate myself. It was six months of training, hard training. Now I work very hard at it (drumming).” Noonan met Dahl in 1994 at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where Noonan started college studies in music. “We started playing together there. We got along pretty well.” Noonan next went to Boston’s Berklee School of Music to study music education. “Berklee for me was all business, all music. I spent hours in their small rehearsal booths. Most every night we’d jam from 6-8 pm and then go to a club or concert. I met people from all over the world. We all had one language in common and that was music.” It was at Berklee that Noonan me Magay in 1995. Noonan, Dahl and Magay first played together on Thanksgiving night at the Blackthorne Tavern in South Easton, “that’s where we found out we clicked was a band.”
They’ve been a successful team ever since. But don’t compliment him to much about it. “It makes me mad when they say to me, ‘you’re so talented,” he said. “I’m not. I have to work at it, work hard at it.” So why does he do it? “Music is art. My goal is to be an artist. I don’t want to just be a jazz drummer, but one who has created a different type of sound. I want to be different that anybody else.” Noonan will return to Brockton on Thursday, when he’ll perform in the Brockton Summer Concert Series at D.W. Field Part.
Songlines interview with Tony Reif
This interview with Sean Noonan was conducted by Tony Reif at the Songlines office on August 19/06, with email follow-up.
TR: Sean, you have an unusual musical background and style for a jazz drummer. How did you get interested in drumming?
SN: As a child I habitually watched the Muppet Show and that was when I had my first introduction to drumming. “Animal” had so much energy and freedom and I quickly admired and envied what a great drummer can do. I think it was in 1978 I saw the episode “Animal vs. Buddy Rich.” I quickly fell in love with drumming and the sensation of rhythm. I was addicted, and one Christmas even got a toy “Animal” drum set that allowed me to create and be my own self. But I didn't yet understand the power of rhythm and expression.
TR: So how did you start off then in music, what were you doing before you decided to get really serious about it?
SN: Well, I was brought up in a family of four boys where my father always emphasized sports and competition, and for eight years I was on the swim team where I spent three hours at a time in and underwater. Art and music were worlds that I discovered on my own. I realized later on that music was a blessing since it allowed me to escape the outside world. I became kind of an outcast since I was the first Noonan that was serious about music.
It really was when I was in my first year at the University of Massachusetts that I made a loyal commitment to music. I wanted to go to the best place to study drumming and learn about jazz so the following year I transferred to Berklee School of Music where I completely immersed my self in practicing, buying CDs, going to shows, playing sessions, learning about composition and improvisation. In 1997 I became the house drummer for the Old School House Theater on Sanibel Island, Florida. This semester-long job allowed me to practice constantly most of the day and it quickly became an important development stage for me. Plus I'd never worked for the theater and this experience taught me how to put on a show. Every night six days a week we did musical reviews and had the opportunity to work with legends like Marni Nixon, who was known as "the voice of Hollywood."
TR: Sounds like you were doing more than just acting as a band member.
SN: Yeah, we did long runs and sometimes three or four different shows a season. I was sometimes forced to do stunts, sing, dance, act in monologs, flirt with girls etc. I realized that great musicians have to be performers and need to be able to express themselves in numerous ways. I would rotate this job with Berklee and eventually formed my own trio, The Hub, with bassist Tim Dahl. The second season I brought Tim and a saxophonist down with me and we began to incorporate elements that we learned from the theater into our music.
TR: So musically what does The Hub express for you or about you?
SN: The Hub was the first group where we only played original music. Tim and I composed and presented pieces in our sessions where we would experiment and
determine the most effective way each piece should be played. We also would create all kinds of exercises to force ourselves to play our instruments in
unconventional ways. Our music was an adaptation of what we felt the representation of jazz music from our generation should be. Tim and I checked out all kinds of music from the instrumental and pop genres, we were listening to bands like Slayer, Dillinger, Escape Plan, Melt Banana, The Ruins, Rovo, Decide, Busta Rhymes, and also Charles Ives, Stockhausen, Charles Wuorinen, John Zorn, Miles, Herbie, Hendrix, Frisell, Kid 606...the list goes on forever.
The Hub soon began to tour throughout Europe and it was then we decided what direction the band would head in. There was a limited amount of gear we could bring on tour so I used a reduced drum set with only a snare, bass, and high-hat stand. This set-up allowed me to discover numerous ways to express myself where
less means more. Tim used electric bass instead of upright bass and began to develop a unique sound using all kinds of pedals, speakers, and amps, which gave the group a vast dynamic and timbral range. I overcame another obstacle when I broke my right hand in a fight with our manager. After surgery I did a three week tour using only my left hand, working to become ambidextrous.
The Hub was not afraid to break any kind of aesthetic barrier. Sometimes our audiences were really shocked by our stage presence, the attitude the band had. At times we became more punk musicians than jazz musicians. But we never played anything exclusively for more than a few minutes. Our compositions would often require us to express specific interpretations or roles while at the same time using transitions to take our listeners on an unpredictable rollercoaster ride. The dynamic would often change drastically, e.g. from 60s TV show soundtrack to blast beats to group improvisation (Tim Dahl's “Cosmetic Amputation”). Playing in The Hub to this day gives me the confidence that we represent what jazz is and to ignore the typical traditional jazz barrier.
TR: Where's the meeting-point between hardcore and jazz?
SN: The Hub's kind of jazz is a reflection of the generation we come from, the 90s. There were a lot of revolutionary things happening. The drum machine was beginning to be used in a more creative way and its precision refined my
internal time, feel and expression. I believe jazz is an improvised art form that comes from one's environment and upbringing. At that time there were a
lot of cutting-edge hip-hop, hardcore, punk, and metal bands and these groups influenced and inspired our sound and approach. People have to understand that if we'd been brought up in the 20s our style, expression and improvisation would be completely different than if we'd come from the 50s. The public rarely thinks about this, but more importantly musicians often ignore their surroundings and
cultural backgrounds. I think that people like Wynton Marsalis are doing an injustice by telling us that jazz music really needs to be played in a traditional manner. The tradition of trying to approach and express yourself from the context of our jazz founders is absurd. To be forced to improvise like that becomes a form of musical programming and regurgitation. I'm sure that if we were hanging with Louie Armstrong he'd rather hear what I have to say than someone trying to re-enact a solo that he did seventy years ago.
TR: So you graduated from Berklee, what happened next?
SN: My parents made it mandatory that I get a college degree. I realized a music degree really is worth nothing so I decided it would be a good idea to get a
music education degree. So I did, and moved to Brooklyn in '99 and became a music director in three public schools in Brooklyn teaching instrumental music to grades 3-6. I never imagined myself to be an educator, but soon realized that thinking, brainstorming and lesson plans are skills that everyone should know about. Becoming a teacher was probably the most important and responsible thing I’ve ever done. Learning to work with children is the greatest teacher – one must always be a student and have an open mind, listening to what others have to say. Many times in my lessons I would benefit from brainstorming and interacting with the students. I would also tell them that the greatest student is the one who is his own teacher and is able to share knowledge and enlighten others. This is an attitude that I believe more people need to have.
While teaching I continued touring overseas with The Hub. During this time I met electric bassist Thierno Camara, who's from Senegal and was working at an African store on E. 13th St., and we immediately connected. I eventually brought my drums down to the store and we'd play for hours, often blissfully unaware of the customers. Thierno and I had similar upbringings but completely different cultural backgrounds. I was really curious to explore his world and realized that by collaborating we would develop a fresh, original music. We began to compose and arrange music together, he's actually the first person I collaborated with as a songwriter. We both were open to each other's cultures and used this experience to form the Waaw Band.
TR: It seems like things were moving in a good direction...
SN: Everything was going well until November 2003 when my tour van was hit by a drunk driver in Italy. I was completely incapacitated with two broken legs and for a while they weren't sure that I would survive the trauma. After being in an induced coma for ten days my body began to recover and they were able to operate on my legs. It was a very painful experience and I knew I had to start my life all over again. Two months later I moved back home where I needed constant care, and it was difficult since I had to relearn all the normal day-to-day tasks.
TR: How did you react to the pain and being confined for so long?
SN: At first it was extremely painful since everyday I had to do physical therapy and there was a lot of pressure to regain my mobility and strength. My legs had all kinds of calcification in my muscles which needed to be broken down. I had a great therapist who came to my house and every day we would apply forced manipulation. He would say “roll over” and would gently apply pressure to the legs over and over again. All I could do was breathe and close my eyes. Every day we would measure our progress in centimeters, and eventually the lack of progress became discouraging. After a while though the pain didn't affect me and it actually got to a point where the sensation of stretching and manipulation created a high. So confinement and pain were just things that I was able to mentally block out.
TR: With so much time on your hands what did you do?
SN: Music played a big part in keeping my spirits up and motivating me to keep moving forward. It was hard, since I wanted to utilize my time wisely and wanted to do something new with my music. I had my brother set up the remains of my drum set where I could use my handicap shower bench as a drum stool to slide onto from my wheelchair. I began playing drums every day, and after a week I was able to play 3-4 hours a day and immediately realized the effect this was having on my drumming. It was difficult to play because I could only bend my legs about 15 degrees, but I felt that I was playing better than ever. Now all I needed to do was learn how to walk again. During this time I realized how much music was essential to my being. Music played such a central role in my life that it became a huge motivating factor towards my rehabilitation. I was forced to consider my limitations, and as a result I began to experiment with alternative ways of being a musician. I decided to work with electronic percussion and drum machines – developing the concept of blending acoustic and electronic timbres became a part of my drumming.
TR: Did your compositional approach develop during this period?
SN: I was composing using new ideas and this became a process of self-healing. I had the idea to orchestrate hetero and homogeneous textures, dynamics, and rhythms on the drum set in my compositions, using the drum machine and its trigger pads as a sequencer and sampler in the performance and recording process. Now that I look back at this period I can see how this inspiration and these skills have enhanced my vision as a composer, and how through performing I've been able to create new pieces. My intention is to give the drums a strong melodic role, providing either tempered or non-tempered melodies. My goal is to use electronic technology as my instrument to conceive, arrange and orchestrate compositions.
My goal then was to get through the rehab and have a comeback record. But before I began to work on the new album I went through a whole phase rewriting most of the music that was destroyed in the accident. I went back to my roots, restructuring and reinventing old melodies, sketching out new motives, forms, and themes, and using rhythm in various contexts. I thought about the chemistry of the musicians and decided to call my friends, Thierno Camara, Aram Bajakian, and Jon Madof, who all liked the idea. So by the summer of '04 I'd put together ten pieces and the four of us had a dozen rehearsals and a few shows, and then we went into the studio and recorded everything in twelve hours. After we recorded the music I realized we'd stumbled upon a new sound that blended jazz-punk with West African folk music. That was the beginning of Brewed by Noon. It was a very natural, unpremeditated kind of collaboration. I self-released the CD with the help of my mentor Jim Pugliese.
TR: How would you describe its main influences?
SN: Combine New York progressive jazz and African tribal rhythms and stories, mixing them up with some Irish lyrics and attitude – that's the basis. At first the sound of the band was directly influenced by The Hub and Waaw Band.
TR: And you wanted to expand the range of this new group?
SN: The record was well received. We realized we were breaking new ground with this sound and didn't want to stop, but again I had to deal with obstacles in my life. In the summer of '05 I had to go through another series of surgeries on my legs, where again I was bed-bound for the whole summer. I had to learn to walk again and needed to do physical therapy constantly to regain what I'd worked so hard previously to get back. So when I was lying around unable to play or walk I meditated on this whole concept. I created another goal for myself and worked to receive a commission from the American Composers Forum.
TR: So how did this new concept take shape?
SN: Really from living and being in New York, which is a place that offers plenty of ideas and opportunities. I wanted to utilize folk traditions from around the world, and decided to create original compositions with a “wandering” folk music concept, where the compositions would be communally re-created using improvisation. I'm interested in folk music because it's a form of musical expression that all people can relate to and participate in. It has undergone a great deal of change because people are always tinkering with it, and changes made over the years tend to become integral to a song. Folk music is distinguished by its mix of individual composers working with the creativity of the masses. My vision is to bring musicians from diverse cultures together to explore new ideas and concepts, communally creating new vehicles of expression. I’d like to add to folk traditions by using my wandering melodies to bring together comparable elements in different cultures.
When I met Abdoulaye Diabaté after a concert of Peter Apfelbaum and the NY Hieroglyphics and learned about griots, I became fascinated by his tradition and family history, and especially by the art of storytelling in folk music. I began to feel that my music needed to have some kind of message or a story. I also wanted a voice that came from my background, my Irish roots, and it was fortune that you suggested vocalist Susan McKeown, who happens to live in New York and who was immediately enthusiastic about doing a multi-cultural project with west African artists.
TR: Could you give us a couple of examples from the CD of how this worked out?
SN: Sure. “Esspi” is a simple story song I wrote about an elephant that gets lost and has to find its way back home. Esspi wanders and finds his way to Mali, as Abdoulaye Diabaté refracts the tale through his own griot tradition, singing it in his native tongue, Bambara, adding new melodies and reshaping my story. “Noonbrews” was created through a different process, where every aspect was composed except for the lyrics and storyline. Susan McKeown and Abdoulaye Diabaté took it from there without any further influence from me. This was my first attempt to merge Irish and Malian cultures – they re-interpreted the Irish folk song “Ar Maidin, Ar Nóin” (In the Morning, of Course). The story is about a woman whose partner goes to war, and she eventually elopes and runs away with another man. The piece ends with the lyrics “We will go to the pub and
drink until day breaks.” Susan and Abdoulaye have unique vocal styles that contrast and complement each other, allowing them to merge lyrics from Gaelic and Bambara.
So my goal is to adapt folklore in a modern jazz context, merging storytelling, folk music and improvisation from the bardic and griot traditions, learning more about my Gaelic roots. I feel my mission is to understand and preserve these ancient traditions by re-interpreting them from a contemporary multi-cultural perspective, exploring my concept of ‘brewing’ people, original ideas/concepts, and cultures. And I've become very attached to the people I've worked with. Sometimes I dream about them and have visualizations of what they will do with my music. Stories to Tell is a platform presenting many different themes and formulas. I'd like to dedicate a record to each theme.
TR: Tell us about your upcoming concert in New York in connection with the CD release.
SN: On January 13 I'll premiere twelve new works at Symphony Space, of which #1-6 are on the CD. This event will feature a diverse cast of musicians including Susan, Abdoulaye, Thierno, Aram, Marc Ribot, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, and Mat Maneri. I'm very excited to finally be collaborating with Jamaaladeen since we've talked about getting together for some time. Also putting Thierno and Jamal together, having two electric basses, should be interesting.
TR: And Marc Ribot and Mat Maneri, how do they fit into the picture?
SN: I have a lot of respect for the downtown NY music veterans, and the project incorporates elements from that scene – a big part of the music is improvisation. I wanted to have the right people involved, and they are both masters of the artform. It paid off, you can hear the results on the record. Ribot and Maneri had no trouble fitting in, and I didn't have to say too much after assigning them their roles and limits and reminding them to not look back. Ribot and Maneri are musicians I've always envied and I wanted to try to experiment with them. Having that vocal duet on “Noonbrews” with Abdoulaye and Susan along with Maneri and Ribot offers listeners something unique I think. But actually they weren't all in the studio at the same time. The instrumental part of the music was recorded first. I didn't anticipate the lineup of the project would be what it is, in fact I really didn't know who was going to be on the record until I was working on it, and started to see how I could orchestrate people into my musical vision.
TR: I hear lots of other elements in the music even beyond those we've talked about, and maybe these have as much to do with what your collaborators brought to the table, for example, the strong blues or blues-rock element in some of the pieces.
SN: Playing in The Hub had a strong influence on the rock and blues elements, but the foundation of the band is the guitar or string instruments. I was very specific about the instrumentation, I'm fascinated by strings and blending them with percussion and vocals. I believe that limitations create more freedom and new possibilities. Also I wanted to have a sound that was consistent with the concept of combining modern music with folk traditions. Keyboards are part of my instrument, the electro-acoustic drumset. So I'd never use a keyboardist in the project since I can incorporate that role in my drumming.
TR: Are there pieces that are equally influenced by The Hub and Waaw Band?
SN: Yes, two: “NY” and “Connection.” The use of form, the sharp transitions from section to section and the dynamics come from The Hub, while the melodies and harmonies show the African influence.
TR: You were just talking about your drumming being equally a keyboard-like activity. Of course lots of drummers use electronic drums as part of their kit. One thing I hear in your playing is a drive that doesn't depend on volume for its effect. Your drumming can be very loud and wild but it can also be subtle and fleet though still powerful and always precise. How do the electronics (the sampler-sequencer) further elaborate the acoustic patterns you're playing?
SN: Firstly, I always think of myself as a conductor when I approach the drums. For me being a conductor is the most difficult and important task of a leader. My aim is to have a fresh, modern approach to the drums. In my opinion the drumset was the most important instrument of the 20th century – it influenced so many styles of American music. And in the 2lst century the drum machine has started to assume this role. Using the technology of today has allowed me to orchestrate, compose, and imagine/create a new role for a drummer. I'm dedicated to developing an electro-acoustic drumset that pushes the boundaries of traditional drumming. Incorporating more melody and greater timbral contrasts into drumming will allow the instrument to maintain an important place in jazz and pop music. Expect me someday to knock on your door in the wee hours of the morning with my most recent development of the electro-acoustic drumset, when I will transform myself into an electro-acoustic human being...
TR: As for Brewed by Noon, the band is quite a bundle of energies to co-ordinate and must be a bear to try to tour. How are you planning to get this music out there live in the world?
SN: It's a good question since these days it's hard to tour with a large band. In May I'll be touring in Europe with Ribot, Tacuma, Maneri, and Diabaté. Hopefully some North American festivals will follow.
TR: Any other upcoming events we should know about?
SN: In October 2007 I hope to have a tour and artist residence in Ireland and West Africa, where we've been invited by several hosting organizations to perform and conduct research on folklore. The performances will offer educational outreach to communities that would not normally have an opportunity to see a group like this – I want to bring the group to unconventional places, hoping to provide cultural awareness and appreciation for new music. I'll also be conducting field studies into folklore and storytelling from Ireland and W. Africa, looking for connections and similarities between Irish and Malian cultures. I'll use this research opportunity to develop and create new concepts and melodies, and if all goes well the 2008 Brewed By Noon will premiere new works #13-24 in New York.