A major highlight of my time at NEC was performing Stay On It by Julius Eastman.
Every Monday I got to work with Anthony Coleman in his weekly ensemble, Survivors Breakfast. You can imagine why the name...
One day Hannah Dunton, a killer bass player in the Jazz department asked if we could work on Stay On It by Julius Eastman. Me being such a folky weirdo I embarrassingly hadn't come across his music before. It is an incredible piece of music!!!!!!! Eastman was such a strong proponant for doing things his way, and being Black and Gay in the Avant Garde in the 70's in the US made him even more of an outsider. I wish we'd gotten to meet.
You can find out more about him, his work and contribution to everything here and here.
Luckily Anthony had access to a score deduced from some of the favoured recordings of the piece, as it was never written down by Eastman in his short lifetime.
So we worked on it, at first it didn't make sense, but then eventually - as is often the case with some of the best things - it feel into place, we found a pace with the piece, we found a way of listening to and playing with each other and finding our own voices within the parameters of the vague yet specific instructions for each section. It's a hefty length of a piece to perform and with Anthony's guidance we pulled it off. It was a super fun way to get to know fellow improvisers and experimenters at the school and I loved performing the piece. What an energy. Anthony really understood how to get inside the music, a rare skill which I appreciate so much.
Check out the two seminal performances below of the piece. I think you will like.
Thank you Julius for your amazing music and for being you and keeping it real in a time where it was even much tougher than now.
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