Behind The Reduction: Darin Gray / by David Bernabo

So, our first performance of The Reduction is fast approaching. I'd like to take a bit of time to talk about the piece and the people involved in its creation. I thought I would start with the person that I have known the longest, bassist and all-around great person, Darin Gray.


You may have seen/heard Darin recently as the bassist in TWEEDY, Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and son and friends, or his work in Chikamorachi with drummer Chris Corsano, or various shows with saxophonist Akira Sakata, Jim O'Rourke, Tyler Damon, and, of course, his duo with Glenn Kotche called On Fillmore.

On March 8, 2003, I met Darin at the Empty Bottle in Chicago. It appears that the internet can back this up. I was playing keys in the Pittsburgh band, Boxstep, and we were sharing a bill with On Fillmore. Azita, whose recent-at-the-time album I really loved, was headlining the evening. I remember Boxstep guitarist Daryl Fleming and I being really into Azita's set because there were traces of Steely Dan chording somewhere in there. Anyway, I knew of On Fillmore from Tim Barnes' Quakebasket label, but also knew of Darin and Glenn from the Jim O'Rourke Drag City records. I want to say that at that time, Tim had released their wooden box record and possibly the first non-box CD, which may have been split-released with Locust Records. (I could run upstairs to check, but I like not knowing everything. Also, the internet is a great place for wandering truths.)

Anyway, the On Fillmore set was wonderful! If I remember correctly, it was kit, vibraphone, and upright bass with no field recordings. Very rhythmic. Repetative. Shifting time signatures. Wonderful stuff. On Fillmore has since released a few more records, all wonderful, evolving, great sounding works. On the album, Extended Vacation, there is an Ives-ian sequence where a marching band crashes into the human birdcalls and dark vibes/bass. For that record, the duo played the Warhol Museum, and while I was out of town, we recorded an interview that is still online.  Later on, they also toured with Radiolab, providing sound for forty shows.

So, when I proposed The Reduction to the New Hazlett Theatre, it seemed like a good time to see if a collaboration was possible. As it turns out, it was! As with much of the show, I do not want to give much away, but here is a photo of preparations for the sound.

Darin has the ability to change his sound from project to project, but there are qualities that transcend the genre or the group. His playing is fully committed, and that commitment allows the music to really be something special.

Here are some of my favorite clips of a few of his projects and collaborations. For further listening, I would recommend Darin's solo album, St. Louis Shuffle, Jim O'Rourke's InsignificanceBrise-Glacé's When in Vanitas (sooo good!), Grand Ulena's Gateway to Dignity.

Loren MazzaCane Connors & Darin Gray live at Monroe County Public Library in Bloomington, Indiana on March 4, 2000. A CD of this concert was released as "This Past Spring" on Family Vineyard, May 24, 2001. Filmed by CATS (Community Access Television Services).

A beautiful section from the Radiolab piece by On Fillmore with Sarah Lipstate from Noveller.

I'm really into the new Tweedy record. There is a great consistency in the songwriting, the production is cool, and I really like the live shows. Here's one of the live shows.

Sergey Letov, Chris Corsano, Akira Sakata & Darin Gray Moscow, 25-10-11

Hope to see you on August 13th for the show!