Chicago Symphony bassist Dan Armstrong recently shared some musical experiences he’s been having with the Jason Seed Elixir Ensemble, a Milwaukee-based group with which he has been doing some playing. He writes:
In addition to my CSO job, I’ve been playing with a jazz-rock-
folk-classical-world-new music group (all that — really!) called the
Jason Seed Elixir Ensemble. I find it great fun to play energetic
grooves in mixed meters and try a little jamming. There’s also a spin-
off group, the Elixir Quartet, composed of Glenn Asch (violin),
Helen Reich (viola) Jason (guitar) and me.
Dan has been experimenting with different set-ups for this ensemble:
I’ve been encouraged by members of the big group to try arco playing
— not just for solos but to try it as some of the rhythmic
foundation in some of the bass grooves. It seems to take the best of
my classical technique to come up with a clean punchy sound in the
low register. I’m still experimenting, but it seems that the
potential for articulations and other nuances could create something
new in pop music. I’m using David Gage’s Realist pickup and I seem to
need to EQ the bass higher for arco than for pizz.
99% of the music is composed by Jason Seed, and, as chamber music,
the Elixir String Quartet is about as rewarding playing as one can
find on bass.
It is very illuminating to learn about the different ways in which Dan, a member of a major orchestral ensemble, keeps his creative juices flowing outside of the orchestra. The rewards of such a musical situation tie in well with topics discussed in the latest installment of This Crazy Business.
Here are some videos of original Jason Seed compositions performed by the Elixir String Quartet (members of the Chicago and Milwaukee symphonies). Visit www.myspace.com/jasonseedelixirensemble for more information about the large ensemble or www.myspace.com/elixirstringquartet for more information on the small ensemble.
In addition to playing in the Chicago Symphony and the Elixir Ensemble, Dan is also an active composer. You can find his compositions on his page at Discordia Music.
Some of Dan’s Chicago Symphony bass section colleagues have been featured on Contrabass Conversations. Check out the following links for more information: