“From Reality and Back” Recording Sessions Notes and Photos”


Notes from Alex….
I’m really happy to present this special project of my career From Reality and Back recorded for Gonzalo Rubalcaba’s 5Passion label.  To me, the biggest special point of this project are the musicians.  I have been so lucky to work with Dave Holland in his bands since 2000 — big band, octet, sextet, quintet, and quartet — and through the years, travels, performances and 4 recordings, he’s provided me with a lot of inspiration and it has been one of the biggest lessons for me.  Another bright point of my career was experiencing Gonzalo’s music, which has been incredibly inspiring for me and opened a lot of different directions.  It took me several months to get ready for my first performance with Gonzalo for which I was subbing for Michael Rodriguez, which has allowed me to open my ears to Gonzalo’s special style, sound and his deep music.  I’m really happy this has led to our new venture with his label with co-founder Gary Galimidi.  Seamus Blake and I have participated in various projects since the 90s, starting with the Mingus Big Band.  His sound and technique compliments the music at hand, supporting the music before grandstanding his own playing, and he is one of the top players.  And finally Antonio Sanchez, who I feel has also that special ability to support and play the music while taking it to the next level beyond what the leader can imagine.
All my compositions usually come from experiences of being in different places in my travels, real and virtual.  The original names of all these songs have been associated with those places, and it’s usually not based on one time but from being there several times, and through the years, all those places have different vibes and colors to me.  When I’m in each place, it puts me into a certain mood that is particular to that town.  From another perspective, each song is based on models of songs written in the past; by “model” I don’t mean it follows a formula or replicates it, but it has a certain mood, becoming the next step from the previous mode.  Each tune is influenced by whoever I’m playing with, all compositions written specifically for certain players and influenced by their sounds and styles.
Around the Bend (previously called “Basel”)
This tune originated in Basel, Switzerland, a place I’ve spent a lot of time over the years.  I associate it with the winding roads that eventually lead to the river, but at the same time, it connects me with my previous composition I wrote in 2008 called “Path.”  The songs are completely different, but I think you can find the similarities.
With the Tide (previously called “Sliding”)
This tune is an association between flowing through the ocean and swimming, flying through the ocean, something like that.  Knowing the beautiful styles and sounds of the players on this album, I always wanted to write a tune like this that is open, has a lot of air, and the musicians have the freedom to go where they want.
From Reality And Back — title track of the record (previously called “Transitions”)
It’s a very rare state of mind when one is completely disconnected from reality, from the real world and problems, etc., and you have a certain moment in your life when you have complete peace, and I was lucky enough to catch this moment when I got the idea to write this tune.  I remember it happened in Taipei during an amazing time I had doing a workshop for Yamaha for the week, and I had nothing but time, I didn’t have to worry about yesterday, today nor tomorrow, just enjoying the sounds and vibes.
End of… 
This is the only song I decided to keep the original title and let everyone imagine what the end was, and even I don’t know what it’s the end of, but it’s something –could be good, could be bad, but not associated with the end of the world, this is for sure.  It’s another song I decided to give a lot of freedom to the players, which I could imagine and hear before the recording and it came out as I’d imagined.
Here And Now (previously called “Inspirations”)
This song came out from several inspirational moments of my latest travel experiences which I assembled in my mind piece by piece.  This is one of the styles of writing that I come back to from time to time, where certain episodes repeat, certain melodies repeat, grooves repeat, and I rely on the musicians to make each of the repetitions sound different, which happened.  Gonzalo took it to another level, gave a lot of space and beauty to it, and Dave Holland’s magic of groove and sound which only he can do also took it to the next level, and it actually went beyond my expectations.  Actually this happened with all the songs where the final result exceeded my expectations.  Again, I always count on the musicians to open up the songs.
Chain Reaction (previously called “Connections”)
This tune reflects a work in progress alone as well as with musicians, and in my perfect imagination, everything should work like a clock, so it’s like a puzzle.  When you get the right people, right situation, right venues, etc., everything comes together and is right, which is reflected in the melody between the trumpet and saxophone as it intertwine, weaves and connects with each other, creating a chain reaction.
Son, Uvedeny Posle (Pat’s ballad — translates to:  “Dreams Seen Later”)
I have a previous experience with Pat Metheny where he wrote a couple of songs for one of my albums, and he asked me to name one of them, which I named “Snova.”  Since then, he has kindly suggested he could write for me again, and I was waiting for the perfect situation, and this project presented itself as such.  When I told Pat about the members, he seemed excited and asked what direction I wanted him to write in, and I asked for a ballad, slightly odd meter, but anything he could imagine.  When he sent me the music, he explained that the melody originated back in 1987 which is the one and only year he performed in Russia, then still the Soviet Union, and he finished writing it for this project.  At that time, I was serving in the military, and his music was the only inspirational air I had as I was a huge fan.  It was my biggest dream to get to his concert, which I almost did, even had the ticket in my hands, but at the last moment, as usually happened back in those days, the military didn’t let me leave the base.  So for me, it was a great coincidence that this tune originated from that time which left a great impact on me.
With that said, when Pat asked me to name the tune, I thought of that time.
The Maze (previously titled “Plzen”)
One of the ideas of this title is that basically no matter where you go, you come back to the same place.  The idea of this song came to me in Taipei in a huge night market called Shilin, and finish in the Czeck Republic in Plzen, where, in my first experience, it was easy to get lost, but no matter where you go, you end up in the same place.  Once you hear the song, this concept is obvious.  We play different solo sections in different forms and changes, but they always end up coming back to the same place.
This album for me represents a very important part of my career where I feel I’m drawing a line that is marking my next step.