Gutbucket rocks REDCAT at Disney Hall, with a little help from Sibelius

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The incomparable Gutbucket (Photo courtesy Natascha Rockwin)

Gutbucket are a four-piece band from Brooklyn who, in the words of Chris Barton of the LA Times, work “a jagged yet fertile seam between jazz and rock.” This past May, they played at REDCAT – the Roy and Edna Disney CalArts Theater in the Disney Concert Hall complex in downtown Los Angeles – with the Gutbucket Chamber Orchestra, a 12-piece ensemble augmenting their usual line-up.

I spoke to Gutbucket’s saxophonist, Ken Thomson, about putting the concert together, and how Sibelius played a role in helping Gutbucket rock REDCAT.

“It was 11pm and we’d finished day one of rehearsals and gotten back to our hotel after dinner,” he relates. “The first rehearsal of the Gutbucket Chamber Orchestra went well.. but, almost too well. Though we’ve been touring for 12 years as a quartet, this ‘orchestral’ project began as a way to realize, live, our heavily-layered 2009 disc, A Modest Proposal. When we created charts for the premiere two years ago, we brought in a big cast of serious NYC musicians and had people enter and leave the stage as different parts were needed for different tunes. We had a virtuoso horn section; multiple guitars, keyboards, and basses; extra melodic and non-pitched percussion; and sometimes all of it combined.”

Now Gutbucket had the opportunity to work with students from CalArts in LA to present the project live again. “We weren’t sure how it would go,” says Ken. He needn’t have worried.

“Well, they came ready to play,” he grins. “When we got there on Day 1 and everyone could handle what we gave them, we realized there was a lot more potential in this 12-person group.  That night, we took out four laptops with four versions of Sibelius, and got to work. We went through each tune and decided what needed to be done. I wanted to make sure the wind players were busy; we wanted to ensure that the percussionist had some more challenging notes to play… and, artistically, we wanted to achieve the grandest version of these tunes we could.”

Ken, Eric, Adam and Ty resolved to have new music on the stands ready for the start of rehearsals the next morning.

“There we were, 11pm, crammed into a hotel room, and went through each tune and made a game plan,” Ken continues. “We each started adding to different arrangements and passing files along. As we each changed arrangements, we could make sure that the Dynamic Parts stayed coherent with ease. Magnetic Layout helped us not have to go crazy with placing every crescendo. I would write some horn parts on Ty’s tune, and pass it back to him for more guitar layering; I sent my parts out to Eric so he could check the bass guitar parts, before he sent his tune over to me to double check the bass clarinet writing.

“And, by the next morning, it was done… we emailed a ton of new music out that night, and got to work for day two of rehearsals.  Adam even managed to get an expanded version of a new tune, off our new disc, Flock, out to the group.”

The end result was a concert that the LA Times called “an undoubtedly wild ride,” which delighted the group.

“I can honestly say that this night, and the ensuing concert, wouldn’t have been possible without Sibelius,” concludes Ken. “The ease of use combined with all the features in the box made this expanded vision, alongside all the complicated music we write, doable.”

You can find out all about Gutbucket at their web site, Facebook page, or by following @gutbucketnyc. Buy their new disc, Flock, right here.

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