A funny thing happened after Burr Van Nostrand saw early success as an avant-garde composer: He stopped writing music. Born in 1945, Mr. Van Nostrand, who grew up in California and resides in New Haven, Conn., had a four-year residency at the Gaudeamus Foundation in the Netherlands; that “is unheard of” for an American composer, said Mathew Rosenblum, co-director of new music presenting organization Music on the Edge. Indeed, “unheard of” is a good phrase to use when describing Mr. Van Nostrand. His music, which is very difficult to play, has been seldom heard; when he was writing, he was drawing on techniques that were ahead of his compositional time, from the 1960s through 1980s.
Tom Blancarte is a gifted bass player and improviser with whom I have been collaborating for the past decade. On February 23rd he will release his first solo album on Dan Peck’s Tubapede Records. Entitled “The Shortening of the Way”, it’s 35 minutes of psychotic and virtuosic solo playing. For this one Tom and I talk improvising, solo playing, beer, day jobs and death.
Björkenheim has appeared on dozens of recordings under his own name and with projects like Scorch Trio and Umo Jazz Orchestra. Like Bill Frisell, he has a distinctive, recognizable style that nevertheless fits in a variety of contexts. It is a sound synthesized from a wide range of influences that he describes in detail here. It is worth noting that though these sources of inspiration are common to hundreds of players, here they disappear into a singular voice that is pure Björkenheim.