Friday, May 27, 2005

What's In A Name - The Blowholes

Here's a little background for those of you interested in how and why I came up with the name "The Blowholes" for my all original Jazz septet:

It's all about the music...

First of all, when you play Jazz, especially in a free-form combo setting with multiple horns (jamming and/or simple lead sheet tunes) you're often arranging on the spot. As one soloist works through their choruses the other horn players listen...and sometimes background riffs are suggested (through whispers or other body language with the other players) to add interest and give the soloist and rhythm section yet another element to work with or against.

These lines might take the form of a simple "1 2 do-dot-do, 2, 3, 4 | 1, dot do..." or "do--, do-bop...2, 3 4" etc. Simple one or two note ditties that can be easily harmonized on the spot. These lines are spontaneous, stylistic, and simple and they can sound great and add interest and excitement at any given moment. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don't - that's part of the challenge of being spontaneous.

Several times over the past couple years I've suggested more simple, sustained lines instead of punchy lines that attract too much attention. Free pads. "Goose eggs" or whole notes. So it's not uncommon for me to suggest, "let's blow whole notes" (under the soloist) - this is almost always effective because some interesting harmonies can be developed at random - all by blowing whole notes....blowing wholes....blow wholes...blowholes.

So the more I considered and researched the word "blowhole" for a band name (or "The Blowholes") the more I became convinced that it was a natural fit for a horn-based ensemble:

  • 5 of the 7 players are quite literally blowing (Trumpet, 2 Saxes, Trombone, and sometimes Tuba)
  • The horns all have bells - or holes - that's where the sound streams forth!
  • Even the guitar and bass have holes - they're called f-holes (really!)

I recently came across a beautiful sign from somewhere in Hawaii(I saw it on the web) advertising "The Blowhole Cafe" which featured an animated blue whale - it looked like a very respectable place. The sign was very annimated with a nice variety of blue color tones. If we ever have a logo, some type of "musical whale" might be cool. Whales are amazing creatures - whales have blowholes.

Blowholes are also found on coasts, the result of the sea's relentless pounding away at the rocky shore which creates, over time, tubular openings in the rocks where sea water enters at a high velocity causing periodic steam-like eruptions. These ocean/rock blowholes are dramatic and awe inspiring - they're fun to watch too. Unpredictable, powerful - no two blows are ever they same...much like the making of music.

Blowholes, be they the blowholes of whales, the blowholes of ocean/rock formations, or my musical term of "blowing wholes" to affect a mood - these are things of beauty and the foundation of my belief in what "The Blowholes" represent: musical, natural, slightly irreverent, at times majestic, at times humorous...definitely an endangered species...and hopefully something special.

So go ahead, infer some sort of crude or negative connotation from a name; go ahead and make the juvenile jokes - we've probably heard them (and have our own)...or better yet, don't.

Instead, recognize that we're musicians attempting to breathe life into abstract ideas. We're trying to produce our own waves of sound that flow from one place to another. And who knows where these "waves" go - to the heart maybe? The mind? The soul?

The true spirit of "The Blowholes" can be found within the music and especially the performers who are doing their best to create something out of thin air.

I'm a blowhole and proud of what the name means for me. After all, a rose by any other name...

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Blowholes to Play Da Vinci Days 2005

Come see and hear "The Blowholes" perform at da Vinci Days, Saturday, July 16 at 5-6 PM on the Shady Stage.

The Blowholes are a 7-piece ensemble that play all original music and features Rob Birdwell (Trumpet, Flugelhorn), Jim Guynn (Alto, Flute), Andy Nelson (Tenor Sax, Clarinet), Mike Bevington (Trombone), John Bliss (Guitar), Jeff "The Viking" Morre (Drums), and Cheryl Leckie (Bass, Tuba).

Our music is a blend of many styles and the arrangements of original material strive to strike a blance between tight ensemble writing and free solo sections (everyone is featured somehow, someway) - you'll hear lots of Jazz/swing with touches of latin, rock, funk and even some 60s style go-go! da Vinci Days is a wonderful festival and we're looking forward to performing.

You can catch "The Blowholes" in action on Thursday May 26 at Bombs Away Cafe (Corvallis- we'll be the XTET from 7:30 PM and then morph into "The Blowholes" around 8:30 PM or so. (This will actually be our first public appearance!)

Formed in early February 2005 we've been in the woodshedding a bit and now it's time to share the sounds and work out the logistics of playing live! Should be fun!

Rob Birdwell