Bill McHenry – Tenor Sax
Wanja Slavin – Alto Sax
Andreas Lang – Double Bass
Joe Smith – Drums
In April 2016, Bill McHenry and Wanja Slavin met at Andreas Lang’s rehearsal space in Berlin to run over a few Melodies for their concert that evening. They were older songs of Bill’s from some of his first records but they would sound nothing like the original recordings that day. The addition of another horn player and the absence of a chordal instrument would see to that… and the fact is, his melodies can be played many different ways; faster, slower, rubato… whatever feels best at the moment… yet they always have his certain signature sound… or maybe it’s a feeling…
The first Song Bill pulled out was called “Alfombra Magica” which means Magic Carpet in Spanish. The idea is that the drums keep a beat while the Melody is played in another tempo or rubato against it by the two Horns… The Bass is in the Middle tip-toeing around the two different beats and following the horns for the changes. Sound complicated? It’s not. When the quartet played it, it just sounded like they were all playing together. Flowing.
Joe Smith, the drummer on the gig that night gave a few bars of the beat and then Wanja and Bill played down the melody while Andreas tip-toed. They sounded like they had played it before a hundred times… very tight. Wanja and Andreas were reading it from a chart. They didn’t take any solos, those would be free-form at the concert that evening anyways.
They played the melodies to about four more of Bill’s songs and then he brought out a chart of an Ornette Colemon song called “Heaven Knows” Ornette himself had taught Bill the song by ear at one of the sessions they had played together over at Ornette’s house years before and Bill Had written it down. It’s a beautiful Ballad.
The gig that night was great. Felt very natural and easy. They all had fun playing and hanging together and are looking forward to doing it again in the future.