The Three Bucketeers

The Three Bucketeers

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The Way Blue Bucket is nothing if not experimental. The very makeup of the group, drums, saxophone, and electric guitar, began as an experiment.

In 2000, I was in my junior year as a jazz guitar major at Temple University. I had been playing for several months with a drummer named Rob Smith, who shared my interest in creative improvisational structures, and two events led directly to the formation of this group. The first was the fact that our beloved bass player, Steve Kerr, was leaving for New York City. The second was the night that Rob took me to see the Tiny Bell Trio, a trumpet-guitar-drums project led by the great Dave Douglas.

Excited by the sonic possibilities of improvisation without a bass player to anchor things, and suddenly without a bass player, Rob and I decided to seek out a horn player. I also started writing a bunch of tunes specifically for this instrumentation. After a brief stint playing with tenor player Ryan Harrington, we got in touch with Aino Soderhielm, whom we knew from her playing with Tintinabulus, and the Way Blue Bucket was formed.

While the goals of the group shifted over the years, our basic measure of whether or not we were on track was the continued difficulty of describing the music we were making. The only kinds of sounds that we ruled out were ones that were too close to clearly “jazz” or “rock” or “folk” sounds. As long as it fell slipperily “in the cracks,” we were happy.

We also fought against the idea that improvised, avant-garde, or any aurally challenging music had to be serious. Inspired by the likes of Frank Zappa and Sun Ra, we tried to find ways of making otherwise esoteric music accessible through humor, by wearing silly hats, doing post-modern sing-a-longs, and any other kinds of stunts that we could think of.

The Way Blue Bucket has been inactive since 2003, when I left Philadelphia for Wesleyan University, Cuba, and then eventually Paris. Will there ever be a reunion? Only time will tell.

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