Greg Howard

There was a party at the Gravity Lounge in Charlottesville, Virginia, Friday, March 18th. The occasion? Greg Howard was celebrating 20 years of music, inspiration, creativity and Stick playing.

It was 20 years ago that Greg picked up his first Stick and headed down the road that would lead to:

  • Twelve Stick-oriented recordings (9 CDs and 3 cassette only) of mainly original music, exploring a variety of styles including rock, jazz, Latin, and improvisational music.

  • Over 2000 performances in North America, Western Europe and Japan, including Lincoln Center's Summer Festival and the Montreal Jazz Festival.

  • Duo performances with Tim Reynolds (Sticks and Stones), Johnny Gilmore, Darell Rose, Viktoria Keating.

  • Opening concerts for John McLaughlin, California Guitar Trio, Tim Reynolds, Michael Manring, Porcupine Tree, Dave Matthews Band, Leo Kottke, Ritchie Havens, Alex Di Grassi.

  • Tours and recordings with bands including (in chronological order): Sombre Reptiles, Cosmology, Code Magenta, Dave Matthews Band, Greg Howard Band.

  • Writing The Stick Book™ and codifying a "physical approach" to the playing method, teaching it at over 30 Stick seminars in North America and Europe since 1996.

  • And much more.

From all accounts it was a great party. Greg played with several of his long-time musical collaborators and the new drummers he's been recording with. The band was percussionist Darrell Rose (Shapes and Sol), vocalist/percussionist Dawn Thompson (Code Magenta, Shapes and Sol), trmpeter John D'earth (Shapes and Sol), and newcomers Jamal Millner on guitar and drummers James McLaughlin and Matt Wyatt. They played some rarities, like Abdullah Ibrahim's "Soweto" (featuring Darrell on the berimbau) and the Code Magenta favorite "The Dance." Greg started out the second set by playing the first song he ever learned, one of Satie's Gymnopidae on the new Alto Stick.

Click any pic to enlarge

But the Gravity Lounge show wasn't just about the past. Greg was also celebrating his first new album in four years, Ether Ore. Ether Ore is one of those tough recordings to classify but that's very much its appeal. The simple facts: Ether Ore contains seven audio tracks, and a bonus DVD each completely improvised in front of live audiences. It carries on the exploration of new sounds and free playing Greg first documented with Water On The Moon (1998), but in a more cohesive fashion, and with greater sonic and stylistic variety.

Some more obtuse thoughts: "These eight improvisations, all recorded live in front of real audiences, with no overdubs work for many reasons, foremost perhaps, because each piece is a complete musical statement. There are recurring themes, a balance between aggressive movements and more pastoral scenes, each piece goes somewhere. Each improv is a journey - Greg the musician sets off to explore the musical ether and returns with the valuable ore to share with his audience." (From an unpublished draft of Ether Ore liner notes.)

So the past met the present and took off full steam ahead into the future at the Gravity Lounge in Charlottesville, VA, March 18th 2005. If you're familiar with The Stick than you no doubt know the invaluable role Greg has played in this early history we are creating with this new technique and new instrument. If you're not, then take some time and explore this Website or check out Greg's own site.

Ether Ore and the Gravity Lounge gig were just the beginning of a year of special events Greg has planned to celebrate his 20th year of being one of the foremost, most engaging and most dynamic Stick players. On March 22nd Greg went back into the studio to begin recording his next CD: a collection of his most-requested cover songs and three originals. Featured selections will include Mingus's "Goodbye Porkpie Hat," The Beatles's "Tomorrow Never Knows," and Dylan's "All along the Watchtower." The disc should be available this fall.

Keep your eyes and ears open for more.

More on the web:
Slide show from the Gravity Lounge and other recent events
Greg's Website
CDs available from Stick Enterprises
The Stick Book™ Volume I
Greg's Handiwork Video