..... Live Volume II .....



Audio Samples


Wide-ranging, yet accessible jazz duo of free improvisations with piano, saxophones, flutes, clarinets, drum set, steel pans, vocals, and percussion.

Think of One
View of the Canyon/Canine Interruption
Hip Abduction
Looking for Cindy Crawford
Reindeer Games
Moose the Mooche
Healing the Riff
Water From Another Source


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After their 1997 debut of all free improvisations, "Train to Tourmaline," the duo took their empathic approach to realtime composition on the road for a series of six concerts, that featured a stage full of different instruments...

Michael Smolens - piano, voice, spoken word, West-African balafon, bongos, cymbals
Sheldon Brown - soprano and tenor saxophones, clarinet, drum set

When Sheldon was in my "Kriya Sextet" (now an Octet) from 1981 to 1991, we would always do a ballad or waltz to change the pace in the first set, and a free improvisation in the second. My producer at the time said to me after a Yoshi's performance, "You know, your duos with Sheldon don't get the loudest applause, just the longest. Think about it." ("Yoshi's Jazz House is the West Coast's premiere jazz concert venue.)

What's funny is that because of the number of instruments we used --18 in all--it actually took longer to set-up than one of my bigger groups! The whole stage was just filled with instruments, and all of the mics used to record the concerts as well. (All of these mics and stands create some very intriguing 'scaffolding' which appear in the CD photos).The only structure we used was to determine the order and combination of instruments (or voice) and to throw in a couple of 'tunes' for contrast from all of the free improvisations. The fact that Sheldon Brown, known primarily for his great sax and bass clarinet playing, is also a very good drummer gave us tremendous flexibility as a duo.

The truth is that our "free improvisations" often sound more like tunes than one might expect. I think my exposure to and study with Art Lande was a huge influence, in addition to Sheldon and I both being experienced jazz composers who embrace many musical influences, some from different cultures. Basically, use structure to help tell stories for the listener. For us, free improvisation is literally "free" to be whatever the moment calls for, no matter how inside or outside, familiar or unpredicable. (My exposure to and study with Art Lande was a huge influence.) One fan described us as "a couple who just kept thinking the same thoughts, nearly at the same time."

And the 'vibe' of the audience was very important to us, more than would be the case if we just playing all jazz tunes. In fact, at every concert I would create a spoken word piece based on an audience suggestion; there are examples of this in Volume II and III. (An outrageous improv about a priest with a prosthetic arm almost made into the last volume, while a twisted hommage to Cindy Crawford can be heard on Volume II).

BTW: My favorite cut of all three Live Volumes, is "Reindeer Games", it has a huge arching form, yet still develops patiently. Enjoy!


"Rooted in the modern jazz of the late '60s, their music boasts the eclecticism and expansiveness of the spacious ECM sound of the '70s, but their classical as well as West African, Irish, and North Indian influences put their freely improvised duets in original realms beyond any identifiable genres."
—Derk Richardson "Critics' Choice" from East Bay Express


All compositions copyright ©2002-2004 Michael Smolens and Sheldon Brown, except
"Think of One" by Thelonius Monk (Thelonius Music Corp.)
arranged by M. Smolens and S. Brown,
"Moose the Mooche" by Charlie Parker (Atlantic Music) arranged b
y M. Smolens,
"Water From Another Source" spontaneously composed
by vibraphonist Gerry Grosz.
©2002-2004 Second Sight Music.