Kelly Bucheger, alto & tenor saxophones
Tim Clarke, trumpet & flügelhorn
Michael McNeill, piano
Danny Ziemann, bass
Russ Algera, drums

Bruce Johnstone, baritone saxophone
(special guest on selected tracks)

Dharma Brats and Deep Ellum are the first two tracks from my new CD, House of Relics. (This is my second CD: my first was Chapter One, recorded in Minneapolis with The Illicit Sextet — see below). Relics reflects directions my music took after moving to Buffalo from Minneapolis in the ’90s. Influenced in part by the circle of players I found myself in, I tried to write tunes coming out of the hard bop tradition.

I describe my “agenda” in the liner notes:

This music is a response to the jazz genre hard bop. It’s my attempt to bring some of the features of that music — direct melodies, rhythmic and melodic hooks, and clear song forms, all informed by the blues — into my tunes. I’m not trying to compose hard bop tunes. Instead, I’m trying to explore “hard bop values” in my compositions, and seeing what happens....

I discuss on my blog Harder Bop how I think this music fits into Buffalo’s jazz scene:

Buffalo has always had a strong local jazz scene with its own distinct, no-nonsense vibe. Folks like Grover Washington, Mel Lewis, and drummer Frankie Dunlop, known for his work with Monk, came from here, and there’s even a regional school of muscular, tough-toned Italian-American saxophonists from Western & Central New York: Sal Nistico, Don Menza, Bobby Militello, Pat LaBarbera, and Sam Falzone, among others.

Today, younger players, often returning from academic jazz studies, and newcomers to Buffalo are bringing their own ideas and energy to the scene. House of Relics reflects these developments. Bassist Danny Ziemann, just finishing his undergrad studies at Eastman, and drummer Russ Algera represent the “youth vote” in the band, while the rest of us aren’t Buffalo natives: I’m from Minneapolis (I tell people I came here for the weather...), trumpeter Tim Clarke is from Oregon, pianist Michael McNeill from Rochester by way of Boston, and Bruce Johnstone, of course, hails from New Zealand!

Since more than half the band ain’t from around here, House of Relics is not, perhaps, an “indigenous” Buffalo record — but it IS emphatically a local record: it’s a document of the increasingly interesting and varied scene here.

I couldn’t be more proud of it, and I’m very happy to have it come out of this heart-on-its-sleeve city I love and call my home!

You can hear more from House of Relics at my Bandcamp site:

Kelly Bucheger, alto & tenor saxophones
Tim Clarke, trumpet
Michael McNeill, piano
(on The Other Side & The Other Other Side)
Mark Harris, bass, & Darryl Washington, drums
(on The Other Side)
Greg Pionek, bass, & John Bacon, drums
(on The Other Other Side)
John Werick, bass, & Joe Hochulski, drums
(on Say It Isn't So)

After moving to Buffalo from Minneapolis, I worked to form a group in the model of what I'd left behind with The Illicit Sextet: an ensemble focused exclusively on original jazz composition.

What Would Mingus Do? was the eventual result. I’m very proud of this group, and was surprised and honored when Buffalo Spree named it “The Best Local Music Act of 2013” — the first time a jazz group (and, in this case, a hardcore, take-no-prisoners jazz group!) was ever selected for that honor!

Unlike The Illicit Sextet, WWMD is a bit of a collective, drawing from some of the amazing players in the Western New York scene. As a result, the group can go in different directions, ranging from fairly straight-ahead, in-the-pocket hard bop to very free, punch-a-hole-in-the-damn-pocket outitude! It's one of the things I love about the group.

And that’s the reason I’ve made the seemingly perverse decision to feature two live performances of WWMD playing the same damn tune — but with two vastly different results!

The first is a “field recording” of the group performing outdoors this past summer at the Queen City Jazz Festival, on a large stage spanning Michigan Avenue in the shadow of the Colored Musicians Club, with trumpeter Tim Clarke, pianist Michael McNeill, bassist Mark Harris, and drummer Darryl Washington. Although the sound quality is merely okay — this was recorded on a cellphone by an enthusiastic audience member who contacted me after the gig and kindly sent it my way — it very much captures the energy and swinging vibe of the group.

The second recording was done a couple of months later, with Greg Piontek on bass and John Bacon on drums replacing Mark and Darryl, in the intimate setting of the Pausa Art House, and this is WWMD at its glorious “outest” — a 30-minute ramble through the tune that surveys some quirky, spiky, unexpected terrain.

Finally, the video below is an incarnation of the group from a few years back, during the period when we had a steady Monday gig at the Central Park Grill: no pianist here, but my good friend John Werick on bass, and Joe Hochulski off-camera but very apparent on drums! This is the group in swingin’, straight-ahead hard bop mode....

Kelly Bucheger, alto & tenor saxophones
Marc Cousins, bass (on the audio tracks)
John Werick, bass (on the YouTube)
Doug Dreishpoon, drums

These clips, from a long-running collaboration with percussionist Doug Dreishpoon and a varying cast of bassists called Other Side, are pulled from longer free improvisations where we “just played” — there was no previous discussion of what we were going to do, in terms of tempi or keys or “vibe” or whatever. I think there’s some really beautiful stuff here....

This group also plays in a more straight-ahead mode — here’ a video of a performance at the Just Buffalo Literary Center, playing (my hero!) Sonny Rollins’ tune Sonnymoon For Two:

Steve Kenny, trumpet
Kelly Bucheger, tenor saxophone
David Roos, guitar
Chris Lomheim, piano
Nathan Norman, drums

Chapter One (Kelly Bucheger)

This is the title track from my first CD, Chapter One, recorded with the group I co-founded and co-led in Minneapolis, The Illicit Sextet, and released in 1993.

This group was the model for my current group in Buffalo, What Would Mingus Do?

I have to say I’m a bit bemused to see that, at the time I’m coding this page, this out-of-print CD, which was well-received and highly-regarded in its day, can be bought used on Amazon for right around 50 bucks: