Great times in Montreal

Well we’re on our way across Ontario to WAWA, halfway between Montreal and Winnipeg.  Today we got up at 5 AM and embarked, looking something like this:

However, before this somewhat unpleasent 2-fifteen-hour-day episode, we had some great times in Montreal.  We stayed in a bizarre hotel on an otherwise uninhabited island some distance from downtown, but it was cheap and nice enough.  We even had a lengthy and extremely productive rehearsal in a conference room, and have produced, for your viewing pleasure, a little taste of what we’re up to: the melody of Chad’s brand new tune “MOOSE WARRIOR”, named after our trusty tour van:

We had a day off in Montreal on Friday, after traveling from Ottawa, and had some great times in the city, and then played a fun gig last night with Julie Themens’ band.  Julie is a great pianist who was also at Banff last year, and we split the bill at a little place called Bistro in Vivo in Eastern Montreal, in a 100% Francophone neighborhood, which was cool and also another nice change of vibe.  The audience was extremely appreciative and attentive, and Julie’s band played a great set too.  We’re blasting through Ontario here, and looking forward to our busy week of shows in Central and Western Canada.  Here are some photos from our times in Motreal:

On to Quebec!

So, the tour is nicely underway here…yesterday we left Toronto and were plagued by ruthless traffic and construction and finally made it to Ottawa just in time to load in to Cafe Paradiso, a fine little venue in Ottawa’s pleasant and very relaxed downtown.  They served us a fantastic meal and we even had time to take a walk down the street to the Parlaiment buildings!

We had a nice gig, it was much more subdued than our raucous Rex set, and made for an interesting contrast.  One of the nice things about the scheduling on this tour is the wide variety of venue size and type, and the various ways we adapt to the circumstances.

The weather so far has been exemplary, perfectly warm and sunny, and Ottawa was especially beautiful.  Here’s a few pics (including some of the full band, for a change).  Today we’re moving along to Montreal for a nice day off and then a gig tomorrow night before we begin our epic trek westward!

Onward to Ottawa!

So, after a year in the works, we got off to a smashing start last night at the Rex in Toronto!  It’s a fantastic room and it was completely full for almost the entire evening!  After learning an amazing amount of really hard music in a really short period of time, we were all reminded again how great of a band this is when we pulled it off with lots of energy and gusto.  We also met up with Mark and Heather Segger, both great musicians who were at Banff with us.  The connections never end!  A great start to the tour.

Today we’re heading up to Ottawa to play at Cafe Paradiso.  It will be a smaller room but we’ve heard great things about it and are looking forward to starting our voyage.  Time to pack up MOOSE WARRIOR (which, incidentally, now has a tune by Chad named after it) and hit the road.

Here are a few pictures from last night…

10-Hour Rehearsal!

Well after not having played together for a year, we’ve more or less prepared 14 tunes, almost all of which are brand new, just for this band!  Everyone came through with great new compositions and we’re really excited to play them all month, especially tomorrow night at our kickoff show at the Rex!

Today we had 12 nearly straight hours of rehearsal, which was really intense.  It was really reminiscent of  Banff, in vibe and in quality of musicianship!  Here’s a few photos, we’ll keep you posted with gig details and more tomorrow!  Cheers from Toronto!

Ben and Chad awaken and immediately start taping charts together

Brian and Pinkie

Chad and Ben take a break after the 5th hour…

Yeah, rhythm section!

Tired band at the end of the day!

Arrival in Toronto!

So, after many more hours of driving, Andrew and Chad have finally arrived in Toronto!  We are just awaiting the arrival of Tyson’s MEGA-BUS from New York, and then the band will be complete for the first time in a year, actually a year to the day as this year’s Banff workshop is starting up right now!

Chad and I had a great time in Chicago yesterday, hanging out with the very generous Geof Bradfield, who graciously let us stay at his house (he is a fantastic tenor player on the scene there), and visiting with my friend Mike as well.  We even went up the Hancock Tower to have a drink and look at the amazing view:

Wow, what a great city.  Anyway, we continued onward and upward through Indiana (where we got a nail removed from our tire) and Michigan (right near the childhood home of my mother, in fact) and across the border to Toronto (see photo of bridge above)!  It’s fantastic to be here and finally meet up with everyone, and we’ll be starting to rehearse tomorrow.  Meanwhile, here are a couple more pictures from our drive for your enjoyment.  See you all soon!

Entering Civility

Through a windshield covered with the remains of insects that were once at least the size of a grapefruit, Andrew and Chad continue to watch the world go by at a relatively average speed. Things are looking up as we near civilization. The soil is obviously much more fertile, and sports cars are once again appearing on the hi-way. Breakfast at the hotel in Sioux Falls featured much improved eaves-dropping (telling family members that the key to their health problems was to loose “some of that damn weight” and so on).

While loading all of the gear back into MOOSE WARRIOR we rode the elevator down with the cleaning staff. One of them fell asleep during the brief three-floor elevator ride, and when the elevator made a loud banging noise she woke up and screamed “Oh god, I hate this elevator!” Simply stunning. We hope this happens daily.

We crossed the Missippi River on our trusty steed, and now are in Wisconson – looking forward to our first day in which a larger percentage of our day is spent not moving in a van down the interstate. Cheese, Spam, and many silos and barns are everywhere here.

UPDATE: After a very pleasant afternoon and evening in Madison eating fried cheese curds and hanging out with Kevin, we are about to embark on the very short (!) 2-hour drive to Chicago.  More soon!

Andrew and Chad Drive A Lot

Hello all!  Chad and Andrew here, driving past Montana exit 396 – “Ranch Access” in our huge and thankfully red (i.e. not white) van, “MOOSE WARRIOR!”.  After taking 3 months off our lives dealing with commercial auto insurance (NOT RECOMMENDED), we are finally safely and legally underway!

Yesterday we left Portland at the unfortunately late hour of 11 after picking up the van and proceeded with great haste and vigor to Spokane without stopping once!  Somewhat dehydrated, we bought lots of gas and continued valiantly on I-90 through Idaho [picture] to Missoula, Montana, where upon stopping at Burger King at 9 pm, we discovered that we still had 200 miles to our hotel in Bozeman.

Nonetheless, we powered through to the “Wynard by Wyndham” or whatever, Chad likes to Priceline good hotels, which is much appreciated, and passed out righteously.  Upon awakening, we were educated in the ways of sniper rifles and defending oneself in a hostage situation thanks to a nearby casual conversation at breakfast.  Yes, we are far from the Pacific Northwest!

This morning we stopped at Target to get (yes this is nerdy) travel mug – French presses to fufill our Northwest stereotype of being coffee snobs (and after Chad broke the glass French Press we brought with us on the first day).

Now we’re moving pleasently along, looking at the Rockies, and preparing to merge onto another highway (always exciting).  We expect to arrive in Sioux Falls, SD around 10 PM tonight, then onward to Madison, WI tomorrow, where we will take it easy on the massive drives and instead hang out with my old college roommate!

Onward and upward, MOOSE WARRIOR!

UPDATE:  We arrived safe and sound in Sioux Falls, where everyone is pleasant and the hamburgers are made with local beef!  Huzzah.

Earshot Magazine Feature!

Seattle’s Earshot Magazine will be running a featured article on us in next month’s issue.  We’ve just received the story from the author and were very excited upon reading it, so we thought we’d post it here!  Enjoy and don’t forget that our tour is only a month away!  Check the “Performances” page for our show in your city, and we’re still searching for more Toonies over on the “Donate” page if you wish to help us out.  See you all soon!

Earshot Magazine

15 April 2010

Tunnel Six Preview
by Nathan Bluford

Tunnel Six’s formation was as intuitive as the music that resulted. While studying at the 2009 Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music in Alberta, Canada, the sextet met by chance, proposed a jam session on a whim, decided to create a group and before anyone could think twice had recorded a premier EP. The group’s upcoming rehearsals and subsequent tour of the United States and Canada will the first time that Chad McCullough (trumpet), Ben Dietschi (tenor and soprano saxophone), Brian Seligman (guitar), Andrew Oliver (piano), Ron Hynes (double bass), and Tyson Stubelek (drums) have all played together since finishing their first recording, but they have no reservations over whether their chemistry will do anything other than improve.

The six musicians hail from a range of cities in US and Canada, and despite their bond as a group are currently based out of cities scattered along the border between the two countries, hence their not having played together since the sessions for their EP. When their tour begins with its first date in Toronto, audience members will be witnessing the culmination of a year’s worth of Skype conferences, meticulous logistical planning, and utter faith in a musical connection that became quite thick in just a couple weeks. In an art form that generally relies on practitioners’ experience with and knowledge of each other’s musical presence, it’s exciting to see a group forgoing the conventional wisdom and asserting their mutual strengths over the impediments that separation imposes.

Playing in this band has been a new experience for its members in many ways besides their unusual meeting, however. Each musician is of course involved in multiple other projects, including one based out of Seattle called the Kora Band, which is led by Oliver, features McCullough, and infuses jazz with West African styles. McCullough explains that, although each of the groups he plays in is a unique experience, Tunnel Six is “much more of a collective group thing.” The leader-less mindset that can be heard in the music is reflected in the intra-band interactions. When they met at the Banff Workshop, different members brought independently written compositions to the table, which they then processed through various suggestions and alterations from the rest of the group before reaching the versions that were recorded.

The level of interplay that the group achieved in a very short amount of time is remarkable and easily recognized when listening their self-titled EP, which is available for online listening at The relatively straightforward and appealing themes that their compositions begin with almost instantly boil into expansive improvisational passages, where the rhythm section provides the lead players with a palette that expands and contracts according to a given solo’s flow. Stubelek will allow a solid beat to fracture into an ecstatic series of fills in reaction to a single note played by McCullough or Dietschi, but wait for their lines to build enough momentum before swinging back into the central rhythm. Nothing is certain or predictable: if the solo doesn’t require a straight beat then Stubelek will wait until the time is right.

Stubelek is far from being the only member who shows such astute patience. Oliver’s piano solos search for the best way to reach a looming climax at a drifting, secure pace, allowing his hands to switch roles as necessary to exploring the different routes that lay before him. Seligman and Hynes contribute silky, subtle accents and depth to the finished sound, tying the group’s personality together. Seligman alternates between glossy leads and decorative backgrounds in order to stealthily integrate Tunnel Six’s sole electric voice. Hynes’ solo on their recording of “With Without” is controlled and sturdy, utilizing an experienced sense of restraint to pick just the right phrases.

McCullough and Dietschi play confident, varied solos, and are just as comfortable playing supporting lines for each other or their other band mates as they are in the spotlight. As McCullough describes playing with Dietschi, “There’s only been one person that I played with other than Ben where it felt like he was right there with me, really listening. We can make it sound like one horn.” The tune “Not Yet” showcases this connection, as McCullough and Dietschi play a finely interwoven dual solo accompanied by Seligman and Oliver’s energetic and provocative interjections, culminating in a moment of shared intensity before taking a sigh of relief and fading back into the main theme.

Beyond the music itself, this project has allowed the sextet to reach a new level of maturity as professional artists. McCullough notes that neither he nor anyone else in the band has ever written grant proposals, planned and organized their own large-scale tour, or handled their own management to the degree that they do now. “It’s a big step for the whole band,” he says. “For me, this shows that if you put in a lot of time and hard work, it’ll really pay off. We’re all getting our names out there, people are going to be paying attention.”

Despite the short amount of time that they have spent playing together, Tunnel Six’s sound has already won over a sizeable number of fans in the right places: grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Regional Arts & Culture Council will be helping to finance the tour as well as the album that the group will be recording once their cross-continental trip is over. The future from there is unplanned, but McCullough is optimistic and enthusiastic about the possibility of another tour of equal or lesser size, along with another album. For the time being, the anticipation over reuniting with his fellow musicians and observing how they’ve grown over the past year, before displaying that level of growth for audiences in no less than thirteen cities, provides more than enough excitement.

Toonie for Tunnel Six!

We’re gearing up for our tour, it’s only a month away, woah! It’s hard to believe it’s actually going to happen after so many months of planning. We’ve crunched all the numbers, as it were, and even with the support of the Canada Council and RACC, we’re a bit short. Therefore, we’re launching a “Toonie for Tunnel Six” campaign.  The Americans in the band think this is really funny (seriously, currency called a “Toonie”?!), and the Canadians are coming around to realize the absurdity of the name as well.*

So, we’ve created a “Donate” page with more information.  Each Toonie will move us 15 km (9.32 miles) farther down the road, with the goal of course to cover our tour itinerary from Toronto to Portland, OR.  So, have a look and drop a virtual toonie in the virtual hat!  We promise to keep you amused throughout the tour on this site and our Facebook Page as well as putting on a great show in your city.  So, click on over and help us out, we really appreciate it, and we’re looking forward to seeing everyone on the road!

*ah, the advantage of one of the American band members running the website becomes clear….

Banff Centre Session

Well, things are chugging along here nicely in preparation for our upcoming tour.  We’ve got the itinerary nailed down, have reserved a van and even bought ferry tickets for the B.C. dates!  We’ve set up a facebook page for ourselves here where you can keep up with us too.

Meanwhile we thought we’d post some pictures from the recording session of the E.P. at the Banff Centre.  It was recorded at their fine TELUS studio, and you can hear (over to the right) how great of a sound they got in there.  Thanks to the engineers and recording program faculty for that!

Stay tuned, more news and fun stuff is on the way very soon.  Meanwhile take a look at the “Performances” page and mark your calendars!