Thursday, July 26, 2007

Years after first album, Tree People rehearsals start anew

Poster of Stephen and Jeff, from early Tree People days, on the inside of Tiliqua Records "The Tree People" reissue CD

Some 30 years after our first rehearsals, Jeff (who now lives down the road in Lake Oswego from my house in Portland) and I have started rehearsing as The Tree People again, and, just as we did then, with plans to bring in Rachel (who now lives 100 miles away in Olympia) and a few guest Tree People in later. We have been starting with some of the original material from the Tree People albums we recorded in 1979 and 1984, and I have some new material for The Tree People which we will take apart and put back together in Tree People fashion soon. All of the original material takes on a life of its own each time we play it. It reminds us that the original albums documented a point in time for each piece, and that if we had recorded the same songs at another point in time those versions would be true, but new, with the improvised parts different on any different day.
The rehearsals, now as then, feature not a lot of talking, but concentrated playing and intense listening. Jeff still has a that great sense of melody and rhythm, that great ear, and that great ability to find just the right instrument or tone for each musical moment, using recorders, flute, hand drums, orchestra bells, cymbals and other percussion. And as we play I realize that there is still no one out there doing anything quite like Jeff is doing, and no one out there doing anything quite like we are doing as The Tree People.
I have so many years of performing, recording, and writing and composing behind me since the first albums. I have a better guitar and so much more experience in playing it. I recorded The Tree People albums with a road-tested, beat up old Gibson B25 acoustic and now I play a concert hall quality Martin acoustic with a deeper, brighter, richer tone. But in the end these Tree People reissues have reminded me it is not what kind of guitar you have, it is the life comes through it, and I am so grateful for the experience of playing music, then, now, and again and again.
I feel some good things coming, some new experiences for The Tree People, some new music, some festivals and concerts down the road. I can't wait to see what happens next!