BDR has its roots in a series of marathon jam sessions. Pignato, a faculty member at the State University of New York, Oneonta, explains: “I was inspired by one of my teachers, Yusef Lateef, who held jam sessions with his students. I’d have students out to my cabin in the Catskills and we’d play for hours, all of it improvised. They had such singular voices, different references than I anticipated. I recorded all of it, often thinking it might become something.”
That “something” remained little more than an inkling until some 10 years later. Pignato relocated to the Albany area. Encouraged by recordings of the sessions, he decided to formulate a fixed incarnation of the group, reaching out to former students from the ensembles he directs at the college.
Although their time in Pignato’s groups proved excellent training for BDR’s particular brand of improvisation, the group stands apart from the members’ previous endeavors. Bassist Berman explains, “It’s like spontaneous, collective meditation. We get into a trance state and ideas just flow” Guitarist Westbrook adds, “we get to a different level, transcend our individuality.” MC Cully notes, “at its best, the music is an impossibly divided form of unity, with each participant as expressive as a soloist and supportive as a side-player. “ Guitarist Kemmlein echoes those sentiments, “with BDR, we imprint our individual identities on something collective, something that transcends each individual.” Palemen sums up, “You have to give in. There’s an interdependency to BDR. It feels more like we push each other to be vulnerable rather than jam or play tunes.”
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