NUBLU ORCHESTRA conducted by BUTCH MORRIS The question is simple, but the answer is an enigma. “What is Nublu?” If you can extract a response out of anyone who has anything to do with the club and label on Avenue C, it’ll be a vague one. Nublu is a force that exists seemingly without definition. One night Forro in the Dark is banging out hard-charging Brazilian folk music, and two nights later I Led Three Lives is entrancing the crowd with near-psychedelic tech-jazz. The tie that binds it all together is intangible and unnamable. But if there is any promise of an answer, the Nublu Orchestra Conducted by Butch Morris holds the key to its unlocking.
The Nublu Orchestra is assembled from the multifaceted range of musicians that call Nublu home. Band-members from Brazilian Girls, Wax Poetic, Kudu, Forro in the Dark, I Led Three Lives, and Love Trio and regular Nublu guests Graham Haynes and Eddie Henderson all sit under the baton of Butch Morris, the inventor of Conduction®.
Conduction is Morris’ vocabulary of ideographic signs and gestures activated to modify or construct a real-time musical arrangement or composition. An outstretched hand with an upward facing palm is a command to sustain. Fast, forward strikes of the baton are directives to make staccato sounds. There are a number of signals in his conductive language, and each one can be used to instigate or manipulate musicians’ harmonies, melodies, rhythms, articulations, phrasings or forms that make up the spontaneous compositions.
Morris, who began his career as a free jazz cornet player and composer of notated music, invented Conduction twenty-one years ago as a means to unite musicians regardless of their technical, theoretical, stylistic or cultural differences. Since its inception, Butch has conducted over 5,000 musicians in twenty-two different countries. Now, with the Nublu Orchestra, it’s almost as if a composite of all those nations and players have come together.
“Conduction is contingent on social and cultural structures but is not limited to or dependent on style or category,” Morris says, as he begins to explain his relationship to the Nublu Orchestra. “Musicians, no matter what their musical background, under the baton of Conduction play whatever it is that they play best. They give it to me and I reshape it. Nublu Orchestra is made up of, but not limited to, musicians from many different camps: jazz, funk, pop, fusion, Brazilian, R&B, classical… but the music we make is none of these… If Nublu means anything it means “inclusive nature” (rather than exclusive). It means we will find the center of balance and cosmology no matter whom is in the band… Nublu reflects the music and the music reflects Nublu. It’s a total encounter in the moment.”
The moment of which Morris speaks sheds light on that simple “What is Nublu?” question. The Nublu Orchestra’s music is an amalgamation of sounds from free jazz to techno just as the club and label’s sound as a whole is the same. When the swirling sounds of blowing wind and horns give way to an almost punk-funky bass line on ‘Sketches of NYC’, the common thread of Nublu begins to show its face; and as a free jazz horn line contorts around a solid four on the floor beat (complete with a disco high hat) in ‘We Are The Ones’, it starts to make sense how a club responsible for releasing an electro-pop record could host a steel guitar player every Sunday night without batting an eye.
While Butch Morris is the point to which all styles rush in the midst of the Nublu Orchestra, the club itself is at the heart of all the Nublu bands. Just as Morris directs and uses the improvisations of individual musicians, so the club subtly influences the bands’ outputs, developing a common thread in the midst of one of the most diverse musical communities that has ever been.
The Nublu Orchestra is:Butch Morris (conduction), Ilhan Ersahin, Jesse Murphy, Aaron Johnston, Mauro Refosco, Sabina Sciubba, Sylvia Gordon, Chantal Ughi, Kenny Wollesen, Graham Haynes, Eddie Henderson, Jochen Rueckert,Doug Wieselman, Jonathan Haffner, Kirk Knuffke, Didi Gutman, Zeke Zima, Michael Kiaer, Daniel Jodocy.