Ten-piece Lubbock hits stage for first time in over a year
Adam Hopkins returns to Baltimore this week for a rare appearance of Lubbock, the ten-piece ensemble he co-founded with trumpeter Dave Ballou in 2010. Lubbock plays at the Windup Space July 10 with a pair of New York acts, the trio You Too and the duo Blister. It is Lubbock’s first appearance in more than a year.
Before he moved to New York in 2011 Hopkins, the bassist who co-founded the Out of Your Head improvised music collaborative with Matt Frazão in 2009, says he and Ballou discussed writing for a large ensemble. Lubbock grew out of that conversation. “We came up with this idea for a seven-horn band plus rhythm section,” Hopkins says by phone. “We basically picked the people we wanted to do it with, not so much the instrumentation.”
The resulting ensemble features some familiar players from Baltimore’s out music community: Cam Collins,
John Dierker, Colin Renick, and Eric Trudel on reeds, trumpeter Brent Madsen, trombonist Jim McFalls, and workhorses Chris Pumphrey on piano and Nathan Ellman-Bell on drums, in addition to Ballou and Hopkins.
“Everybody was super into it and we wrote some hard music,” Hopkins says, noting that he, Ballou, and members of the group composed pieces for the unit. “We used to rehearse in Towson once a month just to get through the stuff. We couldn’t even play it for about four months when we started. And it ended up being a pretty awesome thing just to have those ten people in the same a room.”
The group played a few shows in 2010 and recorded an album. Of course, the great thing about a ten-piece ensemble is also the biggest problem—coordinating the schedules of ten people. These days, four of them live in New York, the remaining six in Baltimore. “It’s such a rarity to have all ten people together,” Hopkins says. “And the realistic side of it is the band plays twice at year, most. So we decided that if we ever wanted to play, if we could get nine of us together we would do it and we would sub one spot if we had to.” (Saxophonist Collins is currently on tour, so You Too’s Nathaniel Morgan is sitting in with Lubbock for the evening.)
Hopkins is also hoping to release the album the group recorded in 2010 sometime this year and, ideally, bring the group up to New York for a gig. “The decision I think everybody’s facing right now is, Do you press CDs or do release it digitally?” he says. “I would be all behind pressing CDs if it was a band that was touring or a band that was playing once a month, but to press CDs to sell at shows every six months or once a year doesn’t seem to be that reasonable. Maybe we’ll do a short run of it and release it digitally. We’ll see what happens.”
These ears haven’t heard any of the album’s tracks, but the seven cuts posted on Lubbock’s bandcamp page showcase an ensemble enjoying the muscular oomph of a seven-piece horn section. Just as jazz orchestras can make a tune seriously swing through sheer lung power, Lubbock hits with the same kind of intensity. And with Ellman-Bell, Hopkins, and Pumphrey steering the rhythm section, Lubbock rides hard and heavy beats, which puts a shifting base under the horns’ angular runs. Tracks like “The High/Low” and “Haymaker” hit like a mix of Anthony Braxton dizzying reeds work wrapped around a Weather Report-ish power groove.
But, like, what’s up with the band’s name? Hopkins immediately starts laughing. “I don’t know if you know this sitcom from the 1980s, a spinoff of Growing Pains called Just the Ten of Us,” he says. “The family name was Lubbock and it was a ten-person band. So it’s a bit of a buried joke that nobody understands.”