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Mark McGrain & PLUNGE - “IN for the OUT”

(Immersion Records & Media 2015, IRM1501CD)

 

Composer's Notes

 

 
 

The 15 compositions, collectively entitled: “IN for the OUT,” form an expressionistic jazz and improvisational song cycle.  These songs address various stages in the emotional transformation that occurs when the veil of immortality is abruptly lifted and the shared human reality of an inescapable terminus is suddenly and plainly revealed.  “In for the out” is a phrase my old friend Fred Goodrich would use as we set up shows together back (way back) in the day.  It simply means, “to enter and assemble with the inevitable disassembly and exit in mind.”  This song cycle is inspired by and modeled after the life of my brother Tim McGrain who left us in 2014 of complications from a long battle with muscular dystrophy.  I’ve tried to project the frustrations and deep reflections—experiencing—that Tim went through during his life after being diagnosed; but also the learning, teaching, celebration, and joy—sharing—that carried him through to the end.  What I learned from observing my brother as he struggled and conquered trial after pitfall was that it is the experience of life and love that we share that matters most regardless of all other perturbations and assaults.  I inscribe on the back of the album cover: “Beauty dusts these tracks we share; carrying us onward, in for the out.”  In other words, the grace is found in the journey we share and how we play it to the end.  Beauty abounds and love prevails when we reveal ourselves as mere travelers on a path together.

The album opens with “The Jilt(track 1 - trombone, organ, sousaphone, drums), an odd measured, tripped-up stumble over the threshold of indisputable fact.  It’s the slap against the cheek; the ice hitting the spine.  It’s the crash we didn’t see coming; that moment when we come face to face with our own mortality and it both startles and scares us. 

Monkey Mitts (track 2 – trombone, organ, sousaphone, drums) is a reference to a comment my brother Tim once made during a conversation we had concerning the chaos and apparent incompetence on the part of government in the early days after the federal flood of 2005.  Tim explained that after all, “monkeys are flying the plane.”  This song is about the maniacal hand of fate; the trickster’s prank; demons at play and ultimately about blame—denial, and anger.  It’s always those pesky monkeys, right?

The next track, “Schoolie’s Day(track 3 – trombone, tenor sax, organ, sousaphone, drums) is about understanding; the process of gaining the knowledge and wisdom to see, as clearly as possible, what’s ahead.  The next song, “Falling With Grace(track 4 – solo trombone) is about calmly accepting that which will unfailingly come to pass.

With “The Speed of Darkness(track 5 – trombone, tenor sax, baritone sax, organ, double bass, sousaphone, drums) I’ve tried to convey the sense of panic resulting from accelerating physical decay.  No matter how well prepared one may be, it seems nonetheless to be a shock when reality hits. 

I watched my brother from a time when he could walk nearly normally. Then, gradually he became awkward, soon clumsy, and eventually dependent upon a cane—two canes—braces.  He would fall and it was very difficult to get him back up again.  With his mobility so drastically hampered life was getting bleak from limitation.  Then came the wheelchair—a total game changer.  It made my brother a new man being able to cruise his neighborhood and take walks with friends--giving kids rides.  “Second Man Suit(track 6 – trombone, organ, double bass, sousaphone, drums) was composed with that transition in mind.

As Angels Roar(track 7 – trombone, saxello, tenor sax, double bass, drum) is an expression of the sense of injustice and the pain in recognizing the terminal truth of death. 

If “As Angels Roar” is the dark cloak of doom, Track 8, “Beyond the Night (trombone, tenor sax, baritone sax, double bass, drums), is the catharsis of believing in something more; that one’s legacy will outlive the decaying body—a good reason to push onward. 

 Track 9, “Exit Strategy(trombone, flute, baritone sax, double bass, drums with hands), is about planning one’s final campaign—tying up loose ends and defining what one stands for.  For my brother Tim, that meant standing up for the disparaged and disenfranchised. He recognized the non-abating trend of economic isolation between the world’s wealthy and it’s impoverished and he practiced empathy and unity.  Hence the title of track 10, “Hymn to the End of Rampant Disparity, Entropy Suite Part 1 (trombone, tenor sax, baritone sax, double bass, drums).

On track 11, “Bear and Eagle Meet Raven(trombone, double bass, drums) the native American totems representing knowledge and intelligence (Bear and Eagle were my brother’s totems) meet up with the mercurial trickster (again those pesky monkeys); end game, the dance of death.  The final blow is cast in track 12, “Too Weak to Exhale(alphorn, double bass, drums) as the body fails itself, unable to release the toxins of it’s own making.

With Love Alone(track 13 – trombone, saxello, tenor sax, double bass, drums) was composed for, and performed at my brother’s memorial.  It’s about release and the idea of ascension.  In this case a gentle release as the soul lets go.  It’s about growing wings.  This track features the late Tim Green on saxello. Tim passed away not long after this recording.  Though deeply missed, Tim’s ethereal voice and lithesome soul continue to inspire. 

“Birmingham Songo(track 14 – trombone, tenor sax, organ, sousaphone,) is a celebration of freedom gained and the legacy shared by one who brought so much joy to us in life..  As a final reminder, though, of the vastness of forever, “An Unspannable Divide (track 15 -- solo sousaphone) plays out the final echoes resounding, so long as our lore and ritual perpetuate them.

Mark McGrain, New Orleans 2015-03-23

 

 
 

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