In its short life so far, Filament (at the Vanderelli Room gallery in Franklinton) has brought Columbus a listening-room atmosphere unlike anywhere else. Bands local and far afield use that space for exercises in deep listening and unfettered improvisation. That trend continues when long-running duo TIN/BAG rolls in at 9 pm on Friday, July 13th ($5-10 donation suggested, BYOB). TIN/BAG is trumpeter Kris Tiner and guitarist Mike Baggetta. I spoke with Baggetta by phone before this week’s show. That interview is below, along with video and audio.
Mike Baggetta said, “It’s funny; for the entire length of this project, I’ve been East Coast and [Kris Tiner’s] been West. The two of us met in 2001 at the Kennedy Center in DC. We were both part of Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead, an education program run by the great Betty Carter. We hit it off, realizing we shared similar aesthetic interests and viewpoints
“Back then we collaborated by sending music through the mail – internet might have even been dial-up – and talked things over on the phone. It started quickly when Kris booked shows in California and we made our first recording in 2002 or 2003. We were just talking about coming up on the 15th anniversary of TIN/BAG. We’ve been developing that music ever since.”
Baggetta said, “I’ve never been in a project that lasted this long. The closest has been about half the time I’ve worked with Kris. But I’ve been a sideman with many people and I’ve been leader on a lot of records and so has he. Everything we’ve done has aided the evolution of this music.”
The duo – though Baggetta is quick to point out a tradition of guitar and trumpet duos in the music, from George Barnes and Ruby Braff to Ralph Towner and Paolo Fresu – staked out their own sonic territory through these winding developments. Comparisons to Bill Frisell’s pastoral flights of Americana are apt, but I also hear Satie and New Quartet Keith Jarrett and Carla Bley and ineffable qualities specific to these two voices.
Other critics agree. One of my favorite writers about the music, Jim Macnie, said, “They make small gestures extend their impact. Brass player Tiner uses mutes to amend his sound and string man Baggetta employs a variety of picking techniques to assure his sonic breadth. But the charm comes from the allure of a poetic sensibility. There’s lots of open space to digest the last smoky phrase or a recent exclamation point.”
About the unique compositional language of TIN/BAG, Baggetta said, “We both write specifically for the sonic and textural spaces of these two instruments. One of the most important things is we’re both conscious of what each voice creates. We’re both interested in extended technique; how far we can expand what we can do. People often think, ‘Oh, okay, the trumpet is handing the melody, and the guitar provides rhythm.’ But often I’ll seek a new way to approach the melody while he finds a rhythm part on the trumpet; we’re not trapped in roles.” Tracks like “Aurobindo” from 2011 album Bridges show off that swapping and shaking off preconceived roles with Bagetta’s guitar hanging notes in the air like stars with Tiner’s trumpet providing sparse rhythmic accents.
Alongside their originals that distill epic ideas into concise, razor-sharp packages, they also have a taste for covers. As Bagetta said, “Most of the time we spend together is on tour so there’s a lot of time in the car. That leads to covering old country and vocal pop standards – Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen. It’s an interesting challenge to work with this material that’s organized so differently from what we write.”
In the cover-song corners of their repertoire, they achieve a similar searching intelligence and respect for the song. Their version of Leonard Cohen’s “One of Us Cannot Be Wrong” in the video below, highlights the glowing melody but also hints at the dark, smirking humor of lyrics like “I showed my heart to the doctor and he said I’d just have to quit. Then he wrote himself a prescription and your name was mentioned in it.”
Mike Baggetta talked about looking forward to the tour and especially to playing Filament. “We made a record last year, and it’s coming out next year but we try not to let too much time go by without playing live. We’re looking forward to coming to Filament; I haven’t played the room yet but everything I’ve heard has been extremely positive. Places like that and people like [Gerard Cox] are very valuable. It’s important to create a space for people to check out things where they might not otherwise get an opportunity.”