Re-Breaking and Bending – Aaron Staebell, Brendan Lanighan, & Dave Chisholm

This Friday at 7pm, three jazz educators, Aaron Staebell on drums, Brendan Lanighan on trombone, and Dave Chisholm are taking the stage at Hochstein School of Music and Dance for a "Spotlight on Faculty" concert.

Re-Breaking and Bending – Aaron Staebell, Brendan Lanighan, & Dave Chisholm

This Friday at 7pm, three jazz composers and educators, Aaron Staebell on drums, Brendan Lanighan on trombone, and Dave Chisholm  are taking the stage at Hochstein School of Music and Dance for a “Spotlight on Faculty” concert. Each of these guys are playing with each other – along with Andrew Links on keyboard and Emiliano Lasansky on bass – performing their own compositions. Admission starts at $5, and you can find event details HERE. They were kind enough to send in to their thoughts on the project and their compositions.

More on Aaron Staebell HERE.


I’m excited for the opportunity to make music with these guys. Brendan and I go back to when he first moved to Rochester. We both grew up in Buffalo and there is a strong bond between any of these guys who have taken the Buffalo-Eastman path. I knew a lot of the guys he grew up admiring at his high school, and in a lot of ways, we are the same kind of person. We’ve played a little bit of duo together, and we have taught at Hochstein for the summer jazz program together for the last few years. He’s a very accommodating guy, and is a fantastic player and writer. He was the one who put this project together, honestly.

Dave and I used to be neighbors. When he came to audition at Eastman from Utah, I was part of the house band. He came in and played a tune, I think “Invitation,” and asked for “straight 8th groove but not latin…” and then kinda stumbled on how to better explain it. I knew exactly what he was looking for—this more kind of modern thing that we ended up play a lot of together—and it was pretty simpatico from there.

We stayed in touch via Facebook, and became friends through a mutual love for the show “Lost,” I think. When he decided to come to Eastman, my wife and I lived in a two-story, two apartment house, so I got Dave to move in downstairs from us. He still lives there, actually. It was a ton of fun, and I’m honored to have played in his group Calligraphy. We released an album a few years back and theres another KILLING record in the can somewhere that hopefully will see the light of day at some point too. He’s played on my record, was part of a bunch of my projects too. I hope he will talk about our band “Sid Bream!” It was one of my favorite experiences with him. He’s another just incredible player, writer, human being… He’s so easy to play with because I think we like a lot of the same music, and so we tend to have a better sense of telepathy than I do with other guys.

He’s playing more guitar and singing these days in his awesome band Talking Under Water, so it will be fun to hear him sling some trumpet on Friday. It will be great to play in Hochstein’s beautiful facility as well. My old piano trio “Abuelita” started on that stage. It will be a fun night. Andrew Links and the Emiliano are wonderful rhythm section mates too. Super creative and appropriately yielding. I’m excited!

The music I brought to this concert is mostly from my band’s – Bending and Breaking – songbook, and its personally interesting because theres one very old tune, one from kinda the “peak” of the group, and then one of the last things I wrote for the band too. 

“Optimism” actually wasn’t originally called that. It was called “Matthew McConaughy, Get In My Pants Right Now.” I used to subscribe to magazines like Details Magazine and Esquire, and there was a while when McConaughy was on the cover of every one. It was before he redeemed himself with “True Detective,” so he was just constantly playing the dumb guy with a great body. The original title was SURELY cynical, because I really loathe all of that celebrity-worship culture kind of stuff. Plus it was funny, and the whole vibe of most of my projects is serious, but not so serious.

I think that is a big problem with a lot of jazz today, and why it’s a turn off to people. It feels like one wrong move and you’re in big trouble! I just want to have fun playing and have listeners do the same. So I played this tune for a long time as it was originally titled, and then my good pal Brownman (great trumpet player from Toronto) said “you know man, the song is a lot better than the title,” and so I changed it to “Optimism,” which I guess is as appropriate for today’s world as it was back then. You can decide whether that statement is cynical or not!

“Whassup” is a fun song dedicated to former B+B saxophonist Wills McKenna. Wills was an amazing musician, but a true man-child when the instrument wasn’t in his mouth. There were a lot of super basic things about the world that he didn’t understand, and so many super uncomfortable moments at rehearsals where he just didn’t get what was going on. I love the guy, and he’ s come a long way. He used to always say “whassup,” long after it was cool, and completely without irony. The song has a funky vibe to it, but it has this cool effect, where when we improvise, it isn’t over the whole form of the tune, its over different “chunks,” so we play through a bit and then get stuck on one bar and repeat it and a solo evolves from that. Then we move on, and the same thing happens a bit later, an idea I semi-stole from John Hollenbeck’s tune “No D.”

“Peace Bridge” is something I wrote for a collaboration I did with my good friend, composer Jennifer Bellor. She wanted to put on a concert where we wrote music and then had dancers choreograph routines that we could perform live. This was debuted at the Rochester Fringe Festival a few years back, and I later turned it into a piece for percussion quartet—you can find it on Youtube or on my website The Peace Bridge is the quickest way to get to Canada from Buffalo, and it isn’t nearly as beautiful as its name lets on. I do like the double meaning, that we can reach out to others, especially in our current political climate, and offer a bridge of peace to them through our words and actions.

It’s the same idea that Nai Palm from Hiatus Kaiyote talks about in their song “Building a Ladder” where she says “building a ladder of love to you, and I hope that love, you can build one too.” I guess as I get older, I am trying to take a stand a bit more in my music rather than just write funny songs. But on the other hand, my band Normal People is working on a set of music that is 100% Disney songs, so I haven’t lost my tongue-in-cheekness completely!

More on Brendan Lanighan HERE.


My two contributions to this concert are called, “All Day Breck-fest” and “This Is the Year.” The first tune is a blues inspired by the great saxophonist, Michael Brecker. The pun, “Breck-fest,” actually comes from a scenario I was in one time at a highway rest stop.

I was at a Tim Horton’s trying to order one of those Bagel B.E.L.T.’s (I just was in the moment and had a craving…). The lady said they didn’t serve breakfast after 4pm (or something like that), and I was really confused because Tim Horton’s, to me, is just a place where people should always be able to get breakfast-related items. I found that funny!

The other tune, “This Is the Year” is more like a mini suite. It’s a piece that consists of four vignettes, all portraying my take on the highs and lows of the Buffalo Bills of basically my whole lifetime. Each vignette is titled a different month. The vignettes try to depict the general morale of Bills fans during that particular month based on how the Bills are normally doing at that point in the season. I’m excited to see if it comes across!

More on Dave Chisholm HERE.


Both of my pieces for this concert are from my upcoming release Instrumental. Instrumental is a 200-page graphic novel tentatively set for May 2017 release. I wrote and drew the book and it will come packaged with a “soundtrack” of sorts. We’ll be playing the music from the 5th chapter, titled “Paranoia,” and the final chapter, titled “Best of Luck.”

“Paranoia” is pretty dark and harmonically dense, with some cook metric weirdness throughout. It takes place as the graphic novel approaches its darkest spots, ramping up the energy right up to the end.

“Best of Luck” is a lyrical piece that also toys around with meter in a subtle way. Harmonically, this piece stays pretty simple!

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