In their first Manhattan meeting since January, pianist Andy Milne, bassist John Hébert and drummer Clarence Penn reconvened in the piano salon of Yamaha Artist Services.
I had gotten the call a few weeks before to serve as the host for this virtual concert taping. And as much of the artistic community remains in limbo, I couldn’t stop thinking about how glad I was to be one of the fortunate few in the room to witness this musical reunion. Because of the pandemic, I was in the midst of the longest live-music draught that I’d ever been in. The day of this show, Aug. 18th, was the first time I’d even driven into Manhattan since early March.
After meeting with the band, our crew and the few folks at Yamaha, I sat on a new piano bench near the rear of the room. Not only was social distancing on my mind, but I wanted to be able to take in the full sounds of the group and the room itself. I’d been there before at an industry event. The room was full then, uncomfortably packed, and the people were buzzing around — many of them almost oblivious to the musical sounds that should have commanded their attention.
By contrast, nothing would be taken for granted during this visit. Playing tunes from their 2020 Sunnyside release The reMISSION, Milne, Hebert and Penn were reconnecting in a personal way. We’d all decided that my interview with Andy would be after their set and spliced into the video later. It was about the musicians picking up from where they had left off and reestablishing their connection.
After all, the music was the reason we were all there. It was about remembering what a privilege it is to experience music created in the moment. It was about choosing to celebrate life through challenges and adversity. Artists and arts organizations need our support right now, as well as our attention. I hope you'll watch Andy Milne and Unison and have some of those same feelings of enjoyment and gratitude.
Audio Engineered by Aaron Ross (Yamaha)
Videography by Chris Tobin (WBGO)
Edited by Corey Goldberg (WBGO)
Session Produced by John Newcott (WBGO)
Special Thanks to: Bonnie Barrett, Hilary Jansen, Makia Matsumura (Yamaha) Simon Rentner & Steve Williams (WBGO)