Aaron Staebell
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Aaron Staebell

Rochester, New York, United States | SELF

Rochester, New York, United States | SELF
Band Jazz Avant-garde




"19.5 Questions with Aaron Staebell"

We’re just going to go ahead and keep the awesome train rolling here at KKBB. Welcome to the first addition of “19.5 Questions”, our little spin on the standard 20 questions. Once in a while we’ll pick someone we think is cool and pose them 19 queries. The 1/2 comes into play when we start a question, allow the interviewee to complete it, and then we answer it. A little weird I know, but we think it’s going to be sweet. For our first interview we’ve got Aaron Staebell, a Rochester based percussionist/composer who’s going to be rocking out at Java’s this Friday with his band Bending and Breaking. Be sure to get down there and check it out and peep the 19.5 Questions below…

KKBB: So you’re obviously an accomplished drummer/percussionist. Are there any other instruments you dabble in?

Aaron: I play piano well enough to write my music, and the melodica always tries to make appearances but it is heavily discriminated against.

KKBB: In your opinion, in a fight between a polar bear and a tiger, who comes out on top? For this hypothetical situation we’ll assume that the environment is a non-issue.

Aaron: Tiger. Look at the way he fought these affair allegations. Too soon?

KKBB: What’s your favorite scale mode?

Aaron: Someone did their research… Ionian when I want to sound nice, Phrygian when I want to be weird.

KKBB: What kind of kit do you have? Word on the street is you like to use non-standard objects as percussion instruments. Tell us more…

Aaron: I play Mapex, Gretsch and Yamaha at different times. Friday, probably Mapex. I also have suitcases filled with instruments, yes, instruments, such as plastic tubes, metal bowls, and bells. I am just trying to find the correct sound to fit the music and sometimes that sound isn’t found on a typical drum set.

KKBB: Who is your favorite Simpsons character?

Aaron: How can you say anything besides Homer here? Comic book guy rolls in at a close second for his sheer pathetic nature…. and Bleeding Gums Murphy did a lot to help us remember that jazz musicians don’t get health care.

KKBB: As an educator, what is the most common annoyance you have to deal with? Does it come from the students or faculty?

Aaron: The annoyance happens any time someone on either side doesn’t give 100%. We are so lucky to be able to do what we do in this country, where such a premium is put on getting educated. To not give your all is wasteful and frustrating. Plus it holds me back.

KKBB: Who did you see for your first concert?

Aaron: I went to the Philharmonic from a very early age, but my first ‘concert’ was 2 years ago when I saw Counting Crows. That night, Adam Duritz changed my idea of what a performer is.

KKBB: Obviously Java’s is at the top of the list but besides that, what’s your favorite venue to play in?

Aaron: I love playing at Eastman, where its more of a performance and less of a hang. My music is mainly to listen to, not background. I have had affairs with Boulder and Flat Iron Café. Currently looking for the next new place.

KKBB: Mac or PC?

Aaron: 13’’ Macbook with blue case, and iPhone 3GS.

KKBB: If we were asking you 19.5 questions, what would you want the 10th question to be?

Aaron: You meet your soul mate. However, there is a catch: Every three years, someone will break both of your soul mate’s collarbones with a Crescent wrench, and there is only one way you can stop this from happening: You must swallow a pill that will make every song you hear – for the rest of your life – sound as if it’s being performed by the band Alice in Chains. When you hear Creedence Clearwater Revival on the radio, it will sound (to your ears) like it’s being played by Alice in Chains. If you see Radiohead live, every one of the tunes will sound like it’s being covered by Alice in Chains. When you hear a commercial jingle on TV, it will sound like Alice in Chains; if you sing to yourself in the shower, your voice will sound like deceased Alice vocalist Layne Staley performing a capella (but it will only sound this way to you). Would you swallow the pill? (Note from Earl: I would totally swallow the pill. It would be an upgrade to almost anything on the radio…)

KKBB: Do you have a zombie contingency plan? If so, can you elaborate a bit for us? If not, why the hell not man?! SH*T IS GONNA GET REAL!!

Aaron: Do you really think I am stupid enough to put it up here? Where zombies can access it? Are you aware that zombies are a major design element for your company? You could be a zombie. I just wear them on my shirt and hope that they find a use for me. In other words, lay back and enjoy it? (Touché)

KKBB: Who is, in your opinion, the most overrated musician/band? Who is underrated?

Aaron: Man, can I just say that I feel like the industry is on its head? It seems as though the amount of thought and work that goes into a musical product is inversely proportional to the success and exposure that the group/musician gets. Its also true that the most fun gigs I play are the ones that pay the least, while the ones that make me want to stab my eardrums out are the ones that help pay the rent. Messed up.

KKBB: Do you think intelligent life exists beyond our planet?

Aaron: Sometimes I wonder if intelligent life exists ON our planet.

KKBB: Beverage of choice?

Aaron: Diet Pepsi all day.

KKBB: What’s your e-mail service of choice?

Aaron: Mac Mail, hosting Gmail 2x and an old school AOL account in case people from 7th grade want to reach me.

KKBB: If you could have infinite buy one get one frees of one coupon, what would it be?

Aaron: Chaplins from Java’s.

KKBB: What’s your favorite book?

Aaron: Catcher in the Rye.

KKBB: Do you think you can actually taste the love in home made cookies?

Aaron: I think you feel the love before you even taste it.

KKBB: What was your interpretation of the ending to No Country for Old Men?

Aaron: Oceanic Flight 815 will land safely, revealing that Locke is Javier Bardem, and he was never paralyzed in the first place. Time travel.

And for the 1/2 question we began with: If a monkey and a cowboy…

Aaron: …both start in Independence, Missouri in March, choosing to travel at a high rate of speed, only fording rivers and shooting buffalo at every opportunity to hunt, which one reaches Oregon with fewer family members dead of dysentery?

KKBB: It would seem to me that a family of monkeys would hold up better against the dysentery but I have doubts about their ability to manage a wagon/shoot guns accurately. So I’ll take the cowboy and his fam on this one. It’s close though…

And there you have it! Our first 19.5 Questions seems to be a friggin’ success. Make sure you get down to Java’s Friday for the Bending and Breaking Show and check out Aaron’s site here. ‘Til next time nerds… - www.KKBBapparel.com

"JAZZ: Bending and Breaking (9/3)"

By David Yockel Jr. on August 31, 2011

Bending and Breaking performs Saturday, September 3, 8 p.m. at the Bug Jar.

This five-piece jazz ensemble is a polished product of Rochester's own Eastman School of Music. Bending and Breaking sprinkles some chaotic muscle over an organized and composed skeleton. The band names influences as varied as Jay-Z and Bjork and proclaims that its music sounds like elephants in labor. The shows are fun, unpredictable, and exceedingly funny, with songs dedicated to people like Matthew McConaughey and evil ex-girlfriends. The band has translated this eclectic mix of stand-up comedy and sizzling jazz-fusion into a truly original sound with elements of folk, classical, and experimental pop. Come help the group celebrate the release of its new CD; it will be a sonic safari.

Bending and Breaking performs Saturday, September 3, 8 p.m. at the Bug Jar, 219 Monroe Ave. $5-$7. 454-2966, bugjar.com. - Rochester City Paper (David Yockel Jr)

"New on AccuJazz"

Friday, October 28, 2011
Now Playing on AccuJazz - 10/28/11
What's that? A new Now Playing post only a month after the last one? I'm trying to be a little more on top of new music additions, folks. Hopefully that means I'll finally get around to regularly updating the Staff Picks channel, too. Not yet, but soon.

This most recent crop of music has a couple of promising new releases by uber-creative drummer/composers: Oblique I by Tyshawn Sorey and What Is the Beautiful? by John Hollenbeck's long-running Claudia Quintet. There's also a big band album by everyone's first-call bass player, Christian McBride, and a disproportionately large batch of CDs coming from the under-30 crowd (what is it with all these CDs by youngsters lately?)

Most all of these titles are playing on the Main Channel and New Releases channel on AccuJazz.com; I've also listed the other AccuJazz channels on which you're most likely to hear each CD. Album titles are links to purchase on Amazon.
Aaron Staebell - Bending and Breaking (Self-Released)
New School, Cutting Edge, Emerging Voices, New York, Drummers - AccuJazz Radio Blog

"JAZZ: Tony Malaby"

By Ron Netsky on November 10, 2010

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Tony Malaby plays Sunday, November 14 at 8 p.m. at Rochester Contemporary. PHOTO PROVIDED
Tony Malaby is one of the most distinctive saxophonists on the scene today. An excellent straight-ahead player, he has gravitated to the more experimental side of jazz, exploring a wide vocabulary of instrumental sounds and compositional structures. Since moving to New York City in the mid-1990's, Malaby has lent his talents to Fred Hersch, Tim Berne, Charlie Haden's Liberation Orchestra, Paul Motian's Electric Bebop Band, and many other projects. As a leader he has nine albums and a growing following. When he plays at Rochester Contemporary he'll be joined by Ben Thomas on bass and Aaron Staebell, drums. Malaby also performs at Smith Opera House in Geneva Sunday at 2 p.m.

Tony Malaby plays Sunday, November 14 at 8 p.m. at Rochester Contemporary, 137 East Ave. $10. 461-2222 - Rochester City Paper

"Aaron Staebell | Bending and Breaking (2011)"

By BRUCE LINDSAY, Published: October 19, 2011

Bending And Breaking is percussionist and composer Aaron Staebell's debut as a bandleader; a debut filled with energy, enthusiasm, and invention, signaling the appearance of yet another talented newcomer on the scene.

As a composer, Staebell's work takes inspiration from and shares qualities with a wide range of styles and sources. "Nobody Reads Your Blog" has echoes of Frank Zappa; "Grumbleboxx" can trace a line back to heavy metal and to free jazz; "Thank You John" is dedicated to drummer John Hollenbeck, whose support led directly to this album's existence; and on "Ben Dover," dedicated to bassist Ben Thomas, there are clear echoes of British bands such as Led Bib and Polar Bear. The album's tour-de-force, the lovely ..." I Learn By Going Where I Have To Go," takes its title from Theodore Roethke's "The Waking." Staebell based the tune on various numbers of importance to his relationship with an ex-girlfriend, resulting in a complex, but beautiful and accessible tune.

On "April 4: Boston," Staebell's proves himself a player capable of some extremely hard-hitting drumming, but his inventiveness and flexibility ensure many moments of subtler percussion to be enjoyed as well, such as on the exquisitely pretty opening section of "Nathaniel Hill."

Staebell's band mates, all from the Eastman School of Music, meet the challenge of his compositions with flair. Thomas, in particular, deserves credit for matching Staebell's power—he's an equally tough and emphatic player, keeping control of the rhythm and never becoming overwhelmed even when the drummer is in his finest earthmoving form. Keyboardist Chris Ziemba is another confident musician, punching out strident rhythms, and contributing delicate, single-note runs. Trumpeter Dave Chisholm—who released his own excellent self-produced debut, Radioactive, in 2010—and tenor saxophonist Wills McKenna are both fluid players with clear tones that glide happily over the sounds emanating from the band's more percussive instruments.

As well as musical ability, Bending And Breaking demonstrates Staebell's welcome sense of humor. It's in his sleeve notes (although the tiny font size makes them hard to read), and in titles like "Nobody Reads Your Blog." It's also in the music, such as the jaunty fairground organ that suddenly appears midway through "Grumbleboxx." Surprises like that give Bending And Breaking added spark, and make Staebell's emerging presence doubly welcome.

Track Listing: Grumbleboxx; Nathaniel Hill; Thank You John; Ben Dover; ...I Learn By Going Where I Have To Go; April 4: Boston; Lay Down Your Burden; Klooge; Promise; Nobody Reads Your Blog.

Personnel: Aaron Staebell: drums, percussion; Dave Chisholm: trumpet; Wills McKenna: tenor saxophone; Chris Ziemba: piano, keyboards; Ben Thomas: bass.

Record Label: Self Produced | Style: Free Improv/Avant-Garde - Allaboutjazz.com (Bruce Lindsay)


2011: Bending and Breaking
(can be found on iTunes, CD Baby, accujazz.com, LastFM, eMusic and more)



Drummer/composer Aaron Staebell has a blend of many influences that has trouble fitting into any category. His new album has elements of jazz, brought about by his conservatory training at the Eastman School of Music, but also has been influenced by growing up in the 80's and 90's. The compositions reference the music of Rufus Wainwright, Bjork and Stevie Wonder as much (if not more) as they reference any historical jazz. The music is inspired by today's jazz greats like John Hollenbeck, Dave Douglas and Kneebody. It brings detailed composition and exploratory improvisation together to create a music that is surprising, intriguing and exciting.

Staebell's drumming is the backbone to each tune. His undulating grooves, bombarding fills and free-flowing crashes lead the way as the band navigates through the multi-layered compositions. He is joined by four highly creative musicians, all of whom were classmates at Eastman. Chris Ziemba operates the piano and keyboard with keen precision, and acts as the band's catalyst, prodding the soloist and painting the textural backdrop for each piece. He has been featured on Marion Mcpartland's "Piano Jazz" as well as on stage at the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall. He will attend the Juilliard School in the fall as an Artist's Diploma candidate. Dave Chisholm adds his rich trumpet sound to the mix, and improvises with a ferocious sense of rhythmic and harmonic understanding. Chisholm is an outstanding composer himself, and is working towards a Doctorate in Jazz from Eastman. Wills McKenna is the youngest member of the group, but at the age of 21 has already created a personal voice on the tenor saxophone. Wills is the circle to Chisholm's square in the band--he plays with a sense of detachment that somehow connects with the band at all the right times. His ability to blend sensitivity and awareness with reckless abandon helps the compositions come to life. Bassist Ben Thomas is much more than the cliched anchor of the band. He can determine the mood or direction of each piece with one note. His strength and presence within the group is a huge contribution to the overall sound. He is deft as an improviser, and has proven this during study at the School for Improvised Music (with Drew Gress and Ralph Alessi) and the Banff Center for the Arts (with Dave Douglas).

The music is honest and hopeful. Staebell works to create an optimistic view of the world and writes compositions ABOUT things. Tunes can be about band members (Ben Dover--dedicated to Ben Thomas), ex-girlfriends (..I learn by going where I have to go..), inspirations (Thank You John--for John Hollenbeck) or memories (April 4: Boston). The music also has a pervasive sense of humor (Nobody Reads Your Blog) while maintaing a sensitive side (Promise) and is always meant to be fun and not too serious. An excited fan best summed it up when he referred to the music as "an orgasm of musical happiness". More can be learned at www.aaronstaebell.com. You will definitely enjoy this fun and happy music.