”Measure Once, Cut Twice”: Free Jazz Album by Kaiser, Clov, and Harris Trio

”Measure Once, Cut Twice”: Free Jazz Album by Kaiser, Clov, and Harris Trio

Steve Kaiser – Guitar
Alex Clov Baczkowski – Alto & baritone saxophone
Bill Harris – Drums & percussion

The other day we talked to Steve Kaiser about the new album.

The three musicians got to know each other through open jams around Chicago. They played their first free jazz gig together at Brew Brew Coffee and Tea in the summer of 2016. It went so well they wanted to record together.

Free jazz is an improvised style of jazz characterized by the absence of set chord patterns or time patterns. Steve, Alex, and Bill came into the recording studio with nothing written down. They just played, putting the music together in the moment.

However, the music is far from being random noise. It is held together by unified ideas. All three have grounding in craft and have similar traditions and influences. For instance, Chicago saxophonist Ken Vandermark was a huge influence on all three of them. They are all experienced musicians who take their work very seriously. Although the music comes together in the moment, as individuals they are always working on their craft, constantly putting ideas together and developing their ability to perform.

Steve studied traditional jazz at Eastern Illinois University. Toward the end of college he started getting into free jazz.  According to Steve, Bill has a great mind for the different roles percussion can take in an ensemble. Alex has done a lot of playing in Poland and is a fabulous improviser. He’s a passionate player, an emotive musician.

When they came together for the recording the three were very present in the moment and attentive to each other. They were fearless and confident and “put it out there.”  The music is passionate at times and playful at times, sometimes aggressive. It is unique because only they could have created what they wanted to say, and the music could only have been created in that moment; it’s rooted in who they are.

They are all proud of what they did. Making the album represented a new level of musicianship for Steve personally and was a liberating and powerful experience. It has been “a blessing to me.” When asked if there will be more albums like it in the future, he responded, “Absolutely more.”

The Title

The title was inspired by the carpenters’ expression “Measure twice, cut once” about measuring carefully before you cut.

The group liked the phrase “Measure once, cut twice”—they liked how it flows, the humor and energy, the little bit of aggressiveness, reflecting the nature of the album.

The Cover Art

The colorful, energetic cover art and other pieces featured in the booklet and inside tray are by Josiah Hazel, a multifaceted artist who is versed in graphic arts, painting, and music. Josiah listened to the record while he painted these works. Movement and shape in the artwork correspond to movement and shape in the music.

Recording Details

The album was recorded on September 4, 2016. It will be released on August 28, 2017 in digital and CD formats by Amalgam, a Chicago-based, artist-run collective dedicated to showcasing works of experimental and improvised music. To buy, go to

Recorded, mixed, and mastered by Bill Harris at the Music Garage, Chicago

Live Performances

The trio has three gigs coming up in the near future. Their performances will be like the recording—they won’t know what they’ll play until they get on the bandstand, but then they will play with confidence and fearlessness and will give it everything they have.

Saturday, August 5, 2017 – Rediscover Records, 7PM
9 S. Spring St., Elgin, IL

Friday, August 11, 2017 – Mother Fool’s Coffee, 8PM
1101 Williamson St., Madison, WI

Monday, August 28, 2017 – Elastic Arts, 9PM
3426 W Diversey Ave., Chicago, IL (album release show)

For more details visit the Amalgam Facebook page

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