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Skeleton keyed up

Nathan Hubbard's new big band, the Skeleton Key Orchestra, releases Furiously Dreaming

“Writing for a large ensemble in San Diego is just ridiculous,” says drummer/composer Nathan Hubbard. - Image by Karen Hubbard
“Writing for a large ensemble in San Diego is just ridiculous,” says drummer/composer Nathan Hubbard.

“Writing for a large ensemble in San Diego is just ridiculous,” says drummer/composer Nathan Hubbard, the winner of the 2014 San Diego Music Award for Best Jazz Recording. Hubbard is back in the news with a new double-disc effort on Orenda Records titled Furiously Dreaming. For the recording, Hubbard assembled a 49-member ensemble he calls the Skeleton Key Orchestra. “I mean, we couldn’t even find a space. I spent six months going to every black box and theater in town trying to get somebody to sign on and let me use their nonprofit, and I couldn’t find a space that I could afford to rehearse in.”

Video:

"Sleep:Dream:Silence"

...from Nathan Hubbard and the Skeleton Key Orchestra's <em>Furiously Dreaming</em>

...from Nathan Hubbard and the Skeleton Key Orchestra's Furiously Dreaming

After considerable deliberation, Hubbard found a solution, although he had to race to complete the basic recording. “Most of it was tracked in two days at San Diego State — there were a lot of overdubs that were done piece-by-piece in other studios, because the full band was only available for those two days.”

Even within those limitations, Hubbard had big ideas for this project. “I wanted to push the production level, in terms of using loops and a drum machine and different ways to manipulate the band; at one point in ‘They All Fall Down,’ the entire band gets played back through a crappy little speaker from really far off — so you’re hearing it like an old 78 playing in another room.”

Hubbard likes to tailor his compositions to showcase the strengths of particular players. “I try to write really strong melodies, and I write sections for specific people like [saxophonists] Ellen Weller, David Borgo, Jason Robinson, and [trombonist] Michael Dessen. There is a Jeff Kaiser trumpet solo at the end of ‘Other Ideas’ that is just hilarious. That was totally set up to just let Kaiser go batshit crazy, which we all know he loves to do.”

Past Event

Nathan Hubbard/Skeleton Key Orchestra

  • Saturday, May 21, 2016, 8 p.m.
  • Bread & Salt, 1955 Julian Avenue, San Diego
  • $10

The process for this recording took some patience. “We started in ’07 and it took a few years to record and six years to release. It was purely a matter of funds or the lack of funds. But with my 40th birthday coming up, I wanted to get it on a label and release it as a CD to have as many people as possible hear it.”

Hubbard’s record-release/birthday party takes place on May 21 at Bread & Salt in Logan Heights with a 22-piece version of the band featured on Furiously Dreaming.

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“Writing for a large ensemble in San Diego is just ridiculous,” says drummer/composer Nathan Hubbard. - Image by Karen Hubbard
“Writing for a large ensemble in San Diego is just ridiculous,” says drummer/composer Nathan Hubbard.

“Writing for a large ensemble in San Diego is just ridiculous,” says drummer/composer Nathan Hubbard, the winner of the 2014 San Diego Music Award for Best Jazz Recording. Hubbard is back in the news with a new double-disc effort on Orenda Records titled Furiously Dreaming. For the recording, Hubbard assembled a 49-member ensemble he calls the Skeleton Key Orchestra. “I mean, we couldn’t even find a space. I spent six months going to every black box and theater in town trying to get somebody to sign on and let me use their nonprofit, and I couldn’t find a space that I could afford to rehearse in.”

Video:

"Sleep:Dream:Silence"

...from Nathan Hubbard and the Skeleton Key Orchestra's <em>Furiously Dreaming</em>

...from Nathan Hubbard and the Skeleton Key Orchestra's Furiously Dreaming

After considerable deliberation, Hubbard found a solution, although he had to race to complete the basic recording. “Most of it was tracked in two days at San Diego State — there were a lot of overdubs that were done piece-by-piece in other studios, because the full band was only available for those two days.”

Even within those limitations, Hubbard had big ideas for this project. “I wanted to push the production level, in terms of using loops and a drum machine and different ways to manipulate the band; at one point in ‘They All Fall Down,’ the entire band gets played back through a crappy little speaker from really far off — so you’re hearing it like an old 78 playing in another room.”

Hubbard likes to tailor his compositions to showcase the strengths of particular players. “I try to write really strong melodies, and I write sections for specific people like [saxophonists] Ellen Weller, David Borgo, Jason Robinson, and [trombonist] Michael Dessen. There is a Jeff Kaiser trumpet solo at the end of ‘Other Ideas’ that is just hilarious. That was totally set up to just let Kaiser go batshit crazy, which we all know he loves to do.”

Past Event

Nathan Hubbard/Skeleton Key Orchestra

  • Saturday, May 21, 2016, 8 p.m.
  • Bread & Salt, 1955 Julian Avenue, San Diego
  • $10

The process for this recording took some patience. “We started in ’07 and it took a few years to record and six years to release. It was purely a matter of funds or the lack of funds. But with my 40th birthday coming up, I wanted to get it on a label and release it as a CD to have as many people as possible hear it.”

Hubbard’s record-release/birthday party takes place on May 21 at Bread & Salt in Logan Heights with a 22-piece version of the band featured on Furiously Dreaming.

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