By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
To say that multi-instrumentalist Robert Gomez was a busybody in 2012 is an understatement: The man was a machine. He started off the year collaborating on a song for a French film called Sea, No Sex and Sun, and then hit the road for a tour with beloved local Sarah Jaffe — they wound up with a slot together on Jimmy Kimmel Live! last month. In the interim, Gomez also unearthed a half-hour release that he says is his interpretation of five prose poems from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert Olen Butler's 2006 book, Severance. If that weren't enough, the gent also teamed up with Seattle singer-songwriter Anna-Lynne Williams for a two-person project called Ormonde, and after days of intensive writing and recording, the duo released their debut LP, appropriately titled Machine.
In ushering in his new year, Gomez has a new residency at Dan's Silverleaf in Denton called the Green Hour. Each week, he and keyboardist Evan Jacobs (of The Polyphonic Spree and Midlake fame) join forces for two and a half hours of pure, unadulterated improv. Each Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m., they drag a new body to the stage. So far, that has included RTB2's masterful drummer Grady Sandlin, Ormonde's Anna-Lynne Williams and violinist Fiona Brice. Although the residency was originally scheduled to last through just January, the buzz was enough (and Gomez somehow mustered the time and the energy) that he extended it through the end of February. If you haven't caught the performance yet, there's still time.
"I named it the Green Hour due to the time corresponding to the popular time of absinthe drinking during its reign in France as the preferred drink," Gomez says. "The time between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. became known as 'L'heure verte,' or the 'green hour' in English."
With Nord and OP-1 keyboards, multiple guitars, pedals and loopers, the group's musical range onstage has proven not only impressive but sometimes jaw-dropping. On one Wednesday, Gomez created sounds with an electric guitar and pedal effects that mimicked the cries of a saxophone for one of the group's jazzier tunes and then broke into breathtaking guitar solos for several of their more ethereal, psychedelic passages.
"I've seen him two Wednesdays," says local musician and Team Tomb guitarist Caleb Campbell. "Both had things that I really liked. The first one I saw lacked Grady on drums, so it was more ambient. It was really nice. The second, with drums, covered a lot of different vibes — jazz, rock, shoegaze, etc. When Robert isn't dropping people's jaws with his guitar licks, Evan on keys plays such rich, full chords, both catchy and tasty."
Gomez says that each week audiences can expect music that is completely improvised, with the exception of one song: the theme from the film Vergogna Schifosi by Ennio Morricone.
"I have done similar things in the past but it's been awhile," Gomez says. "I've been wanting to be involved in more of the performance aspect of music these days rather than just the recording aspect, which is my M.O. as of late."
That may be true, but the machine in Gomez is already busy churning away at writing and recording his next solo record, Earth Underfoot, as well as Ormonde's sophomore effort, which is scheduled for a mere five months out from their last release.
"[Our improv] is what it is, I guess, good or bad, unpredictable or predictable at times," Gomez says, "but it can be rewarding and interesting, and at the very least, never the same — a musical conversation without a net."
Gomez says that his goals include doing another instrumental record and perhaps getting the Green Hour residency into the studio. That makes sense. If the last year has taught us anything about Robert Gomez, it is that the man hates an empty to-do list.