, Salem, MA


January 16, 2014

Taking off with Underwater Airport

Local musicians thrive on improvising ... and let the music flow


Other band members include bassist Jim Whisenant and saxophone player Lynda Stephens, while Blomquist plays guitar, an instrument he “approaches ... as a hybrid between a meditation cushion and an interstellar kayak,” according to the band’s website.

Videos, created by Marc Lisle and projected behind the band, are an important part of their performance.

In addition to playing at Gulu-Gulu “every two or three months,” Underwater Airport has played twice at the Berklee Performance Center, and all their performances start the same way.

“What happens is, somebody throws some musical idea out there and everybody starts responding to it,” Blomquist said. “Every time we have ever tried to talk in advance about doing something, it has failed abysmally.”

Spellman also works at Berklee, as director of career development, and the school has awarded two faculty recording grants to the band. These allowed Underwater Airport to go into the studio in 2011 and 2013, and each session has been highly productive.

“We just did a new (session) we’re releasing in the next few weeks,” Blomquist said. “We came out with three albums’ worth of music after two days.”

Blomquist has been playing music since grade school, in bands that jammed on Grateful Dead songs, progressive rock and eventually jazz. He also studied electronic and experimental music at Wesleyan University but says he tries to forget what he knows when he’s playing with Underwater Airport.

“Get yourself out of the way is the biggest thing,” he said. “Let it come through and be present to it, without trying to direct it. I feel like I’m a conduit.”

Rather than a score to be followed, music of this sort is something Blomquist feels and sees.

“Music is very cinematic and visual to me,” he said. “I hear the unfolding of music in a kind of visual way. I don’t think about things like keys and time signatures. Other people do. I just feel where the notes are supposed to be.”

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