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Still Bills Culinary Engineering by William Roper

This is number 46 in a series of free improvisation live from the decks of the ARTSHIP in Oakland, CA.

I first heard William Roper perform on hammer percussionist Brad Dutz’s CD "Nine Gardeners Named Ned," where he played tuba and performed spoken word. William Roper demonstrated virtuosic ability on both instruments. Therefore I took it on myself to contact Mr. Roper and ask for more of his music. Mr. Roper, who is a catering chef in addition to being a musician, spoken word and visual artist, generously sent me this mini CD with its 19 minute improvisation.

The tuba is an interesting brass instrument because of its potential for organic sound. It can sound like a rhinoceros; both powerful and frightening. Yet, it can also be played melodically, although on "Still Bill's Culinary Engineering" you hear more rhino.

William Roper is one of many musicians who performed on the ARTSHIP while it was docked in Oakland, however, his performance was different from the other artists in two respects. The normal process for making these recording was as follows. The artists were taken on a tour of the ship and then asked to set up immediately in the area of the ship that most spoke to them. They would then improvise a performance of not more than twenty minutes, for a radio broadcast. Mr. Roper did not perform immediately after his tour, but took several months to think about what he would do. He also recorded two tracks as even a man as talented as William cannot perform spoken word and play the tuba concurrently. This recording was made in the galley of the ARTSHIP and Mr. Roper weaves his tuba’s voice in among the sounds of the ship with its whining iron doors and metallic voice.

William laid down a minimalist and abstract track on the tuba. He then improvised his spoken word, over that track. Mr. Roper has a rich round baritone which he speaks in a very melodic manner. During this performance William demonstrated his ability to spontaneously draft any and all available voices to create duets and ensemble improvisations over the environmental sounds of the freighter’s galley. William, in addition to tuba and voice, employed as musical instruments a hot sauté pan and spray butter; a knife and cutting board; and onions and carrots to create both environmental and focused sounds.

The nominal theme and point of departure for the recording is the preparation of "scumgullion," a dish that is made from last week’s leftovers and which is universally greeted with dismay when it arrives at the table. Over this topic William weaves a witty and evolving spoken word performance that is both amusing and musical.

If spoken word and avant garde jazz are not your idea of a gourmet feast, you will be best served by not purchasing this CD, however, if you are open to exotically spiced sounds and count humor as an important element of your entertainment, I recommend this very enjoyable recording.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: William Roper
  • CD Title: Still Bills Culinary Engineering
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2002
  • Record Label: Strings and Machines
  • Musicians: William Roper, tuba, spoken word, ship, knife and cutting board, sauté pan
  • Rating: Four Stars
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