Behind the scenes at Firehouse 12

Gearing up for a performance
Photographs and text by Amanda May
The Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet convened just after 5 p.m. on Dec. 7, 2012, to begin tuning and setting up the room for their performance at Firehouse 12. The space gets torn apart and put together for every performance with the assistance of owner Nick Lloyd and production manager Carl Testa (on ladder). From an empty room, the space went through a slow-motion transformation to snugly accommodate six band members (with all their different opinions of feng shui), all of their instruments, and between 50 and 70 chairs for the audience.

Ken Filliano plays the bass before performing. At one point, Filliano asked Firehouse 12’s Carl Testa (also a bass player) which speaker setting created the fullest, yet least electronic, sound. After a dozen or so tries, they came to a consensus.

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Mary Halvorson tunes her guitar before Friday night’s performance. The sextet was the last of the Fall 2012 Jazz Series. The Spring 2013 Jazz Series begins on March 15 with the Stephen Haynes Quartet. Check for upcoming dates.

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Taylor Ho Bynum warms up in front of the stage lights. The group, which also includes Bill Lowe (tuba), Jim Hobbs (alto sax), Ken Filliano (bass, electronics), Mary Halvorson (guitar), and Tomas Fujiwara (drums, vibes), performed their newest extended composition, “Navigation Abstract.” Bynum, who has been called “one of his generation’s top avant-garde figures” (Phillip Lutz, The New York Times), is also a founding partner of Firehouse 12 Records and the president of Braxton’s Tri-Centric Foundation. Find out more at

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Tomas Fujiwara stretches his snare drum head before performing. Having put new heads on his drums a few days earlier, he assembled and disassembled his kit a few times until it was configured correctly and sounded to his liking. His methodical setup (as well as his fellow band members’) lasted longer than their two sets combined.

The performance and recording studio space are one and the same at Firehouse 12. The recording rooms were designed by John Storyk and local architects Gray Organschi Architecture and were tweaked and perfected with undulating bamboo details during the construction/installation process. Therefore, all performances happen in a beautiful, acoustically balanced, and soundproofed space.


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