SOMETHING ELSE! FESTIVAL
June 20 – 23, 2019
The Rock on Locke
— Church of St. John the Evangelist
(320 Charlton Ave. W., Hamilton)
+ Whitehern House & Garden
(41 Jackson St. W., Hamilton)
Advance Tickets: $20-25
Thursday, June 20, 2019
EARTH WIND & CHOIR
EARTH WIND & CHOIR (Hamilton)
SARAH GOOD • conductress
AMY MCINTOSH • BETH DE JONG • BILJANA VASILEVSKA • SAHRA SOUDI • JENNIFER GREEN • KARIJN DE JONG • ALEXANDRA ZARALIS • KATIE PENROSE • HEATHER SOUTH • JESS CAREY • BAILEY DUFF • MOLLY MERRIMAN • CARLY MARY MCLEOD • CHRISTINE URQUHART • MAC KENZIE • JON DALTON • IAN CHALANGER • LEE SKINNER • JEFF BAKALAR • MARK RAYMOND • KIERAN COMMANDA
This local vocal institution is a fun, adventurous, weirdo-singing group made up of dedicated and creative individuals. Conductress Sarah Good plays the choir of 15-20 vocalists like an instrument. The ever-evolving group began ten years ago and has focused on performing the most beautiful/ ugly and interesting music it can find. Their repertoire includes pieces from the first era of polyphony, shape-note singing, avant-garde pop, through to the 20th century minimalists.
INDIGENOUS MIND (Chicago)
Hamid Drake • drums, percussion
Joshua Abrams • double bass, guimbri
Jason Adasiewicz • vibraphone
Indigenous Mind may also be called Primordial Mind. It is something we all possess. It belongs to everyone and every culture at its root. There are many representatives throughout history who have entered into the fire of transformation to encounter their own unique expression of Indigenous Mind. Indigenous Mind, even though it is always present, still has to be discovered. We attempt to do that with music, art, etc. Going beyond the illusion of performer and audience and allowing ourselves to enter, touch, feel, sense, and enjoy the oneness of the shared energy of open space.
A highly regarded percussionist known for his extensive work in avant-garde jazz and improvised music, Chicago’s Hamid Drake has an expansive style that incorporates Afro-Cuban, Indian, and African percussion elements. Initially emerging in saxophonist Fred Anderson’s group in the 1970s, Drake has collaborated extensively with top free jazz improvisers like Peter Brötzmann, Ken Vandermark, and William Parker, among others. He has also drawn praise for his eclectic albums, including 1992’s Hyperion, 2000’s Emancipation Proclamation: A Real Statement of Freedom, and 2007’s From the River to the Ocean with Anderson.
Born in Monroe, Louisiana in 1955, Drake later moved with his family to Evanston, Illinois just north of Chicago. There, he started out playing drums in rock and R&B bands before meeting noted saxophonist Fred Anderson. It was during this period that he made his recorded debut with Anderson, appearing on albums like 1978’s Another Place and 1979’s Dark Day. It was also via his connection to Anderson and participation in the saxophonist’s workshops that he met George Lewis and other members of the influential AACM. He began branching out, and by the late ’70s, he was also a member of Foday Muso Suso’s Mandingo Griot Society, and he’d toured Europe with trumpeter Don Cherry and fellow percussionist Adam Rudolph.
Over the next decade, Drake began branching out, working with Herbie Hancock, Jim Pepper, Pierre Dørge, and others. He also played with the Latin jazz band Night on Earth, the Georg Graewe Quartet, the DKV Trio, and Liof Munimula, the latter of which is one of the oldest free improvising ensemble in Chicago. He also formed a lasting relationship with saxophonist Peter Brötzmann, appearing on albums like 1992’s Hyperion, 1993’s Die Like a Dog: Fragments of Music, Life & Death of Albert Ayler, and 1998’s Dried Rat Dog. Along with continued work with Anderson, there were also sessions with percussionist Michael Zerang (with whom he has performed a solstice celebration semi-annually since 1991), Bill Laswell, Mats Gustafsson, Marilyn Crispell, Pharoah Sanders, and more.
Drake continued to appear on numerous albums throughout the 2000s, appearing as a leader or a co-leader for a number of labels including Chicago’s Okka Disc and Thrill Jockey, France’s Rogue Art, Eremite, Nero’s Neptune, and ESP-Disk. In 2000, he collaborated with saxophonist Joe McPhee on Emancipation Proclamation: A Real Statement of Freedom, and then rejoined Brotzmann and Parker for 2003’s Never Too Late But Always Too Early. A year later, he issued Back Together Again with Anderson, and then joined David Murray for he saxophonist’s 2004 Gwotet album. He also recorded several live trio dates with Parker and saxophonist Albert Berger, released in 2006 as Evolving Silence, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. There were also notable sessions with Hugh Ragin, Kidd Jordan, and Archie Shepp, among others.
The 2016 release Live at Okuden: Jungle (recorded in 2012) was the final recording curated by ESP-Disk’s founder Bernard Stollman. Drake also appeared in a trio setting led by saxophonist/clarinetist and flutist Mat Walerian, along with pianist Matthew Shipp. In July 2016, Otoroku issued Song Sentimentale by the trio of Peter Brötzmann, William Parker and Drake — their first recording together since 2003’s Never Too Late But Always Too Early. The album, compiled from three nights of concerts at Cafe Oto, was issued in two volumes in different formats, each entertaining a unique track listing. He then paired with clarinetist and saxophonist Sylvain Kassap for 2017’s Heads or Tails, followed a year later by a trio effort, Karuna, with saxophonist Ralph Jones and percussionist Adam Rudolph.
“Jason Adasiewicz’s vibes shimmer in the ether. A Chicago mainstay, Jason is a true original with a deep sensibility for sound vibration that can be heard through his innate and idiosyncratic approach to harmony and melody. Jason’s musical history is spiked with fervent free improvisation and tight melodic rendering”
A key member of Chicago’s jazz and improvised music scene, Jason Adasiewicz is quickly gaining widespread recognition through his extensive work as a sideman as well as such high-profile honors as his strong showing in DownBeat’s 2007, 2008 and 2009 “Critics’ Poll – Rising Star” Vibes category. Adasiewicz is a member of more than 20 working bands, including Rob Mazurek’s Exploding Star Orchestra, the Nicole Mitchell Quartet, Mike Reed’s Loose Assembly, the Guillermo Gregorio Trio, and Ken Vandermark’s Index Orkest.
Schooled as a jazz drummer at DePaul University, he left college in his junior year to join the indie-rock world. Adasiewicz toured— primarily as a drummer—with songwriters Edith Frost and Simon Joyner, as well as with arty rock groups like the Pinetop Seven, Manishevitz, Central Falls and Calexico. Pinetop Seven, an alt-country band, gave Adasiewicz the space and encouragement to experiment with new instruments, including the vibraphone. “It was part of the percussion family where you could beat the shit out of it,” he says with a laugh. “But I was also fascinated with [its] melody.”
Adasiewicz’s move into Chicago’s jazz and improvised music scene was initially fired by the music he discovered – Lester Young, Duke Ellington, Art Ensemble of Chicago, Sun Ra – while working at the city’s legendary Jazz Record Mart. Seeing the Vandermark 5 for the first time, at a club where his rock bands played, was a revelation to Adasiewicz, and key turning point in his early career. “I fell in love with how these Chicago musicians continued and evolved jazz tradition,” Adaseiwicz remembers, “and decided my primary focus would be to contribute to the scene.” This jazz felt vibrant and alive to him, making him realize that there was more to the music than what was taught in school. Adasiewicz formed a jazz quartet called Andiamo during the 1990s and began composing tunes.
JOSHUA ABRAMS is a composer, bassist, and improviser. His early formative musical experiences include performing in a chamber group conducted by Earle Brown, and busking on the streets of Philadelphia as an original member of The Roots. Since the mid-1990s, Abrams has been a key figure in Chicago’s creative music communities and an international touring musician with artists across genres. In 2010, Abrams formed the project Natural Information Society (NIS), a group that creates long-form psychedelic environments that join the hypnotic qualities of the guimbri, a Gnawan lute, to a wide range of contemporary musics and methodologies including jazz, minimalism, and experimental rock.
After receiving his Grants to Artists award, Abrams released Excavations, an album of solo acoustic bass recordings (Feeding Tube Records, 2018), and completed two albums and tours of the United States and Europe with Natural Information Society. Abrams has toured internationally with NIS, including performances at Café Oto, London, United Kingdom; Eastern Daze Festival, Ghent, Belgium; Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; Festival International de Music Actuelle de Victoriaville, Victoriaville, Quebec, Canada; Fylkingen, Stockholm, Sweden; Guelph Jazz Festival, Guelph, Ontario, Canada; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Pritzker Pavillion, Millennium Park, Chicago; Sant’anna Arresi Jazz Festival, Sant’anna Arresi, Italy; Serralves em Festa, Serralves, Portugal; Stanser Musiktage Festival, Stans, Switzerland; Teatro Maria Matos, Lisbon, Portugal; and Ulrichsberger Kaleidophon, Ulrichsberg, Austria. Natural Information Society’s recorded works include Simultonality (eremite, 2017); Magnetoception (eremite, 2015); Represencing (eremite, 2012); Natural Information (eremite, 2010); and Cipher (Delmark, 2003).
Abrams has scored numerous feature films, including The Trials of Muhammad Ali (2013), and several projects with award-winning director Steve James: the films Abacus: Small Enough To Jail (2017), Life Itself (2014), The Interrupters (2011); and the documentary series America To Me (2018). Abrams’ collaborations with visual artists include projects and exhibitions with Lisa Alvarado, Theaster Gates, and Simon Starling.
Abrams has appeared on over 100 recordings, including those by Fred Anderson, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, David Boykin, Hamid Drake, Neil Michael Hagerty, Nicole Mitchell, Roscoe Mitchell, Mike Reed, Matana Roberts, The Roots, and Town and Country. His performances include work with The Fred Anderson Trio, Sean Bergin, Ari Brown, Earle Brown, Peter Brötzmann, Rhys Chatham, Gerald Cleaver, Tony Conrad, Toumani Diabaté, Bill Dixon, Axel Dörner, Von Freeman, Jandek, Kidd Jordan, Oliver Lake, Joe McPhee, Joe Morris, Evan Parker, Jeff Parker, William Parker, Ballaké Sissoko, Damo Suzuki, Craig Taborn, Chad Taylor, and Kurt Vonnegut. He was an artist in residence at Fred Anderson Park (2017) and at The Hideout (2016), both in Chicago.
I build sonic environments that explore stasis & motion, space & density, old & new (in approach & instrumentation), & esoteric & familiar. My work weaves composition & improvisation together, inviting my fellow musicians to participate as sound producers, active listeners, & navigators of shifting musical limitations.
William Hooker (drummer, composer and poet) has created works that range from jazz and new music to experimental genres. He has released over 70 CDs as a leader. Mr. Hooker has performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Edgefest Jazz Festival, The Vision Festival, The David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center, The Wadsworth Atheneum, Queen Elizabeth Hall, The Walker Art Center,the first on MTV, The Kitchen, Roulette, Real Art Ways. He has also presented his work at the JVC Jazz Festival, Montreal Jazz Festival, Vancouver Jazz Festival, CMJ Music Festival,Vilnius Jazz Festival, Experimenta Argentina,The Knitting Factory and the Victoriaville Music Festival.
William Hooker has received commissions and support from the New York State Council on the Arts,Meet the Composer, Tokio Marine Insurance Company, Colleges and Universities such as Oberlin, Fordham, Columbia,New York University, Boston University, Princeton, Dartmouth, Yale and many more. Accompanying musicians have included Billy Bang, David Ware, William Parker, Thurston Moore, David Soldier, Roy Campbell, DJ Spooky, Steven Bernstein, Zeena Parkins, Lee Ranaldo, Jason Hwang, Sabir Mateen, Elliot Sharpe, David Murray, Ted Daniel, JD Parran and many more.
“William knows no genre bounds and ceaselessly searches for new forms of music, always with the intent to inspire.”New York City Jazz Record.
WILLIAM HOOKER 2
William Hooker is an American jazz drummer and composer who has performed as a leader of many ensembles of improvised and new music. “Recognized as an iconoclast, and one of the most innovative musicians and drummers of his generation, William knows no genre bounds and ceaselessly searches for new forms of music, always with the intent to inspire.”
William Hooker’s body of uninterrupted work beginning in the mid-seventies defines him as one of the most important composers and players in jazz. As bandleader, Hooker has fielded ensembles in an incredibly diverse array of configurations. Each collaboration has brought a serious investigation of his compositional agenda and the science of the modern drum kit. His work is frequently grounded in a narrative context. Whether set against a silent film or anchored by a poetic theme, Hooker brings dramatic tension and human warmth to avant-garde jazz. His ability to find fertile ground for moving music in a variety of settings that obliterate genre distinctions offers a much-needed statement of social optimism in the arts.
William Hooker (drummer, composer and poet) has created works that range from jazz and “new” music to experimental genres. He has released over 60 CDs a a leader. Mr. Hooker has performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, The Atrium at Lincoln Center, Wadsworth Atheneum, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Walker Art Center, MTV, The Kitchen, Roulette, Real Art Ways. He has also presented his work at the JVC Jazz Festival, Montreal Jazz Festival, Vancouver Jazz Festival, CMJ Music Festival, Vilnius Jazz Festival, Experimenta Argentina, The Knitting Factory and the Victoriaville Music Festival.
William Hooker has received commissions and support from the New York State Council on the Arts, Meet the Composer, Tokio Marine Insurance Company and colleges and universities such as Oberlin, Fordham, Columbia, New York University, Boston University, Princeton, Dartmouth and many more. Accompanying musicians have included Billy Bang, David Ware, William Parker, Thurston Moore, David Soldier, Roy Campbell, DJ Spooky, Steven Bernstein, Zeena Parkins, Lee Ranaldo, Jason Hwang, Sabir Mateen, Elliott Sharp, David Murray, Ted Daniel, JD Parran and many more.
[Only Concerts at Whitehern Garden — Free]
Friday, June 21, 2019
ARCHIVES OF ETERNITY
BRODIE WEST & HAMID DRAKE
THE ARCHIVES OF ETERNITY is an exciting new cutting edge jazz group that features original compositions and adventurous improvisation. This quartet features two veterans of the Toronto jazz scene and two young fresh voices, with equally impressive credentials. At the core of the group is the duo of myself on drums and vibraphonist Mark Hundevad. Mark and I have been performing together in various improvisational jazz ensembles since 1995. Collectively we have had the privilege of playing and studying with such legendary jazz musicians as Cecil Taylor, Dave Holland, Kenny Wheeler and Raphe Malik and have performed all styles of jazz from straight ahead to completely improvised music.
By contrast, bassist Andrew Furlong and saxophonist Patrick Smith are both in their mid 20’s and are graduates from the jazz program at the University of Toronto. They provide a young and fresh perspective on the music. This contrasting history has laid the groundwork for the fluid compositional and improvisational methods employed by our current quartet. Artistically our goal is to combine the adventurous aspects of improvisation with the compositions providing a strong creative focus.
MARK HUNDEVAD (composer, vibraphone)
Multi-instrumentalist Mark Hundevad has been a driving force in the Toronto jazz scene for over twenty-five years. Mark has studied with Dave Holland, Kenny Wheeler and most notably Cecil Taylor. Having also spent several years as a drummer with long time Taylor trumpeter Raphe Malik, Hundevad has a deep connection to Cecil’s compositional and improvisational methods. Mark has performed with an eclectic mix of luminary figures in the jazz and creative music world including Phil Nimmons, R. Murray Schafer, Billy Bang, Jane Bunnett, Richard Underhill and Amos Garrett among others.
MIKE GENNARO (drums)
Drummer Mike Gennaro has been an active part of Toronto’s improvised music community since the mid 90’s. He has collaborated with improvising musicians from around the globe including Juini Booth (Sun Ra, McCoy Tyner), John Butcher, Mats Gustafsson, Eugene Chadbourne, Trevor Watts and Wilbert deJoode among others.
Mike has recently been active in Europe, as a Canada Council grant brought him to the UK in 2016 to perform with legendary pianist Veryan Weston as part of his Rhythm Figures project. After releasing Bring A Book with British clarinetist Alex Ward, the duo set out on a successful German tour in the fall of 2017.
Gennaro has released several recordings on labels such as Spool, Bug Incision, Arachnadiscs and Confront Recordings and has performed at festivals throughout North America and Europe. He has also received support from the Toronto, Ontario and Canada Arts Councils for touring and recording projects.
PATRICK SMITH (tenor saxophone)
Saxophonist Patrick Smith has studied with such jazz icons as Ben Wendel, Mark Shim, Joel Frahm, Mike Murley and Kelly Jefferson. He leads a number of his own groups including the Patrick Smith Quintet, SHDW CLN, Patrick Smith Standards Band, as well co-leading Urbania Octet, and Smith/Steinwall Quartet.
In addition to his own groups, Smith is an in demand freelance saxophonist who is a member of the international touring band My Son the Hurricane, as well as Chelsea Mcbride’s Socialist Night School, Eighth Street Orchestra, T. Dot. Bangerz Brass, Brother Levon and many more. He has performed at the Toronto Jazz Festival, Montreal Jazz Festival and Ottawa Jazz Festival and opened for jazz greats Chick Corea and Seamus Blake. In 2016, Smith was a featured soloist alongside Dave Liebman and Norma Winstone on the University of Toronto Jazz Orchestra’s album Sweet Ruby Suite.
Some of his accolades include the SUBA Institute Award for Performance Excellence, the Anne and Wallace McLeod scholarship and the Stingray Rising Star award from the Ottawa Jazz Festival.
In September 2018 he will be releasing his debut EP from his originals quintet and is working towards recording “Spherical Drifting” an hour long programmatic piece for jazz quartet and strings.
ANDREW FURLONG (acoustic bass)
Andrew Furlong has been playing composed and improvised music on the bass since 2008, first in Edmonton, and in Toronto since 2012. For two years he played in Edmonton’s Catgut, navigating two cross Canada tours and a release on Old Ugly Records. In Toronto, his compositions and unique extended technique-laden improvisations can be heard in the misfit jazz band My Misshapen Ear with Anthony Argatoff and Joe Sorbara, and in his own solo double bass project. Andrew can also be seen and heard in Swamp People; The Music of Jimmy Guiffre with vibraphonist Michael Davidson, Laura Swankey’s adventurous chamber jazz Quintet, Patrick O’Reilley’s etherial band Chalk Repairer as well as in ad-hoc improvised settings with Toronto luminaries like Colin Fisher and Christine Duncan. Doit, his duo with Montreal trumpet player Emily Denison will be releasing it’s first album in the fall of 2018.
See bio above
Alto saxophonist Brodie West’s fascination in sound has taken him from Alexandra Park to Addis Ababa. As a bandleader and collaborator he is a key member of Toronto’s vibrant creative music scene. Leader of avant-calypso unit Eucalyptus as well as his eponymous quintet, West also regularly performs with the The Ryan Driver Sextet, the Lina Allemano 4, a duo called Ways and an ongoing collaboration with Andrew Zukerman/Fleshtone Aura. Brodie’s music has been released by some of Toronto’s most celebrated labels, including Healing Power, Pleasence, Blocks Recording Club and Rat-Drifting, while his European connections have put him in the company of legendary art-punks The Ex as well as the late Getatchew Mekuria, the revered veteran of the Ethiopian saxophone.
Originally hailing from Nanaimo, British Columbia, jazz studies at Humber College brought Brodie to Toronto. Emerging as a member of Zebradonk, Deep Dark United and Drumheller, he was soon in demand as a featured guest, adding his spirit to recordings ranging from Broken Social Scene’s seminal You Forgot It in People to more recent appearances with Jennifer Castle, Snowblink and Tasseomancy. Studies at the Amsterdam Music Conservatory with Misha Mengelberg lead to musical encounters with percussionist Han Bennink as well as The Ex, culminating in two tours to Ethiopia and the group’s collaborative recordings with Getatchew Mekuria.
West’s current artistic practice sees him inspired by the radiant joy of being a father as well as frequent improvised gigs with a wide range of musicians. As a composer working with some of Toronto’s leading creative musicians (including Nicole Rampersaud, Ryan Driver, Mike Smith, Nick Fraser, Tania Gill and Evan Cartwright) he is always leading new melodic excursions while his ensembles, often featuring two or even three percussionists, are also exploring fresh rhythmic terrain.
– Joe Strutt, Mechanical Forest Sound
Singer and violinist Iva Bittová is one of the few artists from the Czech Republic to enjoy an international career. Her irresistible charm, original use of voice, and fondness of melodies that sit on the border of avant-garde and playground nursery rhymes won her devoted fans around the world, although the core of her audience resides in Eastern Europe.
Iva Bittová was born July 7, 1958, in Bruntal, Moravia (Czech Republic). The second of three daughters, she grew up in a musical environment. Her father, Koloman Bitto, played guitar, trumpet, and double bass in folk and classical ensembles. Her mother, Ludmila Bittová, a trained teacher, spent her life singing in professional vocal ensembles. During Iva’s childhood, the family traveled a lot between towns as her father changed jobs frequently. She took ballet and violin lessons, and performed children’s parts on-stage. The family eventually settled in Brno, and there she concentrated her interests on theater, completing her drama studies in college. For the next ten years she worked as an actress, appearing on television and in a handful of Czech feature films, including Jaromil Jires’ Ostrov Stribrnych Volavek (“The Island of Silver Herons”) and Zápisník Zmizeleho (“Diary of a Lost Soul”).
In the early ’80s, Bittová renewed her interest in the violin. She began lessons with Rudolf Stastny and started to develop her unique vocal techniques, made of whispers, grunts, and moans, along with a playful, almost giddy tone. Her first musical partner was drummer Pavel Fajt (Dunaj, later with Pluto, the Danubians) with whom she recorded her first record, Bittová & Fajt, in 1985. She also released a few solo EPs and recorded with Dunaj during these first years (her tenure with this influential avant-rock group would last from 1985 to 1988). Her second LP with Fajt, Svatba (“The Wedding”), was picked up for international distribution by Review Records. That’s how it came to the attention of ex-Henry Cow member Chris Cutler, and eventually to Fred Frith. The seminal avant-garde guitarist featured the duo in the 1989 film and soundtrack Step Across the Border, giving them international exposure and spawning a tour outside of Eastern Europe.
Bittová’s first full-length solo album came out in 1991 on Pavian, followed the next year by River of Milk, her first U.S. release. During the mid-’90s she worked mainly as a solo artist, recording two more albums for BMG; she concluded her association with Fajt and Dunaj on the 1995 Pustit Musís, and made her first foray into classical music with a series of concerts and a CD of Béla Bartók’s violin duets (with Dorothea Kellerová).
In 1997, Bittová teamed up with Rale guitarist Vladimír Václavek to record the beautiful Bílé Inferno (on Indies). This and the 1998 eponymous solo CD released on Nonesuch revived her international career. She and Václavek stormed the festivals of Europe. In 1998 she and violinist Dorothea Kellerová recorded Béla Bartók: 44 Duo for Two Violins.
Bittová began the new century by collaborating with the Nederlands Blazers Ensemble (a Dutch woodwind group) in recording an album of her own compositions, Dance of the Vampires. It was followed in 2001 by Čikori, another collaboration with Václavek. In 2004, she was backed by the Škampa Quartet in a program of Leoš Janáček’s songs entitled, Moravian Folk Poetry in Songs. The next year she worked with Bang on a Can on a program of her own compositions entitled Elida.
Bittová began her association with ECM Records in 2006 with the release of Mater, a collection of songs by Slovakian composer Vladimír Godár. In 2007 she sang and played violin on bassist George Mraz’s Moravian Gems. In 2012, she and the Prague Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra recorded a retrospective album of her compositions entitled Zvon (“Bell”), which was issued in the Czech Republic. The album included appearances by several collaborators from her past including guitarists David and Vladimir Václavek. In 2013, Bittová’s self-titled album was released by ECM. She also recorded 2014’s Entwine/Proplétám entirely solo for the Czech Republic’s Pavian label; it was released in the West on Supraphon. That same year, Pavian issued the self-titled collaboration from Czech free jazz collective Nocz & Iva Bittová. In 2015, Eviyan, Bittova’s collaboration with Gyan Riley (guitarist/composer and son of composer Terry Riley) and clarinetist/composer Evan Ziporyn was issued by Animal Records. In 2017, she reunited with the Čikori quartet to issue their first collaboration in 15 years entitled At Home; the year also saw the digital-only recording New Cicada Trio: Live in Beacon released. The group features Bittova with her longtime collaborators Timothy Hill and David Rothenberg.
Friday, June 21, 2019
GILLIAM/ MILMINE/ POTTIE
HOOKER/ CHARUEST/ NEWSOME/ EGUILUZ
IVA BITTOVA & HAMID DRAKE
“Bare bones folk-rock that dances on the edges of madness, Picastro’s music cavorts instead of settling down. In previous years the band has changed in light of losing its astounding drummer Brandon Valdivia to his many other projects (Not the Wind, Not the Flag, Mas Aya, and Pachamama), but cellist and experimenter Nick Storring, who completed Picastro’s long-term trio lineup, is still involved, and handled much of the production and mixing of You along with the always delightful Sandro Perri”.
Picastro celebrates the release of their newest record “Exit” out in 2019 on
Brooklyn label Sleeping Giant Glossolalia (Growing, Mick Bar, Insect Ark). Led by
vocalist, guitarist and songwriter Liz Hysen with Nick Storring, Matthew Ramalo
(Khora), and Germaine Liu, Picastro has been an active force in Toronto’s music
scene for over 10 years. On “Exit” Hysen plays with the roles and expectation of
the creator as the central voice of their artistic out put. She systematically
removes herself from her own stories, inviting guest male vocalists to contribute
their take on her vision. The record features a slew of guest vocalists including
Jamie Stewart (Xiu Xiu), Tony Dekker (Great Lakes Swimmers), Adrian Crowley,
Caleb Mulkerin (Big Blood), Alex Mackenzie (Petra Glynt), and Chris Cummings
(Marker Starling). While the music still sits in continuity with the bands previous
work, Hysen relinquishes her role as singer and storyteller, even adopting male
pronouns in her writing. Letting these alternative versions run wild Picastro
explores how the music and narrative mutates with different voices at the helm.
Picastro has appeared on the BBC, WFMU, VPRO Dwars at numerous festivals
including SXSW, CMJ, Rhaaa Lovely, Tanned Tin and recorded sessions with
La Blogtheque and the Daytrotter sessions.
Past press excerpts:
“a perfect soundtrack for the approaching void” – NME
“They mine music from the most extreme intersection of beauty and melancholy”-
GILLIAM/ MILMINE/ POTTIE
The Gilliam (piano), Milmine (soprano sax), Pottie (drums) trio was formed in 2015 after we met in
the Toronto Improvisors Orchestra. We play acoustic instruments combining compositions of free
floating melodies, experimental jazz idioms, modal-chromatic tonalities as well as free improvisation.
Bill Gilliam is a Toronto based composer / pianist who creates and improvises jazz and new music
compositions blending contemporary harmony and jazz idioms with his unique style of piano and
prepared piano playing. Bill is from London, England and after studying jazz and film composition at
Berklee College of Music in Boston moved to Toronto where he studied composition. He has
composed for film (Bruce Elder), dance and theatre and recorded and performed with musicians such
as Ernie Dollar, Kevin Turcotte, Duncan Hopkins, Ben Riley, Lina Allemano, Dave Young, Howard
Gaul, Lori Freedman, Brian Katz, Martin van der Ven, Rick Sacks, Charlie Ringas and many others.
His compositions have been performed by Canadian new music ensembles with assistance from the
Ontario Arts Council and Toronto Arts Council. Bill’s performances include the 416 Toronto Creative
Improvisors Festival, Gallery 345, Array Space, Tranzac, Musideum, The Rex, Nuit Blanche, The
Drake, Music Gallery, Distillery Jazz Festival, The Montreal Bistro, All That Jazz series at the AGO as
well as Silence & Manhattans in Guelph, Aeolian Hall in London, Montpelier Vermont and other
venues in Ontario. Bill’s ongoing music projects include collaborations and performances with Kayla
Milmine and Ambrose Pottie, the Toronto Improvisors Orchestra, Glen Hall, Joe Sorbara, Bill
McBirnie, Cheryl O, David Story, Eugene Martynec, Rick Sacks, Penn Kemp (sound poet), Kiva
Simova (overtone singer) and other artists.(www.bill-gilliam.com).
Kayla Milmine’s musical journey with the soprano saxophone is a familiar one amongst fellow
straight-hornists: Having started out on the clarinet then the tenor saxophone, soon finding herself
falling in love with the new and under-explored sonic possibilities that only the soprano saxophone can
offer. Since beginning her soprano centric journey, she has developed a unique approach to the
instrument that at times has the edginess and brashness of Anthony Braxton and Roscoe Mitchell, yet
the warmth and thoughtfulness that’s reminiscent of Steve Lacy. Studying under the mentorship of New
York based soprano saxophonist Sam Newsome, she is now working on and developing music for solo
soprano saxophone. She can also be seen playing with the Toronto based Rhinoceros Saxophone
Quartet, and with her duo FASTER featuring guitarist/composer Brian Abbott.
Ambrose Pottie is a musician, phonographer and electroacoustic performer/composer, with recordings
featured on Quiet American.com and Webbed Hand Records. He is a founding member of the Toronto
Improvisor’s Orchestra, and has recorded and/or performed with: Fred Frith workshop orchestra,
Andrew Cyrille, Eugene Chadbourne, The Polka Dogs, Bill Grove, Blue Rodeo, Flaming Dono Drum
and Dance Ensemble, Mary Margaret O’Hara, Thin Men and Bill Bissett. Ambrose was a founding
member of Toronto band Crash Vegas, recording three albums and touring Canada And U.S.
GÉRALDINE CÉLÉRIER EGUILUZ is a composer, singer, guitarist, trumpeter, musical
professor and researcher. Born in Mexico city in 1969, she is became soon a world citizen that
was grown in Colombia, Portugal and France. She has been developing her skills since the end
of the eighties in the worlds of jazz and musical composition. She studied in Mexico with
Francisco Tellez and Manduka, in Paris with Alan Silva and Peter Segona, and holds Masters
degrees in music from both Paris VIII and Université Laval.
Since then she has dedicated herself to composing, improvising, putting together
groups and playing in cities where she has been living. In 1997, she made her debut at the Berlin
Jazz Festival,with her mexican group Tritonia at the invitation of Albert Magelsdorff. In 2004, she
was commissioned to compose for the nonnet of The Kitchen at the Mexico Now Festival along
with Joe Mc Phee, Elliott Sharp, Rudresh Mahanthappa, and played in many jazz festivals as La
Habana, Rive de Gier, Cervantino, Puebla, Morelia etc.
After a ten-year cycle of a variety of musical experien
New York-based saxophonist and composer Sam Newsome works primarily in the medium of solo saxophone, an approach for which he gained world-wide critical acclaim with the release of his 2009 recording Blue Soliloquy: Solo Works for Soprano Saxophone, which received a five-star review in Downbeat magazine..
Many of the notes and sounds that comprise his compositions and improvisations are derived from his own personal sound palette of extended techniques: multi-phonics, flutter tonguing, percussive slap tonguing, soprano saxophone specific micro-tones, air sounds, key clicks, air hisses, acoustic sound manipulation, Tartini tones, and various forms of oral cavity manipulation. Newsome sees himself more along the lines of a visual artist who paints with notes and sounds rather than shapes and colors. “My music, “ says Newsome, “is a type of improvisatory art music in which jazz functions more as a resource than a musical genre to be interpreted with stylistic specificity.
Newsome has also released six critically acclaimed solo saxophone CDs including Sopranoville: Works for Prepared and Non-Prepared Saxophone (2017); The Straight Horn of Africa (2014); The Solo Concert: Sam Newsome Plays Monk and Ellington (2013); and The Art of the Soprano, Vol. 1 (2012). Jazz writer Ed Enright, from Downbeat Magazine, wrote that Mr. Newsome’s The Straight Horn of Africa cd was “a modern masterpiece.”
As a performer, Newsome often performs solo saxophone concerts around New York and across the country as well as leading his own trio with bassist Hilliard Greene and drummer Reggie Nicholson. Newsome is also a frequent collaborator with drummer Andrew Cyrille, vocalist Fay Victor, pianist Jean-Michel Pilc, saxophonist David Liebman, and pianist Ethan Iverson.
Lastly, Newsome is an associate professor of music at the Brooklyn campus of Long Island University, where he is the music program coordinator, and teaches courses in jazz improvisation, music theory, and directs the University’s jazz ensemble.
ces, research and creation in
Mexico, she moved to Québec and then Montreal, and has been collaborating with the local
scene of improvisors such as Philippe Lauzier, Scott Thomson, Jennifer Thiessen, Lori
Freedman, Ziya Tabassian and Ensemble Supermusique among others, while continuing to
Her music has been played by Lafayette String Quartet in Banff, Canada; Firey Strings
Company de Nioka Workman, conducted by Frank Lacy (NYC); she has played her music with
Michaël Attias, Sean Conly, Satoshi Takeishi, Angélica Sànchez, and Fay Victor (NYC). Invited at
the Vision Festival (NYC) in 2011, she also has played at Festival des Musiques de Création, Off
Festival de jazz de Montreal, Festival des Musiques Universelles in Québec. She has produced
her recordings Temps de Lumière (2010), Rubedo’ ro (Malasartes, 2013), Paso Doble (Tours de
Bras 2015), Nigredo Lunes Noires (Small Scale Music, 2015) and Ontologies (Mikroclimat,
2017), has recieved international critics and supports to create from FONCA, CAC and CALQ.
Geraldine’ s body of work is in constant transformation and evolution, inspired by the
musical and spiritual imaginary of ancient and contemporary cultures of America. Her creations
integrate languages, dialects, sounds from musical traditions of the Americas, oral and written
musical languages, with the intention of creating new music, bringing links, connexions, beauty
and conscience to our world.
IVA BITTOVA & HAMID DRAKE
This dynamic duo are two restlessly creative musical spirits and relentless collaborators with novel takes on their respective instruments. Czech artist Iva Bittová’s unique spirit- invoking sounds are built on her acrobatic vocal range and virtuoso violin playing. She creates unique physical poetry from her diverse influences: traditional Czech folk music, minimalism, opera, sacred music and avant-garde; even dabbling in electronica and playing with brass bands. A genre unto herself, she seamlessly and organically blends sounds into an immersive and kinetic show. Hamid Drake—along with Don Byron, Bill Frisell, Bobby McFerrin, and Marc Ribot—are frequent collaborators.
Hamid Drake has turned his love of Cuban, Indian and African percussion into a career incorporating those styles on the standard trap set and a range of hand percussion instruments. One of improvised music’s hottest percussionists, he provides deftly inventive rhythmic support to forward thinking heavy hitting jazz and world musicians: early on as a member of Foday Muso Suso’s Mandingo Griot Society, with his own reggae outfit, with Don Cherry, Herbie Hancock, Pharoah Sanders, Fred Anderson, Archie Shepp, David Murray, Reggie Workman, William Parker, Ken Vandermark and Bill Laswell. Drake’s style is pure zen and his percussion prowess is poetry in motion. To see him play is to witness a creative soul who always challenges himself, playing with depth, delicacy and clarity, proving an artist doesn’t have to muscle their way into someone’s ears.
[Calgary Folk Fest’s Kerry Clarke]
Saturday, June 22, 2019
HARRIS EISENSTADT’S POSCHIAVO 50 ENSEMBLES
The Wire magazine places Sara Schoenbeck in the “tiny club of bassoon pioneers” at work in contemporary music today and the New York Times has called her performances “galvanizing” and “riveting, mixing textural experiments with a big, confident sound.”
Originally from California, Sara spent her time on the west coast freelancing in various orchestral bassoon sections such as Santa Barbara Symphony, California Symphony, Redlands Symphony, Mancini Orchestra, the Dakah Hip Hop Orchestra and touring as a member of creative music ensembles Gravitas Quartet with Wayne Horvitz, Ron Miles and Peggy Lee, Anthony Braxton’s 12+1(tet) and Vinny Golia’s Large Ensemble. Sara also recorded for various sound and film projects including the Matrix 2 and 3, Dahmer and Spanglish.
Sara now calls Brooklyn home and performs regularly with Petr Kotek’s SEM ensemble, the composers group WetInk, Wordless Music Orchestra, Anthony Braxton’s Tri-Centric Orchestra, Marty Ehrlich’s Duende Winds with Nicole Mitchell and Tomeka Reid, Horvitz Schoenbeck duo, Harris Eisenstadt’s Golden State Quartet, Eve Risser’s White Desert Orchestra, Nels Cline Lovers Ensemble, Adam Rudoplph’s Go Organic Orchestra and the Michael Leonhart Orchestra as well as performing with many creative and inspiring musicians in the New York scene and beyond including Roscoe Mitchell, the legendary musicians Butch Morris and Yusef Lateef, Wadada Leo Smith, Robin Holcomb, Matt Mittchell, Pamela Z, Taylor Ho Bynum, Joe Morris, Miya Masaoke, Stew and Mark Dresser to name a few. She has performed at major venues and festivals throughout North America and Europe, including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center Out of Doors, the Kitchen, Iridium, Disney Hall, Redcat, the Kennedy Center, SXSW, New Orleans Jazz Festival, Newport Jazz Festival, Berlin Jazz Festival, Free Music Festival in Antwerp Belgium, Biennale Musica in Venice Italy, Montreal Jazz Festival, Victoriaville Jazz Festival in Quebec, Ottawa Jazz Festival, the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, The Angel City Jazz Festival in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Jazz Festival.
Sara received her BFA from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and MFA from the California Institute of the Arts where she has given master classes on improvisation for bassoonists and classically trained musicians. Sara has been adjunct faculty at California Institute of the Arts, Citrus College and Pasadena Conservatory and given master classes at Amherst College, Hampshire College, Cornish College, University of Denver and Western Washington University. She is currently on faculty at Brooklyn Conservatory of Music and Packer Collegiate Institute.
HARRIS EISENSTADT’S POSCHIAVO 50 ENSEMBLES
Harris Eisenstadt • drums, conductor, composition (NY)
Sara Schoenbeck • bassoon (NY)
Yves Charuest • alto saxophone (QC)
Sam Newsome • soprano saxophone (NY)
Don Byron • reeds (NY)
Géraldine Eguiluz • voice (QC)
David Lee • double bass (Hamilton)
Connor Bennett • saxophones (Hamilton)
Chris Palmer • guitar (Hamilton)
Nick Fraser • drums (Toronto)
Brooklyn-based drummer and composer Harris Eisenstadt (b. Toronto, 1975) is known for his “deep-sighted and elastic view of improvised music in settings that are both small-scale and expansive.” (The New Yorker)
His resume includes studies with some of the most respected names in jazz and improvised music, West African and Afro-Cuban drumming, and performance credits in jazz, film, theater, poetry, dance, contemporary concert music and opera.
Eisenstadt has performed all over the globe, received grants from organizations such as Meet The Composer, The Durfee Fondation, American Composers Forum, Canada Council for the Arts, and appeared on more than 60 recordings since 2000, including twenty as a leader. Recordings of his compositions often appear on the Songlines, Clean Feed, and No Business labels, and are consistently included on critics’ best-of lists. He has been included in the Rising Star Percussion and Arranger categories of the Downbeat international critics poll the last several years.
His first work for orchestra, Palimpsest, was premiered by the American Composers Orchestra, as part of the Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute (2011). Eisenstadt’s second orchestral work, Four Songs, commissioned by the Brooklyn Conservatory Community Orchestra, was premiered at the Brooklyn Museum (2013). His first string quartet, Whatever Will Happen, That Will Also Be, was premiered as part of Eisenstadt’s twelve-set residency at The Stone in NYC (2015), and released in 2017 on the No Business label. His latest composition project, “Poschiavo 50,” a collection of fifty compositions for small ensembles, was premiered in 2017-18 in Switzerland, New York, Brazil, and Cuba, culminating in his second concert residency at the The Stone.
As a writer and radio producer, he has contributed to National Public Radio, Public Radio International’s AfroPop Worldwide, and John Zorn’s “Arcana XVIII: Musicians on Music.” Eisenstadt is also an active member of New York’s Cuban batá drumming community and a longtime researcher in African and Diaspora vernacular traditions. He has travelled to West Africa twice (Gambia, Senegal) to research Mandinka and Wolof music, and to Matanzas, Cuba four times to study batá drums. During his 2018 trip, he began work with the Matanzas-based production house El Almacén on a music and film project titled We Are All Worthy of One Another.
Poschiavo 50 is a book of fifty compositions written during a 2017 residency in Poschiavo, Switzerland. Each short piece can be interpreted by any-sized group and instrumentation, from solo to large ensemble. Most of the fifty compositions have been performed by different ensembles across Europe and in the United States and Canada since summer 2017. The next schedule performances are June, 2019 at Something Else! Festival, Hamilton (small group and orchestra) and October 2020 (Western North America tour, trio with Peggy Lee and Sara Schoenbeck).
While the ultimate goal is to record all fifty compositions by different ensembles for one many-disc release…. the most realistic way may be to record one ensemble at a time…
NO SILENZ (FR/QC)
Susanna Hood • voice (QC)
Jason Sharp • bass saxophone (QC)
Fredéric B Briet • double bass (FR)
Christophe Rocher • clarinets (bass, Bb, Eb) (FR)
No Silenz, they are three bass instruments, and a voice, deep groove, and then sound
matter, a clash of cultures that have been nourished by minimalist music, alternative
rock and African-American rhythms to the benefit of music in the form of morphing.
A little high-frequency from time to time, though, a few melodies, songs set on the
groove or the moving sound mass.
The music will be composed by the four musicians, between concertante suite and
original brass band.
This group will be the result of a lasting collaboration between the Montreal music
scene, Nautilis Ensemble in Brest, Suoni Per El Popolo Festival in Montréal and Plages
Magnétiques (Penn Ar Jazz) in Brest.
Création in Brest in march 2019 and in Montréal in june 2019.
European tour in february 2020.
Susanna Hood : total artist, dancer, composer, improviser. She has received the K.M.
Hunter, Dora and Victor Martyn Lynn Staunton awards for her creations.
Fred B.Briet : Student of JF Jenny Clark, side man in Magma and fellow traveller of
Benoit Delbecq, Guillaume Orti and many others. He played with Steve Coleman, Hamid
Christophe Rocher : creator of the Ensemble Nautilis, composer and improviser very
active on the international scene, has played with many musicians from many different
backgrounds (Rob Mazurek, Eward Perraud, Peter Orins, Mike Ladd…)
Jason Sharp : Leading musician of the Constellation label, travelling companion of Ken Vandermark, Peter Brötzman and Matana Roberts
Saturday, June 22, 2019
INDIGENOUS MIND + DON BYRON
Tidal Pool is Hamilton resident Connor Bennett’s solo project. Bennett is a musician, craftsperson, and arts organizer in Hamilton, ON. He plays saxophone in a variety of musical contexts (Tidal Pool, Haolin Munk, Eschaton, Lee/Palmer/Bennett). His craft is in custom mouthpiece making for woodwinds under the name CJBennett Mouthpieces. Connor is also a founding member of the Hamilton Audio Visual Node (HAVN) and has worked there in collaboration with many other artists in the curation and organization of concerts, art shows, events, and series.
With Tidal Pool, Bennet explores extended technique saxophone, using the acoustic qualities of the instrument and sometimes augmenting it with the use of processing and amplification.
Géraldine Eguiluz and her accomplices, violist Jean René and bassist Stéphane Diamantakiou work together since 2014 and 2011 respectively, and have collaborate in the last Eguiluz Projects as Rubedo’ ro and Nigredo.
Now, with Ontologies they interrogate the very nature of being. Nine musical drawings are at the root of this twelve-part work, which is further animated by diverse influences: Quantum physics, the symbolic language of biology, and the Yi King This trio, between its silences, pursues a musical equilibrium with the sacred numerological implications of multiples of three and the Holy Trinity. It balances the intimacy of chamber music; the folk-music earthiness of the Bulgarian flute, kalimba and guitar; and the strength and vulnerability of the pocket trumpet, two male voices, and one female voice. The trio evokes the cosmos within the freedom of listening without intention and of playing away from the roots of tonality. These are spontaneous, improvised compositions and emotions connected to their vital centres, the point and the line, the rhythm and the break, the timbre and the sound.
INDIGENOUS MIND + DON BYRON
Bios above and Byron below
Sunday, June 23, 2019
JOANNA DUDA (PL)
• piano, electronics
with kind support from Jazztopad Festival
Joanna Duda composes music with analogue and contemporary techniques. Plays acoustic (mostly piano) and electronic instruments (computer, workstations, beatmachines), planting and growing them into multiplied layers consist of one texture. As a follower of all-embracing art form and synthesis of arts and science, she also constructs installations. In her projects she seeks for absolute music communication and melting of personalities involved in musical narration.
Brodie West • alto saxophone
Ryan Driver • clavinet
Rebecca Hennessy • trumpet
Kurt Newman • guitar
Mike Smith • bass
Blake Howard • percussion
Nick Fraser • drums
Evan Cartwright • drums
[This sounds like may be yours]
Toronto 8-piece all-star ensemble, led by Brodie West, has been crafting saccharine-soaked melodies over complex rhythms and structures for the past 10 years. Their calypso-infused jazz is undeniably rich with texture and charm, making it incredibly alluring to all who experience it. This March, they released their latest LP, Kick It Till You Flip It, on Lorna & HAVN records.
[Below is our longer blurb from last year]
Eucalyptus is a seven-piece group that “manages to combine the accessible and avant-garde in an appealing way,” writes Kerry Doole in Exclaim! Led by Toronto-based composer/saxophonist Brodie West, the band features an all-star lineup of musicians from Toronto’s improvising music community. Their eclectic style incorporates aspects of pop, jazz and the avant-garde. West’s compositions feature syncopated rhythms inspired by calypso, dancehall, and bossa nova, played with collective free improvisation reminiscent of Sun Ra, Globe Unity Orchestra, or the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Since forming in 2009, Eucalyptus has performed at many of Toronto’s most celebrated venues, including the Wavelength 12th Anniversary Festival, Open Roof Festival, Feast in the East, Long Winter, Toronto International Film Festival, Images Festival, The Music Gallery, Somewhere There Festival and Hirut Restaurant. They have also performed at Sappyfest 8 in Sackville NB. Their 10” vinyl EP/CD Eeeeuuuucaaaaaaallyyypppppttus is on Toronto’s Blocks Recording Club label.
[Here’s the one from last year’s program]
Led by Brodie West, some of Toronto’s best, with an eclectic style incorporating aspects of pop, jazz , the avant-garde +++. West’s compositions feature syncopated rhythms inspired by calypso, dancehall, and bossa nova, played with collective free-improv reminiscent of Sun Ra, Globe Unity, the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Yeah!
See bio above
Sunday, June 23, 2019
No Bio but here’s Donna’s take:
Hamilton’s own SOURPUSSY improv ensemble (Victoria Alstein, Becky Katz, Jessica Somers and Heather South) together create a fantastic poetic stream of consciousness. Their performance is a surreal dadaesque (mamaesque?) awe inspiring experience. Mining invented narratives from imagination, lists of ingredients, doctor’s warnings, repetitions, poetry and more—-they take you on a journey that you never knew you needed—but you will love the trip.
Christine Duncan • voice
John Oswald • alto saxophone
Tomasz Krakowiak • percussion
Glen Hall • woodwinds, percussion, Kyma X, cataRT
All of Hall’s projects involve some form of structure. Except EAR-CAM. With this group, the only rule is there are no rules: everything is permitted.
The members of the group are vocalist Christine Duncan, widely known for her work with throat singer Tanya Tagaq, Plunderphonics innovator, John Oswald on alto saxophone, Tomasz Krakowiak, whose playing is so delicate as to be perceived as much through watching his gestures as by hearing, and, when available, visual/sound artist Nobuo Kubota
The name of the group is a play on IRCAM, the Paris institute for musical research and experimentation. Where IRCAM researchers aim at micro control of musical and sound resources, EAR-CAM aims at unbridled freedom. The name also refers to an ‘ear-cam’– ear camera – like a steady-cam in film making. Sometimes performances ‘accompanied’ by ambient sounds —a coffee shop, a Chinese street market, a tourist attraction, a horse stable. The ‘ear’ brings its ‘camera’ (a recorder) and ‘photographs’ an environment that becomes, for a time, EAR-CAM’s sonic landscape.
In addition to flute, bass flute, soprano saxophone and bass clarinet, Hall improvises using Kyma X, a powerful sound design workstation, and concatenative synthesis ‘instruments’ cataRT, developed by Diemo Schwarz of IRCAM, and audiomosaic, a cataRT variation, developed at Matralab by Navid Navab . With these computer-based instruments, Hall’s sound palette has become limited only by his imagination.
DON BYRON (NY)
Known for his eclectic blend of post-bop, traditional jazz, and klezmer, clarinetist/saxophonist Don Byron is a highly regarded performer who first emerged on the New York scene in the 1980s. Following his early work with avant-gardists like David Murray, Hamiet Bluiett, and Reggie Workman, he drew praise for his own vibrantly cross-pollinated albums like 1993’s Plays the Music of Mickey Katz (in which he investigated the music of the legendary Jewish clarinetist), 1996’s Bug Music (an exploration of John Kirby and Raymond Scott), and 2004’s Lester Young-influenced Ivey-Divey (which featured the Grammy-nominated track “I Want to Be Happy”). While Byron is most closely associated with reinterpreting older swing and klezmer styles in a modern context, he has Afro-Cuban traditions on 2001’s Music for Six Musicians, old-school R&B on 2006’s Do the Boomerang: The Music of Junior Walker, and gospel on 2012’s Love, Peace and Soul. Along with recording albums, Byron has composed for film and television. He has also taught, serving as the director of jazz for the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and working on the faculty at Metropolitan State University of Denver, The University at Albany, and M.I.T.
Born in the Bronx in 1958, Byron grew up in a working-class family with a father who was a mailman and played bass in calypso bands, and a mother who played piano. Asthmatic in his youth, he was encouraged to play clarinet to improve his breathing. Along with trips to the ballet and symphony orchestra, Byron was exposed to jazz early on, including artists like Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Henderson, and Artie Shaw. Raised in a largely Jewish neighborhood, he also developed a love of Klezmer music, especially that of clarinetist and comedian Mickey Katz. As a teenager, he studied privately with noted Juilliard educator Joe Allard. After high school, he further honed his skills at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where he studied with George Russell and was a member of the Klezmer Conservatory Band with Hankus Netsky. Graduating in the early ’80s, he relocated to New York City where he found work with avant-garde-leaning artists like Hamiet Bluiett, David Murray, and Reggie Workman. He also recorded as a member of Craig Harris’ ensemble, appearing on Shelter in 1986.
As a leader, he debuted in 1992 with Tuskegee Experiments, an ambitious album that showcased his distinctive style of jazz combining traditional swing elements with harmonically sophisticated improvisation. Joining him were bassist Workman and pianist Joe Berkovitz, along with guitarist Bill Frisell, bassist Lonnie Plaxico, drummer Ralph Peterson, Jr., pianist Edsel Gomez, and others. The klezmer-influenced Don Byron Plays the Music of Mickey Katz arrived the following year and helped him win the Downbeat Critics Poll for clarinet. He then delved into Latin rhythms on 1995’s Music for Six Musicians, backed again by pianist Gomez, as well as cornetist Graham Haynes, and returning guests Frisell, Plaxico, and Peterson.
Following a live album recorded at the Knitting Factory, Byron issued 1996’s Bug Music, a tribute to the kinetic swing jazz of composers Raymond Scott, John Kirby, and Duke Ellington. He then signed with Blue Note, and issued two highly regarded efforts: 1998’s Nu Blaxploitation and 1999’s Romance with the Unseen. Also in 1998, he composed and performed a score for the rarely seen 1927 silent film Scar of Shame as a commission for the American Museum of the Moving Image in New York.
The classical inspired A Fine Line: Arias and Lieder, arrived on the label in 2000, followed a year later by You Are #6: More Music for Six Musicians, a follow-up to Music for Six Musicians. Also in the 2000s, Byron expanded into teaching, working concurrently on the faculty at The University at Albany and M.I.T., and later at Metropolitan State University of Denver.
In 2004, Byron paired with pianist Jason Moran, drummer Jack DeJohnette, trumpeter Ralph Alessi, and bassist Plaxico for Ivey-Divey in which he took inspiration from the 1946 trio recordings of Lester Young. Included was a rendition of “I Want to Be Happy,” which earned the clarinetist his first Grammy nomination for Best Instrumental Jazz Solo. Two years later, he turned his attention to soul music with Do the Boomerang: The Music of Junior Walker. Another genre-bending album, Love, Peace, and Soul, arrived on Savoy and found Byron exploring classic gospel tunes, many written by Thomas A. Dorsey. In 2018, he paired with pianist Aruán Ortiz for Random Dances and (A)Tonalities.