Blasting Opera Forward: Braxton in New York Previewed

Anthony Braxton

Cover of Anthony Braxton

From The New York Review of Books:

Though Anthony Braxton’s contributions to jazz have been substantial, he has spent the last three decades on the genre’s fringes. A MacArthur Award-winning saxophonist, composer, and teacher, Braxton has released a number of acclaimed works, including For Alto, the first album for unaccompanied solo saxophone ever recorded, and has for years been a leading proponent of merging avant-garde jazz with contemporary art music. Yet when I spoke to him in early April, Braxton told me he was surprised to be included on the list of “Jazz Masters” honored by the National Endowment for the Arts, in January. And, once again, he was already looking ahead: more eager to talk about Richard Wagner and Karlheinz Stockhausen, influences on his own opera-cycle in progress, Trillium. The latest work in what he calls his “opera complex,” Trillium J (The Non-Unconfessionables), will have its premiere this month at Roulette in Brooklyn, from April 17 to April 19. The weekend before, Braxton will also play saxophone in performances at the same venue with a chamber orchestra and with a nonet that includes Ingrid Laubrock, Nate Wooley, and Mary Halvorson.

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Matt Bauder Profiled

From the Chicago Reader:


exploding star orchestra

exploding star orchestra (Photo credit: paulo borgia)

Reedist Matt Bauder spent just a few years in Chicago, between 1999 and 2001, but he made a strong mark—and the city’s improvised music scene left its imprint on him in return. He’s a no-nonsense musician with an abiding curiosity. He has forged a deliberately mercurial musical personality over the years. There’s nothing mysterious about his ideas or interests, but their nonchalant diversity and range have made it hard to pin him down as this or that.


Kronos Quartet’s 40-Year Adventure


Kronos Quartet w/Kimmo Pohjonen & Samuli Kosmi...

Kronos Quartet w/Kimmo Pohjonen & Samuli Kosminen

The quartet, based in San Francisco, has released 57 albums and sold more than 2.5 million recordings. Its adventurous, undecorous approach to programming and cross-cultural collaborations planted the seed for a new generation of innovative string quartets like Ethel, the JACK Quartet and Brooklyn Rider to thrive, as well as inspired individual artists to reimagine musical parameters.

Robert Ashley, Opera Composer Who Painted Outside the Lines profiles Robert Ashley, who passed away this week.

A prolific composer who first came to prominence in the 1960s, Mr. Ashley decided early to concentrate on opera. To him, though, the definition of opera was far different from what it had been for centuries, or even from what it was for many modern composers. In Mr. Ashley’s hands, “opera” could take in spoken dialogue, chanting and even mumbling. His librettos, most of which he wrote, had little conventional plot. Unlike the gods, ghosts and noblemen that have long peopled grand opera, his characters were ordinary, even marginal. The result — performed over the years at La MaMa Experimental Theater Club, the Kitchen and Merkin Concert Hall in Manhattan; the Brooklyn Academy of Music; Florida Grand Opera in Miami; and throughout Europe — was a series of operas “so unconventional that they tend to be received as either profoundly revolutionary or incomprehensibly peculiar,” as The Los Angeles Times wrote in 1992.


Eric Dolphy’s Out to Lunch at 50

From Wondering Sound:

Eric Dolphy

Cover of Eric Dolphy

Dolphy’s improvisations have a hectic, can’t-hold-me-back quality that makes Ornette Coleman sound sedate by comparison. Dolphy’s lines make acrobatic leaps over intervals too wide to sound singable, but there was always a voicelike yawp to his tone. On bass clarinet — an instrument he had all to himself as a soloist — his sound is as raw and woody as a broken branch. It bursts with abrasive and changeable overtones. Much the same is true of his alto saxophone playing. And it wasn’t just the music — it was how the rhythm section manhandled it.

‘Genius’ Vijay Iyer Takes His Music Ideas to Harvard


Vijay Iyer

Cover of Vijay Iyer

The most popular distillation of his aesthetic is his jazz trio with bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Marcus Gilmore. But his music flows in multiple streams. His collaboration with the poet and rapper Mike Ladd yielded a trilogy of politically charged multimedia pieces, documented most recently in last year’s “Holding It Down: The Veterans’ Dreams Project.” He thrives on long-running associations, including those with fellow members in Fieldwork, a collective trio that is on the bill for a concert of John Zorn‘s new “Masada” compositions March 19 at Town Hall.


Nels Cline: a guitarist’s guitarist

From The Irish Times:

Nels Cline

Cover of Nels Cline

Cline has a reputation as long as a very long arm, and an equally lengthy list of collaborative projects, the latest of which is BB&C (made up of Tim Berne, Jim Black and Cline), which makes its debut in Ireland this week. Rock fans may know him best as the freewheeling guitarist in Wilco (which he joined in 2004), but, to a different subset of aficionados, Cline is the go-to guy, the free jazz/avant gardist guitarist’s guitarist.


Jon Irabagon and the deep pocket of his trio

From the Chicago Reader:

English: Jon Irabagon, moers festival 2009

English: Jon Irabagon, moers festival 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not many saxophonists of the current generation impart curiosity, energy, and pure joy like Morton Grove native Jon Irabagon, a prolific and imaginative reedist who seems to overflow with music. Although he first made his reputation as a free-wheeling blower within the roguishly revisionist quartet Mostly Other People Do the Killing, in recent years he’s proven his mettle in all kinds of contexts. After winning the prestigious Thelonious Monk Jazz Competition in 2008, he cut a convincing mainstream postbop date in the company of heavies like Kenny Barron, Rufus Reid, and Victor Lewis—but he’s also worn noisy maximalism like a glove, collaborating with drummer Mike Pride and jaw-dropping electric guitarist Mick Barr; likewise, he’s become a valuable member of the Dave Douglas Quintet. He evinces a sense of ease in all settings, it seems, easily finding his way and having a blast while doing so.

Burr Van Nostrand: Avant-garde composer back on the map

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette previews a concert coming this Saturday.

A funny thing happened after Burr Van Nostrand saw early success as an avant-garde composer: He stopped writing music. Born in 1945, Mr. Van Nostrand, who grew up in California and resides in New Haven, Conn., had a four-year residency at the Gaudeamus Foundation in the Netherlands; that “is unheard of” for an American composer, said Mathew Rosenblum, co-director of new music presenting organization Music on the Edge. Indeed, “unheard of” is a good phrase to use when describing Mr. Van Nostrand. His music, which is very difficult to play, has been seldom heard; when he was writing, he was drawing on techniques that were ahead of his compositional time, from the 1960s through 1980s.


Matthew Shipp: the jazz pianist still messing with our minds


Matthew Shipp

Cover of Matthew Shipp

For a while, Shipp junked the whole jazz format and such albums as Equilbrium and Antipop Consortium vs Matthew Shipp unpicked the processes of DJ Culture and funk from the vantage point of his steely improviser’s gaze. Since then Shipp has reintegrated the lessons of those records into his work as a solo and group improviser, his elastic rhythms and coat of many melodic colours re-energised by thinking beyond the acoustic box. Typically, when Shipp begins his three-day residency at Café Oto tonight, he’ll be playing with British free improviser John Butcher and German synth improviser Thomas Lehn – musicians for whom jazz represents a marginal creative interest.