AMN Interviews: David Dominique

a0958770452_2David Dominique released his album Ritual this week. It is strong offering of aggressive modern compositions, and have been getting “airplay” here at AMN Central. We asked David a few questions about Ritual and his upcoming plans.

Tell us about the history behind the compositions on Ritual.

In early 2010, after writing a large amount of a music for a chamber concert, I felt burnt out on the solitary process of that type of composition. I also wasn’t satisfied with the style of that music and the fact that I wrote it purely for others to perform.

By that point I’d been playing with a band called Killsonic for about 3 years. When I met the members of Killsonic and first saw them perform, they were usually playing a high octane type of “out jazz” as a relatively small configuration of 5 or 6 players. In 2006 or 2007 though, someone had the idea that Killsonic should become a sprawling, psychotic, mobile guerilla noise-jazz orchestra, and the size of the group exploded to anywhere from 20-30 players. That’s when I joined. On any given night we might perform with 7 drummers, 12 horns and 8 accordions. We started out by just “marching” down strategically chosen streets in LA and Hollywood to cause a ruckus and shock innocent bystanders, commuters, attendees of art events, things like that. Later on we would book actual gigs and go on short tours.

Anyway, I’d always been particularly enamored of the original Killsonic small group rhythm section – Michael Ibarra on upright bass and princessFrank on drums, and I wanted to write a set of music to perform with those guys, with myself on valve trombone and two of the other Killsonic horn players, Brian Walsh (reeds) and Sam Robles (saxes). So I wrote about 5 or 6 tunes which we performed in May of 2010 and again in July of 2010, with the the addition of Jose Varela (trumpet) and Bryan Diaz (tenor). Older versions of Big Boned’d Jim and the Mulatto Shuffle were part of those sets.

Killsonic also staged an experimental opera in July of 2010 called Tongues Bloody Tongues in REDCAT, a theater within Disney Hall. Variations of Ritual 1/BDB became the theme fanfare for Saddam Hussein, who was one of the main characters in the opera. Toward the end of the opera we performed BDB with about 30 players. An older version of Ritual 2/Dirge also originated as part of that performance.

Rituals 3 and 4 are actually reworkings of sections of a chamber piece called “Cat and Mouse” that I wrote in 2009.

The remaining compositions were written in 2011 and 2012, and I was lucky enough to get to workshop them extensively with the student jazz ensemble at Brandeis University. Mooey in Paradise was part of that set and was inspired by a gig I played in LA with a short-lived Ethiopian cover band called Mela Mela.

You’ve listed Mingus, Ellington, Steve Reich, Sun Ra, Anthony Braxton and György Ligeti as influences. Is anyone else a particularly strong influence?

The Mingus influence is huge. There was a time when I used to listen to the album “Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus” almost every night. When I needed a break from composing, usually at 2 or 3 a.m., I’d take a long walk in the San Fernando Valley and listen to that album on repeat. Eric Dolphy looms large on those tunes and has always been one of my big inspirations. The recording on that album of Fables of Faubus and the Mingus/Dolphy improvised duos in the middle of What Love? on that album and on the album Mingus at Antibes are some of my favorite recorded moments of any music. I’ve been listening to that Antibes record since I was about 15 though, and I think Dannie Richmond’s idiosyncratic sense of rhythmic interaction has also been one of my big influences.

I’ve also been inspired by noisy rock and indie rock for a long time. Some of my favorite bands are Velvet Underground, Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine, early Blonde Redhead and early Animal Collective. Especially with those last two bands’ early stuff (albums like Blonde Redhead’s La Mia Vita Violenta, Fake Can Be Just as Good, and In and Expression of the Inexpressible, and Animal Collective’s Here Comes the Indian and Sung Tongs), I’m hoping to incorporate more of the kind of controlled textural chaos those albums achieve on certain tracks into what I’m doing. There is some of that on my album, for example on Big Bone’d Jim and Ritual 2/BDB due to the brilliant work of LA guitarist Alex Noice.

Another big influence for me right now is the music of a couple European contemporary composers, Beat Furrer and Bernhard Lang. Both of those composers are deeply steeped in their own musical heritages, and their harmonic vocabularies and the ways in which they work with timbre and extended instrumental technique reflect that, but they are also both abidingly interested in American minimalism. Repetition plays a large role in the way each of them structures pieces, and I was lucky enough to visit both of them in Vienna to interview them about their music two summers ago. In Furrer’s case, the influence comes from Steve Reich and Morton Feldman. For Lang, I assume those composers are important as well, but he is also an avid fan of hip hop and various EDM sub-genres, and incorporates a warped and irregular sense of beat/pulse into a lot of his music (though it is non-tonal).

Electronic beats have also been a significant part of my musical life, particularly D.J. Shadow, Aphex Twin, Prefuse 73 and Flying Lotus, and I’ve made beats on various machines since my teens.

How do you balance your composing and performing goals with your academic duties?

It isn’t easy! At any given point some part of my appetite is getting neglected. It’s pretty difficult for me to be completely engaged as a university teacher during the semester and have creative energy left over for composing, but that’s what most composers have had to do for many years. Despite that, it’s a blessing to get to spend most of my life immersed in music.

I do my best to integrate my academic activities with my creative interests. In 2013, I spent a lot of time studying Beat Furrer’s music and presented a paper/analysis of one of his pieces at a few music theory conferences. My original purpose for starting this project was to understand the mechanics of his music so I could make personal use of the elements that speak so directly to my own imagination. I wanted to be able to reverse engineer my favorite works of his for my own creative purposes. For better or worse, the project has become something more, and hopefully I’ll get an article of my analysis published in a theory journal in 2014.

So to answer most directly: I don’t really balance things at all! I just choose from week to week what part of my goals and duties I have to neglect.

Any plans for the future now that Ritual is out?

There are lots of plans! I just got off the phone with my friend Dave Treut, who is a phenomenal drummer, multi-instrumentalist, and composer based in Brooklyn. He and I will be performing versions of the pieces on Ritual later this month and in early 2014 in New York and Boston with a new set of players. We also discussed working on some collaborative electroacoustic material for drums and electronics (probably with myself on sampler). There will be information on my website about these things soon (

Earlier this year, I also composed and conducted the score for a theater work in LA called Starcrosser’s Cut, about the infamous NASA astronaut, Lisa Nowak. My collaborator on that project, Joseph Tepperman, and I are planning a new theater work based in LA, probably more of an opera. Joe was also the librettist of the Killsonic opera. The new piece will be a fictional detective story about a murder in LA captured on tape and pressed into a vanity LP by a local gang. The mystery will be interwoven with narratives and cameos from LA underground music icons like The Germs and Eric Dolphy, who will be one of the main characters. Coincidentally, Joe’s dad, Barry Tepperman, was the co-author of the first Eric Dolphy biography. Also by coincidence, and making this even more oddly entangled, I’m considering a new scholarly project involving analysis of a few lost Eric Dolphy compositions for large ensembles that I recovered a couple weeks ago from Gunther Schuller’s basement!

On the classical side of things I am working on a piece for Talea Ensemble, which will be performed at Brandeis as part of the ensemble’s residency in March. I’ll also have a larger piece performed there in May as part of New Music Brandeis.

Lastly, I’m hoping I can record and release a follow-up album to Ritual at the end of 2014, further integrating the sound and style of this album with my contemporary classical and rock influences.

Ellery Eskelin / Susan Alcorn / Michael Formanek in Baltimore

Ellery Eskelin en concert au Triton (Les Lilas...
Ellery Eskelin en concert au Triton (Les Lilas-France) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From Baltimore’s Creative Differences:

Ellery Eskelin / Susan Alcorn / Michael Formanek
@ The Windup Space
12 W.North Ave,Baltimore MD 21201
$15 / $10 students w.ID
Doors at 8.30pm.

Creative Differences presents a remarkable improvising collective featuring three artists at the forefront of Jazz and contemporary music. The concert will mark the release of their first recording together, “Mirage” on Clean Feed Records,recorded last year at Towson University.

For that past thirty years Ellery Eskelin has been at the forefront of the global creative improvised music scene. Raised in Baltimore and now resident in New York City, he has traveled widely performing, recording and amassing a very personal and iconoclastic body of work. And yet Ellery Eskelin has always remained deeply committed to the traditions of jazz and American music. Eskelin embodies this seeming contradiction with ease. He does not see jazz as a style or idiom but as a process. Further, a process of creative development that has great relevancy to our time. In this pursuit Eskelin consistently delivers to the listening public unadulterated, passionate music with no excuses and no apologies. Eskelin’s recordings as a leader and co-leader have been named in Best of the Year critics’ polls in the New York Times, The Village Voice , and major jazz magazines in the US and abroad. He also appears on over fifty recordings as a side person. DownBeat Magazine named Eskelin as one of the 25 Rising Stars for the Future in its January 2000 issue (“…players who not only insure the music’s survival but promise to take it to the next level”) as well as including him in the “Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition” category of their Annual Critics Poll in 1998, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004. Eskelin was a nominee for the prestigious Danish Jazzpar award in 2003 and was the recipient of a Chamber Music America French-American Exchange grant in 2007 as well as a Chamber Music America New Jazz Works grant in 2009.

Michael Formanek’s singular approach to the acoustic bass has led to an impressive range of musical associations. During his thirty-plus year career, he has played and/or recorded with Elvis Costello, Tim Berne, Uri Caine, Freddie Hubbard, Stan Getz, Marty Ehrlich, Chet Baker, Tony Williams, Gerry Mulligan, Bob Mintzer, Fred Hersch, Dave Liebman, Joe Henderson, Mark Isham, Toshiko Akiyoshi/Lew Tabackin Big Band, Mingus Big Band, Joe Lovano, and many others.
In 2010 Formanek’s first CD as a leader and composer in more than a decade was released on the ECM label. The Rub and Spare Change features the amazing group of Tim Berne, Craig Taborn, Gerald Cleaver and Formanek , and has received numerous accolades including Five Stars in Down Beat Magazine, and a place on many best CD’s of 2010 lists. As a result the Michael Formanek Quartet toured Europe in April of 2011, and continues to perform whenever possible in the US and elsewhere.His latest ECM release,”Small Places” has recently received widespread critical acclaim.

Susan Alcorn is an American composer, improvisor, and pedal steel guitarist.
Having started out playing guitar at the age of twelve, she quickly immersing herself in folk music, blues, and the pop music of the 1960s. A chance encounter with blues musician Muddy Waters steered her towards playing slide guitar.[1] By the time she was twenty-one, she had immersed herself in the pedal steel guitar, playing in country and western swing bands in Texas.
Soon, she began to combine the techniques of country-western pedal steel with her own extended techniques to form a personal style influenced by free jazz, avant-garde classical music, Indian ragas, Indigenous traditions, and various folk musics of the world. By the early 1990s her music began to show an influence of the holistic and feminist “deep listening” philosophies of Pauline Oliveros.
Though mostly a solo performer, Alcorn has collaborated with numerous artists including Evan Parker,Pauline Oliveros, Eugene Chadbourne, Peter Kowald, Chris Cutler, Joe Giardullo, Joe McPhee, LaDonna Smith, Mike Cooper, Walter Daniels, Ellen Fullman, Jandek,Janel Leppin,Fred Frith, Maggie Nicols and Johanna Varner.

AMN Reviews: São Paulo Underground – Beija Flors Velho E Sujo (Cuneiform)

artworks-000047532408-n9jzi6-t200x200Over the last few years, Chicago avant-jazz explorer Rob Mazurek has established himself as one of the most reliable and prolific leaders on the creative music scene. His group efforts include The Chicago Underground Duo / Trio / Quartet, Sound Is, Pulsar Quartet, Exploding Star Orchestra, the Rob Mazurek Octet, and (of course) São Paulo Underground.

The latter, consisting of Mazurek on cornet, harmonium and effects, Guilherme Granado on keyboards, synths, sampler and vocals, and Mauricio Takara on percussion, cavaquinho and electronics, released Beija Flors Velho E Sujo this summer. This is the group’s fourth album overall, and second with the current lineup.

Although a trio, São Paulo Underground provides a rich feel that could easily be attributed to a six or seven piece group. Mazurek leads most tracks on cornet, with thick keyboards from Granado and busy drumming from Takara backing him up. Other voices wend their way through the recording, including multitracked horns and effects that resemble an electric guitar. Despite the group’s use of modern technology in the form of samplers and electronics, there is a distinct analog resonance to Beija Flors Velho E Sujo. As a result, the group comes across as having an earthy electric-Miles / Sun Ra retro thing going on.

What makes São Paulo Underground stand out in Mazurek’s discography, and in avant-jazz as well, is the playful Latin vibe throughout. Some tracks, such as “The Love I Feel For You Is More Real Than Ever,” are downright tuneful and fun. But make no mistake – this is not a mainstream album. It is delightfully creative, noisy, and progressive.

Beija Flors Velho E Sujo is a great step forward for this already-accomplished trio, and easily makes my shortlist for album of the year.

Kathy Hinde, Simon Whetham, Alex Bertram-Powell in Bristol, UK

Upcoming shows at Bristol’s Cafe Kino:

Café Kino| 108 Stokes Croft | Bristol | BS1 3RU
Thursday 12th December 2013 | £5

Kathy Hinde
Composer and sound artist exploring the space between nature and technology, and with a CV that takes in blind, echo-locating choirs, piano carcasses and a digital Heath Robinson approach to bridging the mechanico-virtual-visual-avian-aural-kitchensink divide.

Simon Whetham
Field Recordist and installation artist whose work has moved from intimate close textures to widescreen emotional ambience and back again; recent work engaging with the physical mechanical nature of sound using motors and tactile interfaces.

Alex Bertram-Powell
Musician and visual artist whose work has never shied away from emotion, disquieting or otherwise. Thereminist of some repute, keyboard player in excessively amped prog types ANTA and accordian player for living-the-dream-of-the-1890s tramp enthusiasts Boxcar Aldous Huxley. He rarely plays solo these days so we have no idea what he’s going to do, but we have high hopes.

Free Jazz Blog Reviews

Day 56: Ethnic Heritage Ensemble #17
Day 56: Ethnic Heritage Ensemble #17 (Photo credit: brandonwu)

From Free Jazz:

Mats Gustafsson & Thurston Moore – Vi Är Alla Guds Slavar (OTOroku, 2013) ****
Kahil El’Zabar’s Ritual Trio: Follow the Sun (Delmark, 2013) ****
Vlady Bystrov, Helen Bledsoe & Alexey Lapin – Trioloque (Leo, 2013) ****
Trespass Trio + Joe McPhee – Human Encore (Clean Feed, 2013) ****
Lama + Chris Speed – Lamacal (Clean Feed, 2013) ****
Susana Santos Silva & Torbjorn Zetterberg – Almost Tomorrow (Clean Feed, 2013) ****