AMN Interviews: Michael Zerang

DamageZerang41Michael Zerang is a Chicago-based musician, composer, and producer, who has been active in a wide variety of musical endeavors for over 40 years. While loosely associated with Chicago’s free-jazz circles, Zerang has participated in theater, dance, and other multidisciplinary forms, and appeared on over 80 recordings. He recently took some time to answer a few of our questions.

How did you get started with music? Was it something that appealed to you from early childhood or did it evolve later?

I had always been an avid music fan since childhood. When I was 16 years old, I hitchhiked across the country to California and up through Canada for 4 months. During the first week, I witnessed a concert by Rahsaan Roland Kirk at Keystone Corners in San Francisco. He blew my mind so thoroughly – actually altering my DNA – that I decided right then and there that I would pursue the musical arts for the rest of my life, especially the exploratory aspects. It was such a transformative experience for me that it has been driving me ever since.

You have been involved with the Chicago music scene for quite a while. How has it changed from, say, 1980 to today?

When I was coming up in Chicago in music in the late 70’s and through the 80’s, the art scene was much more holistic in that you’d have painters, poets, theater artists, performance artists and musicians all inhabiting the same spaces and scenes. In a way, it was a much richer environment to develop in because of all of this cross discipline. These days, each of these fields has their own spaces and audiences, and it’s harder for young artists to be exposed to the broader art practices. There are benefits to this, but I did gain a valuable insights from all of the cross fertilization of the arts.

With respect to free jazz and outside music, what are the differences between North America and Europe that you see as a performer? For instance, is the level of involvement and appreciation different?

The European scene has always been funded better, allowing for the possibility to actually make a living from exploratory arts practice. The audiences in Europe are great since they have had such a rich artistic heritage. That’s changing a bit these days due to economic considerations, but it’s still easier than in the USA. On the other hand, American artists, especially African American artists, have brought a music to the world that is awe inspiring and so vital, even through difficult economic and cultural situations. On balance, I’m glad I can straddle both worlds, as well as other regions of the world.

Aside from performing and recording, what other musical activities are you involved in?

From the beginning, I have been a composer, mostly in collaboration with other live art forms such as theater, dance, puppetry, etc. This has given me a completely different approach to music making and I have learned so much from working with these other disciples that I could not have by just working as a musician. I still am involved with these collaborations in my capacity as a composer to this day, and still gain insights that I couldn’t get otherwise.

coverYour two recent releases, Hash Eaters and Peacekeepers and Songs from the Big Book of Love seem to be companion pieces. How did these recordings come together?

Michael Zerang & the Blue Lights is a new project that came from my desire to compose music that dealt simply with rhythm and melody. I have been involved for over 25 years as an improviser, mostly dealing with extended forms and techniques. This band is much more straight ahead. Songs from the Big Book of Love contains eight original compositions that I fashioned for the players involved – Mars Williams, Dave Rempis, Josh Berman, Kent Kessler and myself – all frequent and longtime collaborators. Hash Eaters and Peacekeepers contains three additional original composition and three arrangements of Middle Eastern tunes that were favorites of mine since childhood.

Are there any musicians left that you would really like to perform or record with, but still have not?

The list is too long! But I am always looking to make new connections and collaboration. I’m not done yet!

Any advice for young, upcoming jazz / creative musicians?


Aside from your European tour with The Blue Lights, do you have any other upcoming events, performances, or releases that we should know about?

I am also touring with Survival Unit III, Joe McPhee, Fred Lonberg-Holm and me, in Europe this fall to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the band. I will be performing at the Music Unlimited Festival in November in Wels, Austria as well with Joe McPhee, Christoph Kurzmann, Isabella Duthoit, performing a tribute to Ornette Coleman, and I will end the year with the Winter Solstice duo Concerts with Hamid Drake that marks our 25th anniversary on December 21, 22, and 23.



September 23, 2015
Lydia Lunch, Weasel Walter, Sandy Ewen, The Acheron
Sandy Ewen Lydia Lunch Weasel Walter

September 23, 2015
Silk Purse, The Acheron
Justin Craun Richard Hoffman Mark Morgan

September 25, 2015
Peter Evans Quintet, The Stone
Jim Black Tom Blancarte Peter Evans Sam Pluta Ron Stabinsky

September 20, 2015
Greg Fox Solo, JACK
Greg Fox

September 23, 2015
Gaute Granli Solo, The Acheron
Gaute Granli

September 17, 2015
Cortex, ShapeShifter Lab
Kristoffer Alberts Ola Høyer Thomas Johansson Gard Nilssen

September 18, 2015
Cortex, IBeam
Kristoffer Alberts Ola Høyer Thomas Johansson Gard Nilssen

September 22, 2015
Not Rocket Science, The Stone
Peter Evans Ikue Mori Evan Parker Sam Pluta

Uncertainty Music Series Upcoming Concerts

Source: New Haven’s Uncertainty Music.

Saturday 3 October 2015
Broadcloth + Richard McGhee Solo
at G Cafe
141 Orange St
New Haven, CT

Saturday 10 October 2015
Electronics Night – Nate Trier Solo and Chris Welcome Solo
Never Ending Books
810 State St
New Haven, CT

Saturday 7 November 2015
Carl Testa’s Sⁿ featuring Joe Morris
Firehouse 12
45 Crown St
New Haven, CT

Friday 13 November 2015
Tim Daisy Solo and Paul Roth Trio
New Haven, CT

New York’s Cornelia Street Cafe in October

Source: The Cornelia Street Cafe.

Friday, Oct 09 – 9:00PM & 10:30PM
Matt Pavolka, bass, comp.; Kirk Knuffke, cornet; Loren Stillman, alto sax; Jacob Garchik, trombone; Mark Ferber, drums

Saturday, Oct 10 – 9:00PM & 10:30PM
Ellery Eskelin, tenor sax; Adam O’farril, trumpet; Stephan Crump, bass; Tyshawn Sorey, drums
Stephan Crump’s Rhombal image
Stephan Crump’s Rhombal will explore a new body of work written for this two-horn, bass and drums gathering.

Monday, Oct 12 – 6:00PM
Miya Masaoka, koto; Nate Wooley, trumpet; Theresa Wong, cello, voice
Masaoka Wooley Wong Trio image

Saturday, Oct 17 – 9:00PM & 10:30PM
Tony Malaby, tenor sax, comp.; Chris Hoffman, cello; Bob Stewart, tuba; John Hollenbeck, drums, prepared piano

Sunday, Oct 18 – 8:30PM
Tony Malaby, tenor sax; Ben Gerstein, trombone; Michael Formanek, bass; Billy Mintz, drums; Randy Peterson, drums

October at the IBeam Brooklyn 

American Jazz musician and composer Mat Maneri.

Source: Brooklyn’s IBeam.

Westbrook Johnson Residency (Night 1)
Thursday, October 1st 8:00 PM $15 Suggested Donation
Stephen Harms – Bass
Westbrook Johnson – Trombone
Josh Lawrence – Trumpet
Dave Miller – Drums
The Fresh Cut Orchestra
Josh Lawrence – trumpet
Jason Fraticelli – bass
Anwar Marshall – drums
Matt Davis – guitar
Brent White – trombone
Mike Cemprola – saxophones

Westbrook Johnson Residency (Night 2)
Friday, October 2nd 8:00 PM $15 Suggested Donation
Angela Morris – saxophone, voice, compositions
Alex Samaras – voice
Dustin Carlson – guitar, voice
Scott Colberg – bass, voice
Jason Nazary – drums, voice
Stephen Harms – Bass
Westbrook Johnson – Trombone
Dave Miller – Drums
Angela Moris – Soprano/Violin

Westbrook Johnson Residency (Night 3)
Saturday, October 3rd 8:00 PM $15 Suggested Donation
Stephen Harms – Bass
Westbrook Johnson – Trombone
Dave Miller – Drums
Dave Miller – drums
Matt Mottel – piano
Austin White – bass

Sam Bardfeld / Chris Hoffman
Friday, October 9th 8:30 PM $15 Suggested Donation
Sam Bardfeld Trio
SB – violin
Kris Davis – piano
Mike Sarin – drums
Chris Hoffman Trio
CH – cello
Adam Hopkins – bass
Craig Weinrib – drums

Carol Liebowitz / Ryan Messina Duo
Saturday, October 10th 8:00 PM $15 Suggested Donation
Carol Liebowitz – piano and voice
Ryan Messina – trumpet
(sets at 8 and 9 pm)

Tomas Fujiwara Trio
Monday, October 12th 8:30 PM $15 Suggested Donation
Ralph Alessi – trumpet
Brandon Seabrook – guitar
Tomas Fujiwara – drums, compositions

Steve Olson Trio New York
Friday, October 16th 8:30 PM $15 Suggested Donation
Steve Olson: drums, percussion, objects
Denman Maroney: hyperpiano
Oscar Noriega: alto saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet

Lina Allemano Four
Saturday, October 17th 8:30 PM $15 Suggested Donation
1st set at 8:30pm:
Nick Fraser Trio
Nick Fraser (drums)
Ingrid Laubrock (saxophones)
Aruan Ortiz (piano).
2nd set at 9:30 pm:
Lina Allemano – trumpet
Brodie West – alto saxophone
Andrew Downing – double bass
Nick Fraser – drums

Alternative Guitar Summit
Saturday, October 24th 8:30 PM $10 Suggested Donation
Tal Yahalom, Jeff Miles, Andy Berman (Guitar)

Albrecht Maurer + Mat Maneri + Lucian Ban / Billy Martin + Brian Drye
Tuesday, October 27th 8:30 PM $15 Suggested Donation
Billy Martin / Brian Drye Duo (8:30)
Brian Drye – Trombone
Billy Martin – Drums
Albrecht Maurer + Mat Maneri + Lucian Ban (9:30)
Albrecht Maurer – Violin
Mat Maneri – Viola
Lucian Ban – Piano

“Urban Meditations” Residency with Shankar (night 1)
Wednesday, October 28th 7:00 PM $10 Suggested Donation
Matt Moran. Vibes
Julian Waterfall Pollack. Piano
Rez Abbasi. Guitar
Rob Jost. Bass
Brian Adler. Drums and Compositions

“Urban Meditations” October Residency with Shankar (Night 2)
Thursday, October 29th 7:00 PM $10 Suggested Donation
Matt Moran. Vibes
Julian Waterfall Pollack. Piano
Rez Abbasi. Guitar
Rob Jost. Bass
Brian Adler. Drums and Compositions

Leimgruber-Demierre-Phillips (Night 1)
Friday, October 30th 8:30 PM $15 Suggested Donation
Urs Leimgruber saxophone
Jacques Demierre piano
Barre Phillips double bass

Leimgruber-Demierre-Phillips (Night 2)
Saturday, October 31st 8:30 PM $15 Suggested Donation
Urs Leimgruber saxophone
Jacques Demierre piano
Barre Phillips double bass