1,000 Reviews

Earlier today, we posted our 1,000th review. Looking back I find this quite remarkable, as we did not review anything for the first 8 years of Avant Music News. I had done some music writing in the mid-nineties but was of the mind that the music had to speak for itself – words were not sufficient to describe what one can hear.  In line with Frank Zappa, “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” As a result, I resisted publishing any sort of original reviews.

That changed in 2011 when Dan Barbiero convinced me that reviews can be well-written and thoughtful. Since then, he has contributed nearly 400. I started writing again, and a number of other individuals have helped out as well. And as the music world has evolved since, I believe that reviews are taking on a valuable filtering function – there is so much music coming out (much of it quite good) that you need some way of focusing your efforts and time. Reviews help you do that.

In any event, I am grateful to all who have written for AMN over the years – Dan, Stephen, other Dan, Chris, Mike, Irwin, Monique, Tom, and Jacob. And of course to all of you who have read, commented on, and shared our work.


AMN Reviews: Carl Testa – Sway Prototypes Volume 1; Sway Prototypes Volume 2 [Self-released]

In mid-2017, New Haven, Connecticut double bassist/composer Carl Testa began to develop a SuperCollider-based music processing system he called Sway. Testa envisioned an autonomous program that could take individual musicians’ sounds as inputs, perform signal analysis on them, and on the basis of the results obtained, respond by modifying them with a given effect. A two-volume set of four Sway-enhanced performances recorded between September, 2017 and October, 2018 documents how Testa implemented the idea over several iterations of his program.

As the tracks on both volumes demonstrate, Sway has been an organically evolving program, changing and adapting as circumstances warranted or as Testa wished. Each improvised performance featured the system at a different stage of its development–although all stages, even the earliest, show a high degree of sophistication in design and execution. For the earliest piece, Three Sections, recorded with the mixed ensemble of Erica Dicker on violin, Junko Fujiwara on cello, Louis Guarino, Jr. on trumpet, Andria Nicodemou on vibraphone, and Testa on double bass and electronics, Testa conducted the players and triggered the processing himself. On the next piece, the hour-long Quadrants for the same group with the addition of vocalist Anne Rhodes, Testa eschewed personal intervention in favor of using a pre-arranged timetable to regulate the process of effects assignments. By the time of Emergence, also for sextet, Sway had evolved to the point where, in place of a set timetable, it could control the changes in sound sculpting through a more fluid, real-time interactivity with the instruments.

What Sway does exceptionally well on the three ensemble pieces is compose with color. Whether controlled by human input, timed sequences or real-time response, Sway moves instruments in and out of the foreground and mixes their voices in varying and unpredictable combinations. The closest analogy to listening to these performances would be to watching a multicolored Calder mobile set in motion. The timbral richness of the instrumental input—high-, low- and middle-compass strings; brass; mallet percussion; and voice—and the players’ evident skill in interacting with each other and the program, are both crucial elements in these performances.

Which is why the last piece on Volume 2, Bloom, a solo improvisation for double bass recorded in Hamden, Connecticut in mid-October 2018, is so interesting for what it shows of what Sway does given the limited input of a single instrument. The sounds fed into the system are more austere and consequently serve to lay bare with a dramatic clarity the metamorphoses, distortions and enhancements Sway injects into the flow of a performance. The spare lines and episodic structure of Testa’s improvisation dovetail nicely with the pacing of the program’s shuttling between, and overlapping of, granular synthesis, pitch alteration, delay and other effects. Here one can hear quite clearly how the system works: how it creates a dialogue with itself as well as with the instrument fed into it.


Seattle Scene: August 8-17, 2019

From Seattle’s Wayward Music Series:


Chapel Performance Space at Good Shepherd Center

4th Floor, 4649 Sunnyside Ave. N, Seattle 98103 (corner N 50th St. in Wallingford)

Every month, Nonsequitur and a community of like-minded presenters and artists offer ten concerts of adventurous music in an informal yet respectful all-ages setting: contemporary classical, free improvisation, the outer limits of jazz, electronic music, microtonal/new instruments, sound art, and other extraordinary sonic experiences.

East Coast Meets West
Thu. Aug. 8, 8 PM; $5 – $20 donation at door

East Coast Meets West brings together two multi-talented trumpet players – East Coast transplant Judson Scott and Seattle native Peter Nelson-King – to perform an exciting variety of works for trumpet and piano: Sonata by Boston’s Michael Weinstein, an enchanting Epithalamion by Pulitzer-winner Paul Moravec, and two world premiere works by frequent Wayward performer and multi-instrumentalist Peter Nelson-King.

Inverted Space Ensemble
Fri. Aug. 9, 8 PM; $5 – $15 donation at door

Inverted Space Ensemble explores the haunting and sublime music of Bun-Ching Lam, Brian Banks and Lou Harrison. Using the ensemble configuration of violin, piano and percussion, each composer showcases their unique language in this expressive ensemble configuration. This concert will feature Luke Fitzpatrick (violin), Brooks Tran (piano), and Isaac Anderson (percussion).

Earshot: Christoph Irniger’s Pilgrim
Sat. Aug. 10, 8 PM; $10, $13, $15 in advance

Not a Wayward show, but of interest at the Chapel: Founded by Zurich-based tenor saxophonist Christoph Irniger, Pilgrim has become one of the most exciting ensembles in young European Jazz. “…a scintillating trip into a musical subconscious —a dream state where one opens doors only to find more doors —a spiral staircase where the top is always just beyond reach.” –All About Jazz

Fri. 8/16 – Saxophonist/composer Levi Gillis presents new music for chamber ensemble expanded from works for solo saxophone exploring extended techniques

Sat. 8/17 – Improvised music by pianist Thollem McDonas, trumpeter Samantha Boshnack, and vocalist/miulti-instrumentalist Amy Denio

Edgefest 2019, October 16-19 in Ann Arbor

Source: Kerrytown Concert House is the place for the venerable Edgefest, back for another run of free jazz and creative music.

6:00 PM | Lucian Ban and Alex Harding Duo
Lucian Ban, piano
Alex Harding, saxophone
DARK BLUE by Alex Harding and Lucian Ban released May 17th on Sunnyside Records

7:00 PM | Michael Marcus Quartet
Sponsored by Marc Andren and Christine Reardon
Michael Marcus, woodwinds
John Austria, keyboard
Tyler Mitchell, bass
Warren Smith, drums & percussion
8:00 PM | Opening VIP dinner party @ Fustini’s for all Edgepass holders, artists, and sponsors

9:00 PM | Oluyemi Thomas’ Positive Knowledge
Oluyemi Thomas, bass clarinet & saxophones
Ijeoma Thomas, voice
Kenn Thomas, piano
Ben Willis, bass
David Hurley, drums

All Thursday events are held at Blue Llama Jazz Club

6:00 PM | Filiano/Ilgenfritz/Michalowski/Schoenbeck
Ken Filiano, bass
James Ilgenfritz, bass
Piotr Michalowski, bass clarinet, contrabass clarinet, and soprano saxophone
Sara Schoenbeck, bassoon

7:00 PM | William Hooker – Remembrance
Sponsored by Alan Feller
Mara Rosenbloom, piano
Adam Lane, bass
William Hooker, drums

8:00 PM | Myra Melford Trio and Myra with UM Creative Arts Orchestra
Melford/Golia/Bruckmann Trio
Sponsored by Luis Torregrosa
Myra Melford, piano
Vinny Golia, winds
Kyle Bruckmann, oboe
Myra Melford performs her composition with UM Creative Arts Orchestra; Mark Kirschenmann, Director


7:00 PM | Andrew Bishop’s New and Used
Andrew Bishop, winds
Peter Formanek, winds
Derek Worthington, trumpet
Karalyn Schubring, piano

8:00 PM | Cycle of Restoration
Mark Kirschenmann, trumpet
William Hooker, drums
Joel Peterson, bass

9:00 PM | Wayne Horvitz’s Snowghost Trio PLUS Sara Schoenbeck, bassoon
Wayne Horvitz, piano, amplified piano, live processing, Wurlitzer electric piano, Hammond B-3, Nord lead, TX-7 mellotron
Sara Schoenbeck, bassoon
Geoff Harper, contrabass
Eric Eagle, drums & percussion

10:00 PM | Bobby Bradford and Vinny Golia Quartet
Sponsored by Mike Resil
Bobby Bradford, cornet and trumpet
Vinny Golia, winds
Ken Filiano, bass
Michael TA Thompson, drums

12:00 PM | Edgefest Parade
Scarlett Middle School band students (Caroline Fitzgerald, Band Director) plus Edgefest artists and community members participate in this raucous and exciting moment in the Kerrytown downtown/Farmers’ Market area.

2:00 PM | Tad Weed Tribute
Sponsored by Niraj Ganatra, Nimish Ganatra and Bonnie Patterson
Ken Filiano, bass
Pete Siers, drums
Vinny Golia, winds
Andrew Bishop, saxophones
Gary Schunk, piano

3:00 PM | Lisa Mezzacappa Six: Cosmicomics
Aaron Bennett, tenor saxophone
John Finkbeiner, electric guitar
Mark Clifford, vibraphone
Tim Perkis, electronics
Lisa Mezzacappa, bass
TBA, drums

4:00 PM | Thompson/Filiano/Cooper-Moore Trio
Sponsored by Luis Torregrosa
Cooper-Moore, piano
Ken Filiano, bass
Michael TA Thompson, drums

8:00 PM | Grand Finale Evening
at Bethlehem United Church of Christ
ROVA Saxophone Quartet
Sponsored by Frank Rubolino
Bruce Ackley, soprano saxophone
Steve Adams, alto saxophone
Larry Ochs, tenor saxophone
Jon Raskin, baritone saxophone
Vinny Golia leads large ensemble in performance of his compositions created for Edgefest 2019.
Sponsored by Keith Martin
Participants include:
UMS Creative Arts Orchestra Students
Mark Kirschenmann
Derek Worthington
Ken Kozora
Andrew Bishop
Katri Ervamaa
Abby Alwin
Ken Filiano
ROVA Quartet
Kyle Bruckmann
Lisa Mezzacappa Sextet
and more TBA!