Henry Threadgill Profiled in Radio Show

Source: WQXR.

1967, Fort Riley, Kansas. Henry Threadgill is 23 years old. Knowing he’s going to be drafted into the military, he joins the Army Concert Band, hoping to focus on his passion: writing music. As he surrounds himself with new ideas, he works his influences into the music that he’s arranging. Then one day, the band plays one of his arrangements of a patriotic song for an inauguration of big-wigs, and from the calm of a quietly confused crowd comes a cry from a cardinal in attendance: “Blasphemy!”

One day later, he’s told to gather his things. Thirty days later, he’s on his way to Vietnam. Fifty years later, he wins the Pulitzer Prize for music composition.


Sun Ra’s Contemporary Influence

English: Sun Ra at New England Conservatory, F...

Source: Rolling Stone.

Onstage at New York’s Radio City Music Hall earlier this month, Solange, still touring behind her momentous 2016 album, A Seat at the Table, was flanked by two pyramids; between them was a massive orb, resembling a heavenly body in the night. Behind those structures was a bleachers-like setup, where horn and string players would assemble, lending an extra sonic hand to Solange’s core band, which includes a trumpeter and trombonist. The show, part of a six-concert run dubbed Orion’s Rise, found the performers dressed entirely in white. All in all, an attendee could have been forgiven for feeling like they were at a concert by Sun Ra, the late jazz keyboardist, composer, philosopher and all-around cultural force whose avant-garde big band, the Arkestra, wore Egyptian-inspired outfits and played songs called “Tiny Pyramids” and “Space Is the Place.”

The Art Ensemble of Chicago Celebrates 50 Years 

Source: NPR.

Famoudou Don Moye was in his early 20s, an expatriate jazz drummer working in Paris, when he got the invitation to join the Art Ensemble of Chicago. With it came a friendly admonition, from the group’s trumpeter and most inveterate trickster, Lester Bowie.

“Lester told me: ‘Don’t even mess with this if you don’t want to be part of history,'” Moye recalls, laughing. “This was early 1970, when I was just coming into the band. Of course I said, ‘Hell, yeah!'”

By 1970, the Art Ensemble of Chicago — a willfully eclectic, wildly experimental collective originally led by saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell — was already a sensation of sorts in Paris. It had a motto, “Great Black Music,” which would soon be appended with a no-less-pointed second clause, “Ancient to the Future.” So Bowie could have meant his comment to register in a few different keys: History was something to be channeled and challenged, as well as made.

Ballister Profiled

Fred Lonberg-Holm in 2002

Source: Lexington Herald Leader. A little late for the show but still a nice piece…

Given the number of jazz and improvised music groups Dave Rempis leads (his website lists nine), one might wonder how sound and intent differ when it comes to Ballister, the free jazz power trio the Chicago saxophonist returns to Lexington with for an Outside the Spotlight concert on Monday.

The sound? That’s readily apparent when listening to “Slag,” one of the two new Ballister recordings released this year (the other is the vinyl-only Belgian album “Low Level Stink”). The music is alternately immediate and aggressive. It’s sparse and spacious one moment and thunderously textured the next. On “Gusiarme,” the second of three extended improvised pieces making up “Slag,” Rempis, cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love let the music drop to a bare scratch of a solo sax whisper before building to a full, abstract trio assault.

Hamid Drake Profiled

English: Hamid Drake

Source: Times Colonist.

Free jazz is known as an improvisational strain of avant-garde music, which has always struck one of its foremost practitioners, percussionist Hamid Drake, as something of a misnomer.

Free jazz is better explained as improvisational music, where instruments often sound at odds with each other to the untrained ear. The reality is more complicated, said Drake, who is coming to Victoria on Friday for a performance with Nanaimo-raised saxophonist Brodie West. The concert at Martin Batchelor Gallery is billed as An Evening of Solos and Duets, which combines two of Drake’s preferred styles of playing.

Sound American 18 is Out

Source: Sound American.

My personal relationship to big-band music tends to spawn multiple and conflicting metaphors, depending on the memory I’m accessing. As a person who has no interest or business playing in a large ensemble of this type any longer, but whose roots remain firmly within its tradition, the ”big-band sound” conjures images of regimental drills, Quaker meetings, violent mobs, house parties, colorful images—but not always positive. Ultimately, I admit that I am confused about my relationship with this music and have, from time to time, sought out ways to recapture my early obsession with its history and tradition.