Sunday, January 19, 2014

Improvisers: The Music Photography of Chandler, Dean, Miller, Robertson

Improvisers: Chandler, Dean, Miller, Robertson
Real Art Ways
Hartford, CT

Maurice Robertson
Byron Dean
Rob Miller
Joseph Chandler

Throughout the past few years of presenting at Real Art Ways, Joe Morris and I have been blessed by an abundance of witness.  Maurice Robertson, Byron Dean and Joseph Chandler - all from the Hartford area - and Rob Miller have worked long and hard to create, and share, a visual record of the Improvisations series.  As we planned our third year of concerts, it seemed only right to mount a showing of the work as part of the events planned for our third year of presenting at RAW. 

We paired the opening of the show with a concert (Nate Wooley/Ken Vandermark), and it was a real treat to watch the room fill with friends and followers, calling out to each other, sharing hugs and laughter, discussing the work and the process of making it.  Perhaps, someday, we will create a website for the series.  Until then, visit the Facebook page for Improvisations to follow our progress, plans and the presence/presents of our grassroots music witness.

It is worth saying, loudly and proudly, that none of this - the series or this showing of work - would have been possible without the steadfast support and vision of Will Wilkins and the staff at Real Art Ways.  Music needs a home to grow and develop, and RAW is that place for Joe and me, our visiting artists and our listeners here in Hartford.  We are thankful for that!

Images by Maurice Robertson
Title image by Charmaine Nav

Two Plus Two Equals More: Ken Vandermark and Nate Wooley in Hartford

Improvisations With Ken Vandermark and Nate Wooley
Real Art Ways
Hartford, CT

Stephen Haynes/cornets and flugelhorn
Joe Morris/contrabass violin
Nate Wooley/trumpet
Ken Vandermark/clarinet, tenor and baritone saxophones

This past fall, Joe Morris and I joined with Ken Vandermark and Nate Wooley for the second installment of Improvisations at Real Art Ways.  The evening was divided into duo and quartet sets.  The duo music departed from our normal format, as the material Nate and Ken performed was composed, intended to be performed over a series of nights on a small tour.  This was the first time that I had heard or played with Ken Vandermark.

The second set was a return to what we strive to do every time we encamp at RAW: build structure in real time, shared with the audience.  As usual, there was no discussion of what we might do together, and together we found a way, a most wonderful way.  We undertook this work surrounded by friends and followers, deep listeners all.  
What a delight the music and the company proved to be!

 Images by Rob Miller

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Looking Back: Paradigm Shift: A New Brass Notion

Paradigm Shift: The RAW Field Recordings
Tautology 010

"The best of contemporary music is informed by the contingent nature of existence.  The ethos of improvisation seems especially suited to our era of accelerated change.  Yet the very notion of change, while it implies a sense of rupture, also requires a connection with the past."

- Will K Wilkins in the liner notes to The RAW Field Recordings

Paradigm Shift was a notion birthed as a result of my dear friend and long-time colleague Bill Lowe sending a young Taylor Ho Bynum, a student with Lowe at Wesleyan University, up to Hartford to see me 'for some pointers.'  Taylor did not need a great deal of help and lessons soon transitioned into making music together.  Taylor, Bill and I opened for Sam Rivers and his trio at The Middle East in Cambridge, MA.  In the audience was Syd Smart, who made it clear to us that he really belonged in this new aggregation.

Sometime later, I was asked to take part in a benefit concert for Thomas Chapin.  This was the first full version of the ensemble.  We added Joseph Daley and Pheeroan akLaff.  Other concerts followed, here and at Tonic in Manhattan. The RAW Field Recordings were recorded, outdoors, in 1998 at Real Art Ways in the Parkville neighborhood of Hartford, CT.  Bill Lowe was recovering from an accident and Aaron Johnson joined us to cover the bass trombone/tuba seat.  We also invited Salim Washington, who was teaching at Trinity College, to perform.  Two drummers graced the stage: Syd Smart and Pheeroan akLaff and Taylor and I completed the recipe.

The resulting music, replete with the ambient sounds of an Amtrak train flying past, turned out to be a great document of our evolution up to that point.  We were fortunate to have the support of David Gross, who issued the music on his Tautology label.

After this date, Pheeroan left the ensemble, to be replaced by Warren Smith.  That sextet lineup (Haynes, Bynum, Lowe, Daley, Smart, Smith) remained constant for the next several years.  Other guest artists joined us: poet Patricia Smith, JD Parran and, for two memorable concerts, Howard Johnson.  

Lately, we have been talking about a Paradigm Shift reunion.  With the impending celebration of Warren Smith's 80th birthday, the time may just be right.  Stay tuned for details!

CD cover image by John Groo

Images of Paradigm Shift and Nancy Ostrovsky
Autumn Uprising
Institute of Contemporary Art
Boston, MA

Monday, December 02, 2013

Dancing With a Shaman: Tatsuya Nakatani in Hartford

 Improvisations With Tatsuya Nakatani
Real Art Ways
Hartford, CT

Stephen Haynes/cornet and flugelhorn
Joe Morris/guitar
Tatsuya Nakatani/gong, drums and percussion

Tatsuya Nakatani is unlike anyone that I have ever met. 

A traveler, Tatsuya has a quintessentially DIY sensibility, evidenced in his response to the scene (moving away from the locus if the city); his musical methodology ('I study with myself') and his way of touring (in a custom-fitted, sleep-in Mercedes van with a galley kitchen).  Almost everywhere he goes, Tatsuya swims at the local YMCA  There is much to learn from Tatsuya and his routine.

And then there is the music.

Tatsuya opened the evening with a solo concert.  His improvisation centered upon the gong, and his technique here was deep and well-developed.  He bowed, and touched the gong in a wide range of ways, producing a pure, orchestral sound.  This is something that you must hear, preferably live, to begin to understand.  Tatsuya has a similarly individualistic approach to the drums, employing singing bowls, a range of altered cymbals, smaller gongs and more to summon up a swirling cloud of organic sound.

Bill Dixon often spoke of the improvisor as orchestra, telling each of us that we should think and function as an independent orchestra and, in the ensemble, that we should think orchestrally.   Tatsuya Nakatani embodifies that sensibility. 

Tatsuya plans a return to Real Art Ways to conduct a gong orchestra in the early months of 2014.  Stay tuned for details.

Image of the trio in the doorway of Tatsuya's van by Matt Chilton
Concert images by Rob Miller

Monday, August 05, 2013

Sonic Mandala by Go: Organic Orchestra

Sonic Mandala
Adam Rudolph and Go: Organic Orchestra
Meta Records 017

Six years into our evolution as an ensemble, Adam Rudolph called all of us in to Bill Laswell's studio for an intensive two days of recording work.  Just over a year later, the fruits of our labor are ready to be shared.  Sonic Mandala, like the orchestra itself, is something special for a range of reasons.  Take a listen for yourself here, to see/hear a portion of the work interpreted by artist Moses Hacmon.

We are working with Rock, Paper Scissors to get the word out on the album and the touring we plan to undertake this fall.  Look here for more details about Go and what we are up to.

Image of Go: Organic Orchestra at ShapeShifter Lab by Hisao Kishimoto

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Looking Back, Moving Forward: Improvisations at Real Art Ways

Real Art Ways
Hartford, CT

Joe Morris and I have been working to gather together a group of artists for our third year of Improvisations at Real Art Ways.  Part of that work has involved taking stock of what we have already accomplished here in Hartford.  Since 2011, thirty-three artists have performed across eighteen concerts.  More and more, we find the work bringing to mind family.  There is real community present and growing between audience, artists and our partners at Real Art Ways.  And that's a good thing: it informs the music.

Season II / 2012-13
Nine concerts featuring eleven guest artists

Mark Dresser, Marco Eneidi, Ramón López
Jean Carla Rodea and Gerald Cleaver, Allan Chase
Tyshawn Sorey, Pascal Niggenkemper and Charles Downs
Matt Maneri, William Parker

Season I / 2011-2012
Nine concerts featuring twenty-two artists

Alex Ward and Dominic Lash
Noah Kaplan and Ben Hall, Yasmine Azaiez and Ben Stapp
Ken Filiano, Charlie Waters and Andrew Barker
Sara Schonbeck and Michael Evans
Jim Hobbs, Petr Cancura and Luther Gray
Chris Cretella and Nigel Taylor, Kyoko Kitamura and Rick Rozie
Jason Kao Hwang and Nathan Bontrager
JD Parran and Dean Bowman

Season III begins September 15 with Tatsuya Nakatani.  Nate Wooley and Ken Vandermark will join us in October followed by Fay Victor in November.  Much more is motion, and we are excited to be back for a third year.  The Improvisations series is built upon an authentic and deep collaboration between local artists - Joe Morris, Stephen Haynes - and a vital contemporary arts organization with deep roots in the region - Real Art Ways.  This relationship is a singular one, reflective of the unique and powerful work that is shared with listeners every season through the concert experience.

Images of Stephen Haynes and Joe Morris by Rob Miller