Monday, November 28, 2011

Trio for Trumpet and Dancer

Trio for Trumpet and Dancer
Charter Oak Cultural Center
Hartford, CT

I can't remember how many years I have been working with Olivia Iliano-Davis.  I do remember the first time we met.  Olivia was headed into Betances School, where I worked at the time, running the arts component of an after school program.  Olivia was bringing ballet into the school for the Hartford Ballet.

Olivia got my attention immediately.  She is a small woman with great energy.  She also dresses well, and the combination of these two elements made me notice her right away.  Not too long after that, she decided to form her own company, Spectrum in Motion Dance Theater Ensemble.

I provided music for the company from time to time, but Olivia and I had never found a way to work together in a more deeply collaborative manner.  Her ensemble is made up of young dancers, some of whom she has known since they where school children.  She has a love of black music, and uses it consistently to fuel her composition.  You should see her choreography of Charles Mingus and Wayne Shorter.

Olivia asked me to create music for her to dance to this fall.  I invited Charlie Dye, a wonderful young drummer to join us in a trio improvisation.  And while we did improvise, each night moved closer to formality in the movement as Olivia did what she always does and worked on building a composition.

Throughout the experience, I found myself thinking of Bill Dixon and his work with choreographer Judith Dunn.  Bill loved to tell stories about pieces they had done together, how the music and dance were integral to each other in their collaborations.  I was fortunate to meet and work with Judith on a revival of her work, with Bill, shortly before she passed away.  She was/is a remarkable woman.

My dream is to conduct a year long residency with the dance ensemble and a group of musicians, teaching everyone to move together.  If this is possible, it will happen here in Hartford.  Let's see what happens.

Image of Stephen Haynes and Olivia Davis by Rich Davis
Image of Judith Dunn from Yvonne Rainer's website

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Improvisations I: New Music at Real Art Ways

Improvisations I
October 22, 2011
Real Art Ways
Hartford, CT

Following our concert with Parrhesia at Real Art Ways this past June, Joe Morris and I approached longtime friend and colleague Will K. Wilkins, Executive Director at RAW, with the notion of curating a long-term music series centered on improvisation.  To our delight, he agreed to the concept.  

Our first evening of music took place several weeks ago in a lovely, high-ceiling gallery at Real Art Ways.  We gathered two groupings of musicians.  The first centered on two English improvisers, clarinetist Alex Ward and bassist Dominic Lash, alongside Joe Morris on guitar.  This trio had performed the previous night at The Lilypad in Boston.  

I worked with bassist Ken Filano, reedist Charlie Waters and drummer Andrew Barker.  Charlie I got to know through our work with Adam Rudolph and Go: Organic Orchestra.  He asked to bring along his friend Andrew, who I had not encountered before this evening.  Ken is an old friend and colleague, who I have gotten to know through work with Bill Dixon and, recently, as a member of Ken's new quartet, Baudolino's Dilemma.

Having the opportunity to engage in work this close to home is, to say the least, a delight.  This is an ongoing series, and we are planning events well into 2012.

 images by Maurice Robertson and Byron Dean

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Tuba Tricksters and More

The Connecticut Jazz Composers and Improvisers Festival
The Buttonwood Tree
Middletown, CT

Several weeks ago, I had the great pleasure of working again (it's been a while!) with my longtime brass confrere Bill Lowe.  The occasion was the seventh annual Connecticut Jazz Composers and Improvisers Festival.  The festival is the creation of bassist Joe Fonda, who invites several improvising composers to gather and share their music with local listeners.

I opted to stir things up a bit by inviting tubaist Ben Stapp and trombonist Peter McEachern to join us.  Following a wonderful set of solo music on the contrabass violin by Avery Sharpe, our quartet let loose with a rambling and raucous set of improvised music.  At points, we had two tubas in play, bringing to mind our old co-op ensemble Paradigm Shift (w/Taylor Ho Bynum, Bill Lowe, Joseph Daley, Syd Smart and Warren Smith).  We had a ball!

The following day, I drove Bill home to Boston and was more than pleased to hear of his new project with director Gilbert McCauley, setting the work of Jean Toomer to music in a new musical theater project.  When we last gathered  this way, the work centered on Rahsaan Roland Kirk's version of The Old Rugged Cross.  "The purpose of the cross is not to cross you up but to help you get across."  Stay tuned for details!

Thanks to photographer and deep listener (not to mention thirty plus years community radio host) Maurice Robertson for his tireless music work as a local music witness.  When Maurice is in the house, you know that you've done something right!

images by Maurice Robertson