Pittsburgh New Music Net

cutting-edge music in the ’burgh and beyond

Imani Winds Release Terra Incognita

Way back in March of 2009 I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Imani Winds bassoonist and Pittsburgh native Monica Ellis. I was particularly interested in hearing about Imani’s Legacy Commissioning Project launched in 2007 to commemorate the ensemble’s 10th Anniversary. Through the LCP, Imani has commissioned ten composers of color to create new works for wind quintet. Imani have been premiering the new works as they’ve been completed and, with the release of Terra Incognita, we can all begin to share in the fruit of this ambitious project.

Terra Incognita includes LCP commission Cane, a work by critically acclaimed jazz pianist Jason Moran. Cane traces the journey of Moran’s ancestors, brought as slaves from Togo to what is now Louisiana, and focuses in particular on the life of Marie Therese Coin Coin. Coin Coin’s master gave her her freedom after she had given birth to several of his children. A remarkably forward-thinking woman, Coin Coin was eventually able to establish her own plantation and purchase her children’s freedom as well.

Cane is infused with clave-like rhythms that locate the music within Coin Coin’s African roots. The rhythms are layered together and often create asymmetries that constantly push the music forward, and to my ears, portray Coin Coin’s irrepressible drive to make a better life for herself and her family.

As impressive an achievement as Cane is, it has plenty of good company on an album that also features legendary jazz saxophonist Wayne Shorter’s title track composition Terra Incognita and Paquito D’Rivera’s Kites. Clarinetist D’Rivera and pianist Alex Brown join the quintet for Kites and contribute some of the album’s most direct forays into jazz. But what’s amazing about Terra Incognita as a whole is not how jazzy it is, but how these three outstanding composers explore the wind quintet as a creative medium. The results are refreshingly difficult to pin down in terms of generic influences and in this regard the album lives up to its name.

As I’ve said many times, Pittsburgh New Music Net isn’t about criticism (dangerous work that should be left safely in the hands of trained professionals), it’s about new music advocacy, and as such, I’m happy to tell you why I think a composer, performer, or composition are significant. Imani Winds have described the goals of the Legacy Commissioning Project as follows:

  1. To introduce to audiences of all ages instruments that they may not have seen or heard before; and to show by example to African-America and Latino communities that there is a place in the Classical music world for them.
  2. To champion the works of composers of under-represented cultures through diverse programming.
  3. To expand the language and sonority of Classical contemporary music, so that it includes styles and techniques that are non-traditional to the genre

Those are important goals, and Terra Incognita is a significant and impressive step toward achieving those goals. While it’s appropriate to celebrate the recording of Cane as a milestone in the LCP, the album as whole embodies LCP goals. Most importantly, the success of the project can be seen in the extent to which the music regularly defies expectations, and in that regard, Terra Incognita is a place I think you’ll enjoy getting to know.

Terra Incognita drops on August 24. Here’s a video preview of the album.

August 23, 2010 at 11:01 pm Comments (0)

Legendary Avant-Jazz Bassist HENRY GRIMES, Mon Aug 30 @ Thunderbird Cafe

Announcing a great last-minute addition to the avantgarde music schedule. Legendary avant-jazz bassist HENRY GRIMES
will be performing on solo bass and violin, and reading poetry
from his new book, this upcoming Monday. He has been here
three previous times since his re-emergence from obscurity
(at CMU, Modern Formations, and the Brew House).

Monday August 30 8 pm 21+ $16 advance/$20 door
Thunderbird Cafe, 4023 Butler St., Lawrenceville

HENRY GRIMES (bass, violin, poetry)

with special guests Ben Opie and Edgar-Um

Tickets on sale now at Paul’s CDs in Bloomfield, and
online at http://www.thunderbirdcafe.net

HENRY GRIMES has played more than 38O concerts in 24 countries (including many festivals) since 2OO3, when he
made his astonishing return to the music world after 35 years away. He came up with great R&B / soul musicians, but drawn to jazz, he went on to play, tour, and record with Albert Ayler, Don Cherry, Benny Goodman, Coleman Hawkins, Roy Haynes, Steve Lacy, Charles Mingus, Gerry Mulligan, Sunny Murray, Sonny Rollins, Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp, Cecil Taylor,
and McCoy Tyner. Since re-emerging on the scene at Vision Festival, he has played with Rashied Ali, Marshall Allen, Fred Anderson, Marilyn Crispell, Andrew Cyrille, Bill Dixon, Dave Douglas, David Murray, William Parker, Marc Ribot, and Cecil Taylor, and held residencies at Berklee, New England
Conservatory, and the University of Michigan, while receiving several Meet The Composer grants. He also plays the violin and has published a volume of poetry. He can be heard on 85 recordings on labels such as Atlantic, Blue Note, Columbia, ESP-Disk, Impulse!, Pi Recordings, Prestige, Riverside, and Verve. Henry Grimes now lives and teaches in New York City.

August 23, 2010 at 4:32 pm Comments (0)

August 19–20: Next Installment, Alia Musica Recital Series

This Thursday and Friday, dancer Gia Cacalano will premiere new pieces that combine choreography and improvisation in dance with music by vibraphonist Jeff Berman and David Bernabo. The performances take place at The Space Upstairs (214 N. Lexington St, above Construction Junction) and you can see a preview of the show in this week’s City Paper. Find out more about the show here.

And don’t forget that Alia Musica Pittsburgh’s summer recital series continues this weekend as well when clarinetist Rachael Stutzman performs music by Bernstein, Copland, and a premiere by Federico Garcia. The concert takes place at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Friday at 7:30 and you can find out more about the show from the AMP homepage.

Lots of great new music coming up as we head into the fall and I’ll be updating the main events calendar in the near future.

August 19, 2010 at 9:19 am Comments (0)

2010 The Next Installment – a collaborative dance and music project

August 20, 2010
12:00 am
August 21, 2010
12:00 am

Gia Cacalano presents

This Friday and Saturday, Gia Cacalano will premiere new pieces that combine choreography and improvisation in dance with music by vibraphonist Jeff Berman and (ahem) myself, David Bernabo.  The four dancers will do a few group pieces, some solos, and a very great duo.  We’ll be performing five pieces each night, and (if I can say so) it is turning out very nicely.  There is a nice article in this week’s Pittsburgh City Paper that discusses the motivations for the dance, so I’ll mention a few things about the music.  The first piece, which lasts roughly 30 minutes, combines electronic soundscapes, text, and freely improvised sections for vibraphone and amplified objects.  The electronic score was assembled from closed-circuit electronics that I recorded in 2004.  The text piece is a newer piece where each word is slowed down by 1% until the ending text is deep bass rumbling.  And of course, there is much more…

Hope to see you there.  Details below:

Friday, August 20 and Saturday, August 21, 2010
8PM, $12 students, $15 general admission
214 N. Lexington St (above Construction Junction)
Point Breeze, Pittsburgh, PA
$15, $12 Students
More info: 4120758-3265

Gia Cacalano / Movement / Choreography / Concepts
Allie Greene / Movement
Jasmine Hearn / Movement
Beth Ratas / Movement
Jeff Berman / Vibraphone
David Bernabo / Electronics, Percussion

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August 19, 2010 at 12:36 am Comments (0)

A Conversation with Composer/Performer Missy Mazzoli

Editor’s note: Many thanks to Patrick Burke and Missy Mazzoli for participating in our first ever (successfully recorded) video chat. We’ve been trying to work this feature into the blog  for a while now  and I can’t think of a better way to introduce it than the conversation that follows. Enjoy!

Missy Mazzoli, a New York composer, comes to Pittsburgh with her group Victoire for their first performance outside of NYC.  I interviewed her via Skype to talk about the group, the music, genre, and women in music, among other things.

Listen to Victoire’s A Door into the Dark

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Check out Matt Marks’s video I Don’t Have Any Fun here.

August 3, 2010 at 5:00 pm Comments (0)