Lonely Woman

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Ornette Coleman had such an impact on my life as a saxophonist and composer. When he died last month I revisited his recordings, my memories of hearing him perform live and my experiences playing his music (mostly during ECFA’s ‘repertory’ phase–thanks Carl Smith!). That’s when I realized I’d never tried an Ornette tune on banjo.

This is a version of “Lonely Woman” from The Shape of Jazz to Come for clawhammer banjo. I chose this tune, in part, because Charlie Haden’s iconic pedal-point bass line suggested the drone string on a banjo. I bought this album as a freshman in college and remember listening to it again and again until the sheer mystery and befuddlement and out-of-tuneness of the songs gave way to familiarity, love and (hopefully) some understanding of how and why they work.

Anthony Braxton at Alabama

Braxton Poster 150210 16x9 smaller

I’m so excited to be part of Anthony Braxton’s week-long residency at the University of Alabama kicking off tonight with a free solo saxophone concert at the Bama Theatre and running through February 25th. Sonic Frontiers is presenting these events; visit their site for the full schedule of events. All events are free.

I’ll be performing on Friday’s concert as part of the Falling River Music Septet along with Anthony Braxton (reeds), Taylor Ho Bynum (brass), Andrew Raffo Dewar (soprano saxophone), Tim Feeney (percussion), Mary Halvorson (guitar) and Ingrid Laubrock (reeds). This is such an amazing lineup, and it’s just one of many throughout the 6-concert residency.

In preparation for this residency I’ve been listening to many Braxton recordings, starting with For Alto and moving through the entire Arista Records box set. I thought I had a grasp of Braxton’s work having heard selections here and there (likely beginning with the Muhal Richard Abrams duo on the Smithsonian Jazz compilation). But I was completely unprepared for both the amount of musical material and the incredible range represented: from ragtime and marching band music to post-bop solos and Sun Ra-like grooves, from the density of his music for four orchestras to the spare, spacey explorations on For Trio. And that barely gets us through the 1970s! I can’t think of another composer with such stylistic richness and diversity.

The Woodstock Quantum Ensemble & Holland Hopson/James Keepnews in Kingston, June 3

One from the archives: James Keepnews taking us to school in 2002. Photo: Chris Funkhauser

I’m super excited to reunite with partner James Keepnews for this duo show at Backstage Productions in Kingston on Friday June 3. We’ll be performing duets for saxophone, guitar and lots o’ electronics. There may be a banjo piece in there, too.

Our hosts for the night are the Woodstock Quantum Ensemble featuring Johnny Asia (guitar), Damon Banks (electric bass), Joakim Lartey (percussion) and Gus Mancini (reeds).

Fri, June 3, 2011 7:30 pm
The Woodstock Quantum Ensemble &
Holland Hopson/James Keepnews
Backstage Productions
Kingston, NY
$15
$10 students/seniors

Find all the info at AllAboutJazz.com

Shout Outs from Metroland: Best of the Capital Region 2010

Metroland Best of the Captial Region 2010; Cover photo by Alicia Solsman

Metroland’s Best of the Capital Region for 2010 came out last week and I am surprised and pleased to be included as the Best Retro-Futurist. Sure, it’s a made-up category, but it’s a good fit. Here’s what they have to say:

Composer and instrumentalist Holland Hopson has been a contributor to the region’s avant-garde music scene for the better part of 20 year—whether it’s vocal excursions that meld Gregorian chant and Dada, or soprano sax forays that come pretty close to “straight-up” jazz, the breadth and range of this iconoclast’s musical journey has always been intriguing, albeit way outside of the box. Hopson’s recent blending of traditional tunes (performed with vocals and banjo) and subtle electronics has turned him into one of the area’s most mesmerizing and memorable live performers. Catch him if you can, as his local shows tend to be few and far between.

Metroland has identified plenty of other (probably more deserving) best-of recipients including such friends and colleagues as Jason Cosco/Grab Ass Cowboys (Best Noise Wrangler); EMPAC (Best Music Curation) — this ought to read Micah Silver, in my opinion, since he is the Music Curator at EMPAC; The Sanctuary for Independent Media (Best Activist Community Arts Center); and Emily Zimmerman (Best Emerging Curator).

These accolades come on the heels of a conversation with a friend at the latest show presented by the Albany Sonic Arts Collective. We were talking about how important it is for a community of artists to receive some recognition from the local press and the concomitant pitfalls of letting it go to your head. A timely conversation for the former and hopefully we’ll avoid the latter. The ASAC event was a great set of performances, by the way, particularly from Fossils from the Sun (Ray Hare) and Family Battle Snake (Bill Kouligas).

Remembering Tina Marsh

I’m saddened to read that Austin has lost one of its greats, vocalist Tina Marsh. Read the story here: Remembering Tina Marsh | Austin Music Source.

I only heard Tina sing a handful of times (always with the amazing Creative Opportunity Orchestra) and was never lucky enough to perform with her. I’m almost ashamed to say it now, but I’m sure Tina attended more of my gigs than I attended hers. I’m only almost ashamed, though, since this imbalance is really a testament to Tina’s full engagement with her community. I appreciate her quiet, reliable, affirming support more than ever now that she’s gone.

Steve Lacy came through Austin near the end of his life with George Lewis in the band. I remember someone asking George about his impressions of the jazz scene in Austin, or some such question. And George responded “Well, you’ve got Tina Marsh.” As if to say, “What more do you need?”

Go to http://www.creop.org/ to hear Tina again and again.

Monk’s Advice

Here’s some New Year Resolution fodder from Thelonious Monk via Steve Lacy.

Monk's advice

Thanks to James Keepnews for sharing.

And here’s a shot of Monk’s iconic hat I took on a recent visit to the Smithsonian Museum of American History.

Thelonious Monk's Hat at the Smithsonian Museum of American History

Thelonious Monk's Hat at the Smithsonian Museum of American History

Maps Breaks $1. Maps is Free. Long Live Maps.

The price for my Maps CD on amiestreet.com recently broke the $1.00 barrier (see below). To celebrate I’ve the posted the album in its entirety at grabrarearts.com. Go here for complete information or use the link below to get it all in one swell foop. This is part of my pledge to make more of my music available for download in 2008. I’ll have more coming up soon, so stay tuned.

Download the full album including artwork: hopson_maps.zip