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.

PLAY – New and Improved Improv on Saturday

Thollem McDonas, photo: Peter Gannushkin

LaDonna Smith has organized another jam-packed evening of improvised music with a host of special guests, featuring pianist Thollem McDonas.

Saturday, September 22 7:30pm
PLAY – New and Improved Improv
Homewood Community Center – CDF
1715 27th Court South
Homewood AL
$10/$5 students (sliding scale) kids free

Thollem will perform solo and with Stella Nystrom, dance; Davey Williams, guitar; Craig Hultgren, cello; Andrew DeWar, saxophone. Also on the bill are Hunter Bell, Si Reasoning, myself and LaDonna Smith. Dianne McNaron will preview her upcoming Marlene Dietrich retrospective and Caroline Karson will play Chopin. Come early and stay late, there’ll be lots to take in.

Naturesongs at RPI

I’ll be playing saxophone as part of an ensemble performing James Tenney’s “Swell Piece #2 – for Pauline Oliveros.” A440, all the way. Looks like a great program.

Tuesday, April 10 4pm Free!
Naturesongs
Rensselaer Contemporary Music Ensemble
EMPAC
Troy NY

51 3rd Recordings – Everyone Looks to a Sumatran, Virginian Curlew

Here are live recordings of my set from November’s show at 51 3rd Street that also included performances by Keir Neuringer and Rambutan (Eric Hardiman). It’s an eclectic set beginning with a slightly dysfunctional performance of

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Everyone Looks to the Sky

No one but me would know that the computer is responding to my playing differently than anticipated. Such is the fun of interactive computer music: you just have to work with it, ride with it, fight it, respond to the moment, change your plans. In this case, the conception of the piece is already so circumscribed that the content of the work is hardly changed, though the form is clearly different–and maybe more dramatic as a result.

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Batak Batak

A recent binge of Indonesian music led me to dust off this piece. I never felt I had worked out the sax part enough when the piece was new, which might account for why I shelved it. Revisiting the piece, I discovered very few indications of what I had intended for the sax part–little more than a scribbled microtonal scale. There’s clearly still work to do here, but I’m less bothered than I might have been in the past by the elliptical playing.

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East Virginia

This has become one of my go-to banjo pieces; a surefire way to find my place on the instrument.

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Curlew

A brand-new piece getting its first public airing. I learn so much by performing new material and can’t wait to revise this tune as a result. Yet another song with bird imagery (YASWBI).

Keir Neuringer, Holland Hopson, Rambutan, Living Things at 51 3rd

Tomorrow night! I went halfway around the world to Sydney, Australia where I heard about Keir Neuringer who only lives a few hours away. His last appearance at 51 3rd was great. I’m looking forward to hearing him play again.

Wednesday 11/30/11 @ 8pm
51 3rd St.
Troy, NY (former Troy Bike Rescue)

KEIR NEURINGER
composes & improvises acoustic & electronic music, writes socio-political performance texts & essays, & creates interdisciplinary artworks. Keir will play farfisa organ & drums (at the same time!), sing, and play saxophone & electronic…s. intense post-punk songwriter, playing songs off the new Afghanistan album Conquistadors.

HOLLAND HOPSON
is a local avant-gardist and member of the Albany Sonic Arts Collective. Well-versed in a wide variety of musical styles, from the most traditional to the most experimental, Holland will sew together these different musical worlds with pieces for solo banjo and electronics (off his 2011 release Post & Beam), as well as pieces for solo saxophone and electronics.

RAMBUTAN
is local noise/drone wizard Eric Hardiman, member of the Albany Sonic Arts Collective, local psych-rock collective Burnt Hills, and proprietor of TAPE DRIFT records, Albany’s most experimental music label. Eric will be performing a mind-bending set of improvised solo electronics…

intermission videos by LIVING THINGS

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

Everyone Looks to the Sky

Photo: Diana Cooper

Here’s a recording of a new piece called Everyone Looks to the Sky.

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Everyone Looks to the Sky

I made the piece and the recording during my recent residency with David Behrman at the Atlantic Center for the Arts. The work is for any sustaining instrument with computer (here, I’m playing the soprano saxophone). The computer produces a gradually rising tone that matches the first note of each gesture (see the score below). The result is–yes, more glissando music–and a curious kind of interactive piece that always ends the same way.

Here are the juicy bits from the score:

Gesture 1
• Play 5 notes in an ascending series, beginning near the lowest note on your instrument.
For a performance lasting 10 mintues, each note should last 7 or many more seconds. Each note should be separated by a rest of approximately 7 or many more seconds–at a minimum, allow enough time between notes to perceive the computer’s pitch rising. For longer performances, adjust the durations appropriately.

Gesture 2
• Play 4 notes in an ascending series, beginning on any pitch lower than the last pitch of Gesture 1.
Durations of notes and rests are as in Gesture 1.

Gesture 3
• Play 3 notes in an ascending series, beginning on any pitch lower than the last pitch of Gesture 2.
Durations of notes and rests are as in Gesture 1.

Gesture 4
• Play 2 notes in an ascending series, beginning on any pitch lower than the last pitch of Gesture 3.
Durations of notes and rests are as in Gesture 1.

Gesture 5
• Play 5 or more notes in an ascending series, beginning on any pitch lower than the last pitch of Gesture 4.
Durations of notes and rests are as in Gesture 1, with a few notes or rests lasting shorter than 7 seconds, if desired.
Repeat as needed until the piece ends. The last 4 or more pitches played should be near the highest note on your instrument.

Valentine’s Sounds

Saturday, April 16, 8 pm
A Night of Amazing Sounds
Bob Gluck/James Keepnews/Ras Moshe/Dean Sharp
Duojoggle (Mitch Elrod/Mike Lopez)
Holland Hopson and Matt Weston
Valentine’s
17 New Scotland Ave

Here’s a great way to spend Saturday night! This will be the first time Matt Weston and I have performed as a duo, and I’m really excited about playing with such an amazing drummer. Every time we’ve rehearsed it comes out a little differently, so it should be a fun surprise to hear what happens at Valentine’s.

Here’s what the Chronogram says about the show:

“A Night of Amazing Sounds”
April 16. In an out-of-the-ordinary move, the normally straight punk-oriented Valentine’s presents “A Night of Amazing Sounds,” a free jazz/experimental electronics program with the quartet of keyboardist Bob Gluck, guitarist James Keepnews, saxophonist Ras Moshe, and drummer Dean Sharp; Duojoggle, featuring saxophonist-guitarist Mitch Elrod and drummer Mike Lopez; and Hopson-Weston, starring Holland Hopson on sax and laptop and Matt Weston on percussion and electronics. Here’s hoping the venue has similar bills in store. (The Charlie Watts Riots and the Last Conspirators plot destruction April 1; the Downtown Fiction hits April 27.) 8pm. Call for ticket prices. Albany. (518) 432-6572; www.valentinesalbany.com.