All-Star Line-Up Melds Sound and Prose

Saturday, December 2, 2017 8:00 p.m.

Greenwich House Music School, NYC

On Saturday December 2, the Creative Music Studio will present Billy Martin’s Omnispheric Orchestra, an improvising ensemble that weaves prose and sound into a dynamic musical and literary experience. The all-star ensemble includes Billy Martin (percussion), Marty Ehrlich, Ned Rothenberg and Daniel Carter (reeds), Adam Lane (bass), and the poets Ashley August, Mohamad Hodeib, Bob Holman and Nkosi Nkululeko. The performance is at the Greenwich House Music School, 46 Barrow Street in Greenwich Village.  Tickets are $20 ($15 students) and are available online and at the door.

Musicians

 Billy Martin

Billy Martin was born in NYC in 1963 to a Radio City Rockette and a concert violinist. At age 17, he devoted himself to music and dove into Manhattan’s thriving, eclectic musical landscape.In the years to follow, he honed his craft everywhere from Broadway orchestra pits to Brazilian nightclubs and burgeoning underground performance spaces.

 Adam Lane
By combining a disparate set of influences into a unique improvisational voice, Adam Lane has become recognized as one of the most original creative voices in contemporary jazz. His 2006 recording New Magical Kingdom, was recently featured in the Penguin Jazz Guide 1001 Best Records Ever Made, and his most recent recording, Ashcan Ranting received a myriad of critical praise including four stars in Downbeat.
 Daniel Carter

Daniel Carter is an American free jazz saxophone, flute, clarinet and trumpet player active mainly in New York City since the early 1970s. Over the past three decades-plus, Daniel Carter has performed with: Sun Ra, Billy Bang, Roger Baird, William Parker, Roy Campbell, Sabir Mateen, Simone Forti, Joan Miller, Thurston Moore, Nayo Takasaki, Earl Freeman, Dewey Johnson, Nami Yamamoto, Matthew Shipp, Wilber Morris, Denis Charles, MMW (Medeski, Martin and Wood), Vernon Reid, Raphé Malik, Sam Rivers, Sunny Murray, Hamiet Bluiett, Cecil Taylor, David S. Ware, Karl Berger, Don Pate, Gunter Hampel, Alan Silva, Susie Ibarra, D.J. Logic, Margaret Beals, Douglas Elliot and Butch Morris.

 Marty Ehrlich
Marty Ehrlich is celebrating 30 years in the nexus of creative music centered in New York City. He began his musical career in St. Louis, Mo. while in high school, performing and recording with the Human Arts Ensemble. He graduated from the New England Conservatory of Music with honors in 1977, where his teachers included George Russell, Jaki Byard, Joseph Allard and Gunther Schuller.

 Ned Rothenberg
Ned Rothenberg has been internationally acclaimed for both his solo and ensemble music, presented for the past 33 years on five continents. He performs primarily on alto saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet and the shakuhachi – an endblown Japanese bamboo flute. His solo work utilizes an expanded palette of sonic language, creating a kind of personal idiom all its own. In an ensemble setting, he leads the trio Sync, with Jerome Harris, guitars and Samir Chatterjee, tabla, works with the Mivos string quartet playing his Quintet for Clarinet and Strings and collaborates around the world with fellow improvisers. Recent recordings include this Quintet,The World of Odd Harmonics, Ryu Nashi(new music for shakuhachi),andInner Diaspora, all on John Zorn’s Tzadik label, as well as Live at Roulette with Evan Parker and The Fell Clutch, on Rothenberg’s Animullabel.

Poets

 Ashley August
Ashley August is an actress, playwright, touring spoken word artist, multipletime Grand Slam Champ, hip­hop junkie, professional shower krumper and NYC’s 2013 Youth Poet Laureate. As an actress, she got her start at 14 in the off­Broadway production of “Love: A Circus in Three Acts” and has since been featured on such great stages as the Apollo, The Great Hall at Cooper Union and The Triad Broadway House. She began her poetic journey in the summer of 2009 at Urban Word NYC where she quickly established herself as a rising star when shebecame a Youth Leadership Board Member, participating in several highly acclaimed competitions, including the Urban Word Grand Slam Finals and the New York Knicks Poetry Slam. In 2012, August landed a spot on the Urban Word Youth Slam team winning a ticket to California to perform at the Brave New Voices national poetry competition. In December of the same year, she was cast in the spirited off­broadway festival Black Ink, where she wrote and starred in her own one woman production, collaborating with award­winning choreographer and director, Nicco Annan.

 Bob Holman
The author of 16 poetry collections, most recently Sing This One Back to Me (Coffee House Press), Bob Holman has taught at Columbia, NYU, Bard and The New School. As the original Slam Master and a director at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, creator of the world’s first spoken word poetry record label, Mouth Almighty/Mercury,and the founder/proprietor of Bowery of the Bowery Poetry Club, Holman has played a central role in the spoken word and slam poetry movements ofthe last several decades. A co­founder and co­director of the Endangered LanguageAlliance, Holman’s study of hip­hop and West African oral traditions led to his currentwork with endangered languages. Holman is the producer and host of various films, including “The United States of Poetry,” and “On the Road with Bob Holman.” His most recent film, “Language Matters with Bob Holman,” winner of the Berkeley Film Festival’s 2015 Documentary of the Year award, was produced by David Grubin andaired on PBS in January. “Language Matters” takes viewers around the world: to a remote island off the coast of Australia where 400 Aboriginal people speak 10 different languages, all at risk; to Wales, where Welsh, once in danger, is today making a comeback; and to Hawaii, where Hawaiians are fighting to save their native tongue. Holman worked with language revitalization centers across Alaska and Hawaii 2015, sponsored by the Ford Foundation. He lives in New York City, where he was most recently Creative Consultant at LINES Ballet in San Francisco and teaches at Princeton University.

 Mohamad Hodeib
Hodeib is a recent graduate from the Lebanese American Universitywhere he studied political science, international studies, andeconomics. Since graduating from university in the spring of 2012 hehas dedicated his time to cultural activism.

 Nkoski Nkululeko
Nkosi Nkululeko has received fellowships from Callaloo, The Watering Hole and Poets House. He has performed for TEDxNewYork and the Aspen Ideas Festival. He is a Pushcart Prize nominee and finalist for both the 2016 Winter Tangerine Awards for Poetry and the 2016 Best of the Net anthology. His work is currently published inThe Collagist, Third Coast, Pank,  Apogee, VINYL and more. Nkosi lives in Harlem, New York.

The Creative Music Studio engages musicians and listeners from all backgrounds to deepen and broaden their musical sensitivity, expression and understanding through workshops, recordings and concerts worldwide.  The Creative Music Studio™ and CMS™ are trademarks of the Creative Music Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation founded in 1971 that receives funding from the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), among others.  

 

Featuring Min Xiao Fen on Chinese Pipa and Vocals

Saturday, October 28 at the El Taller Cultural Community Center, NYC

The Creative Music Studio™ Improvisers Orchestra, conducted by Karl Berger, continues its Fall season on Saturday, October 28 at the El Taller Cultural Community Center at 215, East 99th Street in Manhattan. This performance features Chinese pipa player and vocalist Min Xiao Fen along with percussion wizard Warren Smith and vocalist/poet Ingrid Sertso. The performance begins at 8:30 with a rehearsal open to ticket holders at 7:00 when listeners gain insights into the unique process that guides the CIO.  Tickets are $20 ($15 students).

Min-Xiao-Fen

In this performance, the CMS Improvisers Orchestra will feature the stunning musicianship of Min Xiao Fen, playing themes from the Peking Opera and other Chinese musical influences. Min recently taught at the CMS Spring 2017 Workshop. The New York State Council on the Arts and the Robert D. Bielecki Foundation are generously underwriting this performance.

 

Since its inception in 2011, the CMS Improvisers Orchestra, comprised of 20 or more string, horn, reed, and percussion soloists, has performed nearly 100 times. In fact this is the 99th performance.   Conducted in Karl’s inimitable style developed over decades at the legendary Creative Music Studio™, the CMS™ Improvisers Orchestra explores Berger’s original compositions as well as melodies from the world’s folk traditions and themes by visionary composers such as Don Cherry and Ornette Coleman, creating a platform for musical ideas to arise spontaneously among the orchestra’s musicians. Karl’s conducting blends and harmonizes improvised sounds and rhythms in constantly shifting instrumentations and dynamics.  One of the orchestra’s trademarks is Ingrid Sertso’s unique vocalizations and poetry.

In addition to Karl Berger (conductor, arranger), Sertso (vocals), Smith (percussion) and Xio Fen (pipa, vocals), the CIO includes: Sana Nagana, Leonor Falcon, Richard Carr and Annemarie Weisner (violins); Bill Horberg, Sylvain Leroux, Haruna Fukazawa , Bill Ylitalo, Gene Coleman (flutes); Don Payne, Blaise Siwula (clarinets); Christof Knoche (bass clarinet); Jason Candler, Welf Dorr, Patrick Brennan, Ras Moshe, Will Epstein (saxes); Aaron Shragge (trumpet); Westbrook Johnson (trombone); Ted Orr (guitar); John Ehlis (mandolin); and Nicolas Letman (bass).

CIO will also perform at El Taller on Saturday, November 25th with the Soldier/Kane Duo on November 25.

The CMS Improvisers Orchestra has received numerous critical reviews. In a glowing review, the Wall Street Journal said the orchestra’s sound “draws on lush harmonies and a well-defined relationship between foreground soloists and background.”  The arts blog Lucid Culture remarked that “the camaraderie and warmth of the repartee between the orchestra and conductor – and among the orchestra itself – was visceral,” and acclaimed jazz critic Howard Mandel wrote that the orchestra “can expand on simple themes paying utmost attention to dynamics and each other through ‘intuited communication.”

The Creative Music Studio engages musicians and listeners from all backgrounds to deepen and broaden their musical sensitivity, expression and understanding through workshops, recordings and concerts worldwide.   The Creative Music Studio™ and CMS ™ are trademarks of the Creative Music Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation founded in 1971 that receives funding from the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), among others.  

Peter Apfelbaum’s World Music Project Features Ghanaian xylophone master Alfred Kpebesaane

Saturday, October 7, Greenwich House Music School, NYC

The Creative Music Studio™ begins its fall season at NYC’s Greenwich House Music School with a performance of Peter Apfelbaum’s world music project, Song of the Mystic Thread, on Saturday, October 7 at 8:00. Advance tickets are $20 ($15 students) and are available online and at the door.

Song of the Mystic Thread utilizes both Western and non-Western instruments and “expanded” tuning to create a blend of hypnotic, non-tempered polyrhythmic music and new world folk songs.  Apfelbaum is one of CMS’ associate artistic directors (along with Billy Martin and Steven Bernstein). In addition to Apfelbaum (woodwinds/de-tuned organ/piano), the group features two leading practitioners of the gyil (traditional Ghanaian xylophone) – master Alfred Kpebesaane and his protege, Brittany Anjou, along with Charlie Burnham (violin/vocals), Mali Obomsawin (bass) and April Centrone (drums/riqq), along with special surprise guests.

Peter Apfelbaum

Down Beat writes, “Apfelbaum is still playfully exploring sonic possibilities and, in the process, making some bold musical assertions about the future of jazz,” while CMJ New Music Monthly calls him a ‘visionary, galvanic composer like few others of his time.”

The Creative Music Studio™ engages musicians and listeners from all backgrounds to deepen and broaden their musical sensitivity, expression and understanding through workshops, recordings and concerts worldwide.

The Creative Music Studio™ and CMS ™ are trademarks of the Creative Music Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation founded in 1971. It receives funding from the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) and the Robert D. Bielecki Foundation, among others.

 

 

Remembering Don Cherry” With Guest Soloists Peter Apfelbaum and Graham Haynes

Saturday, September 30 at the El Taller Cultural Community Center, NYC

 The Creative Music Studio™ Improvisers Orchestra, conducted by Karl Berger, will commence its fall season on Saturday, September 30 at the El Taller Cultural Community Center at 215, East 99th Street in Manhattan. This performance features multi-instrumentalist and CMS™ associate artistic director Peter Apfelbaum, cornetist Graham Haynes, violin/viola virtuoso Jason Hwang, percussion wizard Warren Smith, and vocalist/poet Ingrid Sertso. The performance begins at 8:30 with a rehearsal open to ticket holders at 7:00 when listeners gain insights into the unique process that guides the CIO.  Tickets are $20 ($15 students).

In this performance, the CMS Improvisers Orchestra will play themes composed by Don Cherry, including “Om Nu,” “Remembrance” and “Thomas Mapfumo” inspired by the great Zimbabwean musician, as well as Jim Pepper’s “Witchi Tai To.” Cherry was and remains instrumental in the creation of CMS. The New York State Council on the Arts and the Robert D. Bielecki Foundation are generously underwriting this performance.

Since its inception in 2011, the CMS Improvisers Orchestra, comprised of 20 or more string, horn, reed, and percussion soloists, has performed nearly 90 times.  Conducted in Karl’s inimitable style developed over decades at the legendary Creative Music Studio™, the CMS™ Improvisers Orchestra explores Berger’s original compositions as well as melodies from the world’s folk traditions and themes by visionary composers such as Don Cherry and Ornette Coleman, creating a platform for musical ideas to arise spontaneously among the orchestra’s musicians. Karl’s conducting blends and harmonizes improvised sounds and rhythms in constantly shifting instrumentations and dynamics.  One of the orchestra’s trademarks is Ingrid Sertso’s unique vocalizations and poetry.

Additional artists in the CIO include: Jason Hwang, Leonor Falcon, Annemarie Wiesner, strings, Ras Moshe, flute and tenor sax; Sylvain Leroux, fula flutes; Haruna Fukazawa, Bill Horberg, flutes; Gene Coleman, alto flute, Nick Gianni, bass flute, Don Payne, clarinet; Christoph Knoche, bass clarinet; Richard Keene, oboe; Jason Candler, soprano sax; Welf Doerr, Patrick Brennan, alto sax; Bill Ylitalo, baritone sax; Westwood Johnson, trombones; Kenny Wessel, Ted Orr, guitars; Warren Smith, drums, Nicolas Letman, bass percussion; and surprise guests.

CIO will also perform at El Taller on Saturday, October 29 and again on December 8, in a performance showcasing its collaboration with the Chinese pipa virtuoso and composer, Min Xiao Fen. The CIO will perform with the Soldier/Kane Duo on November 25.

The CMS Improvisers Orchestra has received numerous critical reviews. In a glowing review, the Wall Street Journal said the orchestra’s sound “draws on lush harmonies and a well-defined relationship between foreground soloists and background.”  The arts blog Lucid Culture remarked that “the camaraderie and warmth of the repartee between the orchestra and conductor – and among the orchestra itself – was visceral,” and acclaimed jazz critic Howard Mandel wrote that the orchestra “can expand on simple themes paying utmost attention to dynamics and each other through ‘intuited communication.”

CMS Improvisers Orchestra at El Taller; CMS Ensembles at Greenwich House Music School

The Creative Music Studio™ has announced its Fall 2017 series of concerts in New York City with four performances by the CMS Improvisers Orchestra (CIO) conducted by artistic director Karl Berger, along with a series of three ensemble performances curated by CMS associate artistic directors Peter Apfelbaum, Steven Bernstein and Billy Martin.

 On Saturday, September 30 the series kicks off when the CIO performs with the Soldier/Kane duo, featuring Dave Soldier (violin) and Jonathan Kane (drums), at El Taller, 215 East 99th Street. There will be a second CIO Soldier/Kane concert at El Taller on Saturday, November 25. All CIO performances begin at 8:30pm, preceded by an open rehearsal for ticket holders at 7pm. Tickets are $20 ($15 students). These CIO concerts are supported through the generosity of the New York State Council on the Arts and the Robert F. Bielcki Foundation.

Peter Apfelbaum

On Saturday, October 7 CMS’ performance series at Greenwich House Music School,(GHMS) 46 Barrow Street (off 7th Ave.), begins with Peter Apfelbaum’s world music project, Song of the Mystic Thread. Utilizing both Western and non-Western instruments and “expanded” tuning, this ensemble plays hypnotic, non-tempered polyrhythmic music and new world folk songs.  In addition to Apfelbaum (woodwinds/de-tuned organ/piano), the group features two leading practitioners of the gyil (traditional Ghanaian xylophone) – master Alfred Kpebesaane and his protege, Brittany Anjou, along with Charlie Burnham (violin/vocals), Mali Obamsawin (bass) and April Centrone (drums/riqq), along with special surprise guests.  All CMS performances at GHMS begin at 8:00pm, and tickets are $20 ($15 students). Advance tickets for this performance are available here.  Tickets are also available at the door.

Min-Xiao-Fen

On Saturday, October 28 the CIO series at El Taller continues with special guest, Chinese composer, vocalist and pipa player Min Xiao Fen, a guiding artist at the CMS Spring Workshop last June. On Saturday, December 9 there will be a second CIO   El Taller concert featuring Min Xiao Fen.

 On Saturday December 2, CMS’ GHMS performance will feature Billy Martin’s Omnispheric Orchestra, an improvising ensemble that weaves prose and sound into a dynamic musical and literary experience. The ensemble includes Billy Martin (percussion), Marty Ehrlich, Ned Rothenberg and Daniel Carter (reeds), Adam Lane (bass), and the poets Bob Holman, Ashley August, Mohamad Hodeib and Nkosi Nkululeko, among others to be named later. Advanced tickets are here and will also be available at the door.

The CIO will perform its 100th concert during the run at the El Taller.   Since its inception in 2011, the CIO, comprised of 20 or more string, horn, reed, and percussion soloists, has performed nearly 100 times.  Conducted in Berger’s inimitable style developed over decades at the Creative Music Studio™, the CIO explores original compositions as well as melodies from the world’s folk traditions and themes by visionary composers such as Don Cherry and Ornette Coleman, creating a platform for musical ideas to arise spontaneously among the orchestra’s musicians. Berger’s conducting blends and harmonizes improvised sounds and rhythms in constantly shifting instrumentations and dynamics.  One of the orchestra’s trademarks is Ingrid Sertso’s unique vocalizations and poetry.

The Creative Music Studio™ engages musicians and listeners from all backgrounds to deepen and broaden their musical sensitivity, expression and understanding through workshops, recordings and concerts worldwide.  The Creative Music Studio™ and CMS ™ are trademarks of the Creative Music Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation founded in 1971.

CMS Ensembles To Perform at Woodstock’s Maverick Concerts (September 2) and at the Drum Boogie Festival (September 9);

Scholarships Now Available for the CMS Fall Workshop with Billy Martin, Mary Halvorson, Omar Tekbilek and Others

 The revamped Creative Music Studio™ will present “in the Spirit of Don Cherry’ at Woodstock’s legendary Maverick Concerts, Saturday, September 2, at 8:00. Performed by the all-star CMS™ Improvisers Octet led by Karl Berger, ‘In the Spirit of Don Cherry’ will explore Cherry’s compositions as well as music inspired by him and will use those themes as launching pads for exciting improvisation that weave together jazz, world and contemporary music. Six members of the CMS Improvisers Octet played with Cherry: Karl Berger (piano, vibes, leader), Bob Stewart (tuba), Steven Bernstein (trumpet), Peter Apfelbaum (reeds, percussion), Ingrid Sertso (vocals), Graham Haynes (cornet); along with Woodstock’s Tani Tabbal (drums), and Adam Lane (bass). Tickets are $5 – $40 and available at the Maverick Concerts website. More detailed information is here.

 On Saturday, September 9, a CMS ensemble led by Karl Berger will perform a ‘World Boogie’ Set at the Drum Boogie Festival at Woodstock’s Andy Lee Field at 12 noon in a free public performance. CMS is responsible for bringing many extraordinary musicians to the Woodstock area and ten of them are performing in this ensemble. In the tradition of CMS, this ‘World Boogie Band’ combines melodies and rhythms from the world’s folk music with free-wheeling improvisation. The group includes CMS artistic directors/co-founders Karl Berger (vibes/piano) and Ingrid Sertso (vocals), Tani Tabbal (drums), Ken Filiano (bass), Don Davis (reeds), David Oliver (marimba), Joakim Larkey (percussion), Ted Orr (tabla and guitar), Peter Buettner (flutes) and Bill Ylitalo (reeds, flutes, percussion).

Scholarships Available for October Workshop

 Finally, CMS is pleased to announce the availability of financial support for those wanting to attend its CMS Fall Workshop, October 2 – 6, with guitarist/bandleader/composer Mary Halvorson, CMS associate artistic director and percussionist Billy Martin, Turkish multi-instrumentalist Omar Tekbilek and many others. Those wishing to inquire about scholarships for the Fall Workshop should contact CMS directly: mail@creativemusic.org.

The Creative Music Studio™ engages musicians and listeners from all backgrounds to deepen and broaden their musical sensitivity, expression and understanding through workshops, recordings and concerts worldwide.  The Creative Music Studio™ and CMS ™ are trademarks of the Creative Music Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation founded in 1971.

 

 

“In The Spirit of Don Cherry” to be Performed by the CMS Improvisers Octet Led by Karl Berger

Saturday, September 2, 2017, 8:00pm at Maverick Concerts, Woodstock, NY

 

 The revamped Creative Music Studio™ will present In the Spirit of Don Cherry at Woodstock’s legendary Maverick Concerts, Saturday, September 2, 2017, at 8:00. Performed by the all-star CMS™ Improvisers Octet led by Karl Berger, ‘In the Spirit of Don Cherry’ will explore Cherry’s compositions as well as music inspired by him and will use those themes as launching pads for exciting improvisation that weave together jazz, world and contemporary music. Tickets are $5 – $40 and available at the Maverick Concert website.

Six members of the CMS Improvisers Octet played with Cherry: Karl Berger (piano, vibes, leader), Bob Stewart (tuba), Steven Bernstein (trumpet), Peter Apfelbaum (reeds, percussion), Ingrid Sertso (vocals), Graham Haynes (cornet); along with Woodstock’s Tani Tabbal (drums), and Adam Lane (bass).

Noted for his long association with saxophonist Ornette Coleman, which began in the late 1950s, Don Cherry became a pioneer of world-fusion music in the 1960s. During this period, he incorporated various ethnic styles into his playing and composing. Cherry, who died in 1995, was essential to the creation and development of the Creative Music Studio he inspired many of its methodologies, taught many CMS workshops and founded his legendary group, Codona, at CMS. A suite of his is included in CMS Archive Project Selections Vol. 2, released in 2015.

“This all-star octet of improvisers will play Don Cherry’s compositions and songs, but is not solely a repertory ensemble,” said Karl Berger, CMS’ artistic director. “Don was unique in opening the way to interpreting music from anywhere in the world in very personal and inspiring ways. His music is always great fun to play and to listen to. We feel his presence, loud and clear; Don’s music speaks to us and everyone in engaging and positive ways. His amazing spirit lives on in this ensemble and in the multitude of musical expressions emerging at the Creative Music Studio.”

The octet was founded 12 years ago and is comprised of players who collaborated with Cherry from the 1960s through the 1990s. Karl Berger joined Don’s quintet in 1965 and played on many of Don’s breakthrough recordings such as “Symphony for Improvisers.” Peter Apfelbaum was Don’s music director in the 90s; he and Steven Bernstein played frequently with Don then. Ingrid Sertso performed with Don on many occasions, including on his album, “Multi-Kulti,” and on her album, “Dance with It”; she also wrote lyrics to several of Don’s songs, including “Art Deco.” Bob Stewart and Graham Haynes played extensively with Don, often internationally.

 About CMS: The Creative Music Studio™ engages musicians and listeners from all backgrounds to deepen and broaden their musical sensitivity, expression and understanding through workshops, recordings and concerts worldwide.  The Creative Music Studio™ and CMS ™ are trademarks of the Creative Music Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation founded in 1971.

CMS and its artistic team of Karl Berger, Ingrid Sertso, Steven Bernstein, Billy Martin and Peter Apfelbaum will be in residence this week (June 27 – July 2) at The Stone, John Zorn’s performance space on 2nd Street and Avenue C in NYC. Performances begin at 8:30pm in concerts featuring a wide variety of ensembles and musicians.

The schedule is:

  • June 27: “Vibes, Voice & Bass” (Ken Filiano, bass; Ingrid Sertso, vocals, poetry; and Karl Berger, vibes, compositions)
  • June 28: “Hustling Raindrops” (Billy Martin, percussion; Peter Apfelbaum, flutes/reeds; Jay Rodriguez, flutes, reeds; Dana Lyn, violin; and Falu, vocals)
  • June 29: “Apfelbaum/Rojas/Baptista” (Peter Apfelbaum , woodwinds, keyboards, percussion; Marcus Rojas, tuba, percussion; and Cyro Baptista, percussion, vocals)
  • June 30: “Sertso/Berger Quintet” (Kenny Wessel, guitar; Ken Filiano, bass; Warren Smith, drums; Ingrid Sertso, vocals, poetry; and Karl Berger, vibes, piano, compositions)
  • July 1: “The Directors” (Steven Bernstein, trumpet; Peter Apfelbaum, tenor sax, flutes; Billy Martin, drums; Adam Lane, bass; Ingrid Sertso, vocals, poetry; and Karl Berger, piano, vibes)
  • July 2 “Steven Bernstein’s Millennial Territory Orchestra” (Steven Bernstein, trumpet; Curtis Fowlkes, trombone; Charlie Burnham, violin; Doug Wieselman, clarinet; Peter Apfelbaum, tenor saxophone; Erik Lawrence, baritone saxophone; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Ben Allison, bass; and Ben Perowsky, drums).

Creative Music Studio Changes Hands at a Critical Moment in Jazz

CMS Spring 2017 Workshop. Photo by Karin Wolfe

New York Times music critic Giovanni Russonello profiles CMS in a feature article,  ‘Creative Music Studio Changes Hands at a Critical Moment in Jazz‘, which was published today. The article was based on months of research, including several days at the CMS Summer Workshop two weeks ago.  Read the full story.

 

 

 

By Martin Longley, a music critic who writes for The Guardian, Downbeat, All About Jazz, Songlines and Jazzwise, among others.
video: geoff baer

Video: Joseph boulet

Opening Concert, Monday 12th June

The opening Monday night concert of the CMS spring workshop displayed the talents of its guiding artists, playing together in various permutations. It’s an initial demonstration of where each player stands, musically, prior to the masterclasses and collective tuition that will follow over the course of the next three days. The Full Moon resort at Big Indian, in the Catskill Mountains, is a secluded encampment of natural quiet, a wilderness haven for the arts, with a particular attention paid to music camps. The Full Moon folks also handled catering for the recent Mountain Jam festival, and will be hosting a King Crimson camp to tie in with the soon-coming tour by those English prog-rock leviathans.

The guiding artists and around 25 workshop participants gathered in the Full Moon reception, everyone introducing themselves, and giving a brief background to their journey towards improvisation. Dinner followed in the converted barn, which was to also serve as the ample space for the week’s coming masterclasses. Around 8pm, all of the assembled ambled up the hill to the Roadhouse. This is Full Moon’s dedicated venue, complete with bar, stage and in-house sound system.

Min-Xiao-Fen

The Chinese pipa player Min Xiao Fen played solo at first, with a release of pent-up energy, contrasting the often dignified and gentle nature of this instrument with a forceful approach that’s immersed in free improvisation and Delta blues traditions. It’s a strikingly aggressive attack, loaded with bent and sliding notes, her palms sometimes spread flat to encompass the maximum number of strings on the pipa’s broad neck. She makes sudden switches of gear, from a driving thrash, into spidering clusters.

Ken Filiano

The New York bassist Ken Filiano and the Mexican guitarist Omar Tamez begin with soft, granular bowing and agitated picking. Filiano periodically raises an interest in effects pedals (even though most of his gigs feature a purer bass sound), and he’s using these foot-triggerers here, whilst Tamez calls to mind the pliant sound of James Blood Ulmer. Filiano and Tamez are soon heading towards a straight-running momentum. This duo becomes a quartet, as Karl Berger and Ingrid Sertso enter, the former implying a South African sound on piano keyboard, the latter flitting between words and scat. Sertso brings in a narrative sense, something that will frequently govern the structure of the following pieces. She might be considering calling their first improvisation “Dance With Life”, a developing phrase in the piece.

Peter Apfelbaum

There’s a further expansion, as tenor saxophonist Peter Apfelbaum and drummer Warren Smith come onstage, with Berger moving across to the vibraphone. A classic Blue Note-ed character moves the music closer to the jazz mainline, with Smith playing on a straight drum-kit, although augmented by an extra floor-tom. Often, when he’s found playing in NYC, Smith favors an expanded tympani set-up. Berger’s solo mixes open resonance with curtailed strikes, developing a freer nature. “When will the blues leave? Never!,” declaims Sertso, as this Ornette Coleman tune concludes.

Warren Smith

Continuing, Smith produces an abstract clatter, and Apfelbaum leads a rugged take-off, Tamez making scything strikes, edged with decorative details, and coming close to a Vietnamese microtonality. The evening’s most unusual line-up featured Min Xiao Fen, Tom Tedesco (tabla), along with Berger and Filiano. Min also vocalized, her immense energy setting off a flash of communal fire amongst her partners. This was improvisation with tension, release, heightened empathy and fine detail.

Masterclasses & Workshop Sessions, Tuesday 13th June

During her vocal/tuning awareness session, Ingrid Sertso is talking about being inspired by working with the recently departed Pauline Oliveros (who also was a Guiding Artist at the CMS Workshop in October, 2016): “Use your speaking voice”, she instructs her gathering of vocalists, in a circle of drone, naturally finding many levels of tone. Even though most of these participants are not professional singers, no one sounds “out of tune,” as the cluster gravitates towards a strata of sonic suspension. Then, Sertso vocalizes across the top of their layers, or perhaps sideways. There’s a very Eastern sensibility to this approach, although ‘east’ can stretch from Tibetan and Tuvan lands, coming back through to the Balkans. The circle gets tighter, the act of standing closer tending to intensify the resultant sound. It’s a kind of organic mathematics, beginning to sound like a Ligeti or Stockhausen vocal work.

The first part of multi-instrumentalist Peter Apfelbaum’s masterclass begins with him distributing word-sheets, to be used later in the proceedings. He’s talking about the scale as a foundation, either as something to harmonize with, or alternatively, scrape against. Ashe constructs the ranks, delivering their duties, Apfelbaum introduces the comparison with a Jamaican dub reggae wizard, bringing up the fader on sonic action that is already underway. He instantaneously cues either individuals or spontaneously created groups to rise up, or slip away in the collective spread. He prompts them to enter suddenly, or creep in softly, and incrementally, then he turns his attention to the percussionists, asking them to play busily, but imagining that they’re way off in the distance, much quieter than usual.

Finally, he adds a loping funk drumbeat. The participants might feel like they’re caught in the midst of an efficient and hard-working LA studio recording session, perhaps for a movie soundtrack. Apfelbaum is a master communicator, actively open to accident and spontaneity, but with a very precise idea of a battle plan. He has the knack of giving instructions, but making them seem like suggestions. He’s not locked into his own advance playing: if he hears a player straying, Apfelbaum might decide that they’re worth following.

After all this swift construction, it’s time to introduce some solos, at the same time as building a bridge section. The players have an impressive capacity to memorize their leader’s repeating patterns and involved passage-shifts. Apfelbaum wants the bridge to be looped, in human fashion, with a flexibility for content, but also requiring a dogged repeat, once the content has been decided.

After a break for lunch, the second part of the masterclass has Apfelbaum moving to the drumkit. His chief instrument is the tenor saxophone, but he’s also pretty hot on keyboards and drums. Apfelbaum is breaking down the percussion into separate parts, and this is where reeds specialist Lee Odom (from NYC) solos on soprano saxophone, scooting around with a supple ease, magnifying the excitement of the section. Next, Apfelbaum wants to work on a mostly vocal ensemble sequence, as a prelude to inserting the content of the lyric sheets. Part of this involves a reading of In The Beginning, a poem by Dylan Thomas, tackled by three vocalists: Charles Ver Straeten, Roberta Lawrence and Mary Enid Haines. All of these constituent parts are eventually melded, even though they might seem ungainly in their mass. Apfelbaum has everything under control, though, with his remarkable ability to shape and direct all of these talented artists.

In an unusual move, Apfelbaum’s next step is to work on an arrangement of Prince’s “Sometimes It Snows In April”, perfectly illustrating the wide ranges of sources for improvisation to be found during a CMS workshop. For the last 30 minutes of his masterclass, Apfelbaum constructs a complete arrangement, working with his usual speedy decisiveness. He guides the song towards an easy gliding motion, switching to the keyboards, as trumpeter Steven Bernstein arrives to coincide with the latest downpour outside. He’s a veteran attendee at CMS workshops for the last four decades, with him (15 years old) and Apfelbaum (16 years old) first making their pilgrimage from Berkeley in 1977. Both of them (along with percussionist Billy Martin) are now associate artistic directors with CMS.

CMS Spring 2017 Workshop. Photo by Karin Wolfe

Berger’s daily session begins with a call for the horn players to have ears open for the entire spread of sound, not just their own contribution. Then, all of the ensemble’s instruments become a part of the palette. He prompts single stabs, followed by sustained smears. Bernstein starts completely solo, and the orchestra awakens into a fiercely uptempo number. The music, and Berger himself, lift off, as he stands up, getting right up close to players as he urges them on with detailed hand-gestures, directly addressing the horns. Berger is in control, but he’s also facilitating individual expression, within the structural guidelines that he’s built.

Evening Concert, Tuesday 13th June

Tanya Kalmanovitch

The evening’s first grouping features Berger, Sertso, Smith, Tamez, Filiano, Bernstein, Apfelbaum and the newly-arrived Tanya Kalmanovitch on viola. They weave a winding tale, and the music is suitably filmic in character, as Bernstein rips into a flaring slide trumpet solo. Besides this display, most of the orientation is towards an ensemble nature, creating a levelled group sound. Smith and Filiano begin the next piece, with the latter using a wah-wah pedal to contort his sound, the rest of the players now weighing in with a be-bopped momentum. Kalmanovitch takes a swooping solo, richly embellishing, and the mischievous Bernstein/Apfelbaum team trade curt phrases, in the old-school manner. It’s the typical equality of jazz language presented throughout this workshop’s span, embracing jazz tradition as well as the more wayward extremes of free improvisation, with frequent exploration of global ethnic forms. Berger moves to the vibes, adopting a lightly stippling touch, in a duet with visiting Spanish guitarist Alvaro Domene, who has recently settled in the Hudson Valley area. The combination benefits from a taut dynamism, particularly during their second number.

Masterclasses & Workshop Sessions, Wednesday 14th June

Min-Xiao-Fen (photos Karin Wolf)

Min Xiao Fen’s masterclass uses Chinese traditional music, and Peking opera motifs, as a template for the morning’s improvisational journey. She guides with phonetic patterns, prompting the percussion, and asking the sticksmen (Michael Shore, Joe Boulet) to concentrate on small sounds, perhaps using gongs or woodblocks. Vivid facial expressions and extravagant gestures are just as much a part of her communicating array. Then, along with the music, she sings the patterns. With its alien vocabulary and innate complexity, this musical area is surely one of the most difficult to inhabit, particularly for those musicians inexperienced in this language (probably most of the participants). Given the space of just a few hours, it’s certainly hard to grasp.

Min manages to direct the large spread of participants with a fair degree of control, carefully working towards the establishment of a unified flow, binding the singers to the instruments. At first, the players find it difficult to take flight, maybe too self-conscious about being precise. As Min cues repeats, a Chinese form of Philip Glass-ian minimalism begins to evolve, as the repeats ripple outwards. She may be rooted in the tradition, but as witnessed with her pipa playing, Min is always working towards either expanding, twisting or maybe even subverting the core Chinese concepts. Quite astoundingly, by the end of the masterclass, the gathered players surmount the challenge, with the final piece of the puzzle being an almost swinging, loping section, its notes articulated with a good amount of swaying and lolloping. Now there’s even more material, as Min takes the vocal repeats down to a hushed whisper.

 

Time for lunch!

 An exciting aspect of each masterclass is the almost inevitable turn it will take into a completely different musical approach, governed by the concerns, style and experience of its guiding artist. Joe McPhee (saxophones, trumpet) elects to guide the participants towards structured free improvisation, meaning that the naked content of contributions is completely spontaneous, but placed within a framework that is itself spontaneously built by McPhee. It’s improvised conduction, controlling the improvisation of others, but within itself, pure in its freedom.

Before the music starts to sound, McPhee delivers an eloquent description of his early influence under John Coltrane, his disbelief over the revered saxophonist’s untimely death, and the amusing regularity with which McPhee’s and Ornette Coleman’s paths began to cross around that 1967 time. Not least with their slightly tardy viewing of Coltrane’s open casket at his funeral service. It was as though the torch was being passed, as McPhee moved from Coltrane to Ornette, the latter taking him under his wing, the nature of free jazz gradually evolving into something more extreme.

McPhee’s first tactic is to get the drummers to play a figure, and then immediately chase this with something totally different. He asks the string instrumentalists to find a sound, then sustain it, the drums producing a beat, and the other players tacking something onto that mathematical base. Then, after a long moment of silence, all hell breaks loose. McPhee joins in on soprano saxophone, and calmly signals for trumpet and flute to take the space, silencing the guitar wing, a pipa solo emerging. McPhee conducts sensitively, even though the end result might be brutal in being. As this extended improvisation ceases, it appears to be the end of the masterclass, but McPhee quietly suggests that “we can play some more, if you want.” Straight away, the basses and drums set up a meaty groove, and the horns squabble in unison. It’s noticeable that the participants tend to play in a style descended from what they imagine or expect their guiding artist to desire. This is no bad outcome, as it highlights the organic, malleable nature of improvisation.

It’s not officially the second part of her masterclass (that’s due for the next day), but Min Xiao Fen precedes the late afternoon orchestra session with a performance of the work she’d been crafting earlier. After letting it percolate during the afternoon, this time all of the players are primed, waiting to release their energies. Now, all the components are fully integrated. The players have learned their complicated parts, and are freed up to make this later reading more confident, less inhibited by uncertainty. Some special vibration hangs in the ether.

CMS Spring 2017 Workshop. Photo by Karin Wolfe

This aura is intensified during the following improvisation, led by Berger, which is set to be some of the spring workshop’s greatest music. Now there’s a remarkable energy sizzling around the barn-space, its sliding doors opened to reveal the field and forest vistas outside. Warren Smith has joined the drumming team, providing much of the thrust, as Billy Martin (of Medeski Martin & Wood fame) also guests, rummaging in his percussion bag as he stands on the stairs that lead up to the mezzanine’s mixing desk and recording facilities. Steven Bernstein is also still in the house. Berger’s piece (“We Are”) co-opts its elements into a shuffling Afro-Latin New Orleans mélange, with bassist Ken Filiano doing his sousaphone impersonation. Then a samba procession develops, and Berger takes the volume right down, a guitar part suddenly discernible in the quietness. Berger points to the Mexican pianist Dave Trevino to take a solo, whilst the workshop’s Japanese participants, dancer Michiru Inoue and shakuhachi player Ken Ya Kawaguchi, respond to the escalations.

Evening Concert, Wednesday 14th June

 The first grouping at the evening concert is McPhee, Filiano, Tamez, Smith and keyboardist Angelica Sanchez, opting for a luminous abstraction. McPhee chooses soprano, and it doesn’t take him long to graduate from placid reflection to nervy agitation, dragging his colleagues behind him in the rush towards explosive release.

The second piece is delivered by Berger, Sertso, Tamez, Bernstein, Filiano, Smith and Apfelbaum, the night’s mood already inclined towards larger groupings. Berger is on vibraphone, demonstrating his marvelous human-touch echo. Meanwhile, Apfelbaum wrenches out a gutsy tenor solo. Berger moves to piano and Smith glides to the vibes, this duo softly speaking “Body And Soul”, with a poised translucence. The tune is very sensitively traversed, and then we’re snapped out of our reverie by Filiano, who’s adopting a smile-inducing attitude towards emcee-ing. It’s like he’s born into this role, and relishing every exuberant moment!

Next up, a trio with Min, McPhee and Filiano, the latter bowing sonorously, creating another stand-out musical passage straight away. There’s a hog-calling vocal exchange between Min and Filiano, and changes of instrumental dynamics throughout. Min plays her pipa strings with a bottleneck slide, but can swap to thin, gossamer runs, as a sharp alternative. When she ditches her slide, Filiano picks up his bow again, as Apfelbaum joins the trio, encouraging a tense, stalking, pre-release feeling. Berger now delivers a solo version of “Fragments”, with close, dampened strikes on the vibraphone, making soft rubs and quicksilver ripples. This is definitely the night of the guiding artists, all of the combination line-ups imbued with a noticeable vigor.

Masterclasses & Workshop Sessions, Thursday 15th June

Tanya Kalmanovitch (viola) is something of an unknown quantity at the CMS workshop, a first-timer with a novel approach to the masterclass. Of course, all of the other presenters have their quirks, but her elected agenda is to explore the art of the ending, specifically in the realm of improvisation. Beginnings can be almost as challenging: who opens first, and at what level of density, nature of tone and sense of pace. How do they choose? The exact point of finishing is arguably more of a challenge. Sometimes it’s collectively obvious where a piece might conclude, if it rises towards a clear climax, but on other occasions an improvisation might just drift away into the ether, or perhaps come to a sudden (often instinctive, or chance) halt.

Kalmanovitch discusses the concept of potential endings, even if not every player ultimately acts on this possibility. She asks the participants to identify the likely points at which an improvisation might conclude. There might be a single stage, where no argument is offered, or there might be five, six, or more. Perhaps, even if the majority decide to finish, one player might soldier onwards, or believe that there is absolutely no end in sight, so far. There’s perhaps not much of a concrete gain to be made, during this masterclass, as it seems that Kalmanovitch is preaching general awareness and sensitivity rather than opening a clearly defined rulebook.

Following lunch, Min Xiao Fen returns for her second masterclass, continuing to shape the Peking opera-influenced work from the previous day. This time around she’s concentrating on subliminal vocal tones, inspired by Chinese folk songs. This marks a detour into a complementary area of activity. She starts off the participants with a sustained tone, its notes hovering in a highly subtle inhabitation of the space. Hushed guitars, and baritone saxophone (played by Bill Ylitalo) are introduced, with vestigial drum and cymbal sounds around the perimeter.

Switching back to the Peking opera composition (as it has now become), Min sets it rolling once again, and the trouncing, stomping section increases in power each time it’s invoked, as the ensemble latch onto its propulsive groove. The vocal segment is also amassing energy and conviction. Closing up the session with soft, sustained and sparing sounds, the participants pull the art of contemplation up to its highest level.

The last orchestra improvisation provides another absolute musical peak of this spring workshop. Karl Berger cultivates the stately leviathan of “The Smile That You Send Out Returns To You”, coaxing out a cumulative, ritualistic incarnation of his song. First, Berger lays out the elements, starting a chant around the circle of participants. Gradually, tabla and goblet-shaped darbuka drum are introduced, as verbal and handclapping arrangements are developed. Berger joins in on melodica. Once this structure is in place, he begins an extended improvisation, which eventually re-introduces the song/chant, following this elaborate improvised genesis.

The combined duration was probably approaching 90 minutes, but so engaging was the music that timepieces were not required, as there was no single moment where it wandered, stalled or dispersed into routine. The electricity of Berger’s commanding presence, and the charge set up around the players, filled the circle with a glowing possession to match that of the previous day’s session during this same late afternoon time-phase. These two orchestral improvisations were amongst the most exciting musical spells of the entire workshop.

Evening Concert, Thursday 15th June

As the participants get to know each other, both socially and musically, over the four days, the wheels of improvisation become well-oiled, as groupings form during the final day’s evening concert. One such impromptu band features Ted Orr (tabla), Bill Ylitalo (wooden birdcall plunger-whistles) and the Japanese duo, with Inoue dramatically bursting out of the rest room just a few rows from the left side of the stage, swinging its door open violently, to initiate her dance, gliding towards the stage in a genuinely startling piece of choreography..!

A grouping of Berger, Sertso, Tamez, Filiano, and Smith (on vibes) essays “On The Sunny Side Of The Street”, followed by a radically more unusual pairing of Chuck ver Straeten (voice) and Min Xiao Fen (voice/pipa). She gurgles into a plastic cup of water, whilst Chuck smacks his lips and puckers, finding a dramatic and arresting performance art outlet, both of them speaking in tongues. It’s a dialogue that you might imagine emanating from the neighboring apartment of your worst married couple conflict scenario nightmares. Min pants and they squeal in unison, making noh theatre-type ululations and growls, like a radically avant garde John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.

Apfelbaum, Filiano, Kalmanovitch, Smith (on vibes), and Joe Boulet (drums) make a skeletal funk construct, a soft strut implied more than labored. Apfelbaum echoes Kalmanovitch, whilst Boulet uses puffball sticks, reined in within the open sonic space. Smith makes supple crystalline shapes, with one unexpected moment where he ratchets the mallets across the vibraphone’s resonator pipes, always aware of the sideways percussive opportunity.

Another highlight arrives close to the end, with alto saxophonist Paul Goldberg shining out on Monk’s “In Walked Bud”, with Berger (vibes), Filiano and Apfelbaum, the latter now ensconced behind the drumkit. Goldberg had already impressed with several citrus-streaming solos during the daytime sessions.

Even though most of the participants weren’t firing off aggressively individualistic solos throughout the workshop, their stances became markedly strengthened, and their collective sensibilities enhanced as the days progressed. There was an increasing integration between the guiding artists and the participating workshop players, as bonding and confidence increased. Playing permutations were flying spontaneously, particularly by the time of this last evening’s Roadhouse concert. There was also a valuable contrast between the elaborate scale of the daytime’s large ensemble work, and the off-shoot intimacy of the night-time small group promiscuity.

NOTES FROM CMS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ROB SAFFER

Once again, we retreat deep into the Catskills where mobile phones don’t work to create a community centered around music, nature and human creativity. Guiding Artists fill our ears with music and brains with wisdom, none more so than Karl and Ingrid. People come as strangers and leave as friends, colleagues, musical co-conspirators. Bonds and bands are formed. We’re well-fed musically, but also physically by gorgeous mountain surroundings, sumptuous food and caring friends at Full Moon Resort.  Ears and bodies well taken care of, our spirits soar.  What’s really surprising is that this is typical of CMS Workshops – each reaches a new height. We always think we’ve reached a pinnacle…and then another workshop happens and the bar is set higher.

Special thanks to our guiding artists – Min, Peter, Tanya and Joe – along with Ken Filiano, Warren Smith, Omar Tamez, Angelica Sanchez, and special guests Billy Martin, Steven Bernstein and Timothy Hill.  And of course to Matthew Cullen (sound), Geoff Baer (video) and Karin A. Wolf (photography) for capturing the sounds, images and spirit of this workshop.  Thanks to our friends at Full Moon for making us always feel at home (and for finally making the coffee strong enough!).

See you in for the CMS Fall Workshop October 2-6.

– Rob