December/January Listingsby George Grella and Brad Cohan
December 12: Talea Ensemble, iNSIDE Out: Imagined Times at the Flea Theater. Although Alex Mincek has decamped to Chicago, his music continuesto grow on the NYC concert scene. This night, the excellent Talea Ensemble plays his Flutter, from 2012, on a program that also features music from Wandelweiser composer Antoine Beuger—the US premiere of his 2011 work ô monde sur deux tiges.
December 15: ISSUE Year-End Party at ISSUE Project Room. ISSUE Project Room celebrates 2018 with a year-end bash featuring a wide-ranging program characteristic of its radical vision. Artist James Hoff, who creates glitchy “aural landscapes” using real-life sounds, improviser, vocalist, and composer Shelley Hirsch and multi-instrumental sound artist Marcia Bassett, and industrial-dance duo Wetware, who take their cues from the no wave movement and Suicide (as heard on 2018’s Automatic Drawing), take part in ISSUE’s final show of the year.
December 15: Ambient Church New York: 25th Anniversary of Kranky. Renowned label Kranky Records has never been genre-specific, putting forth a groundbreaking output over its quarter-century arc that spans ambient music, techno, drone, and post-rock. Classics from Low, Tim Hecker, Windy & Carl, and Grouper highlight their catalog, while new blood like Earthen Sea, FORMA, and Saloli continue to cement Kranky as a crucial force in the underground. After celebrations of Kranky’s twenty-five years in the business in Portland, Los Angeles, and Chicago, Kranky fittingly pairs up with Ambient Church as St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church plays host to FORMA, Christina Vantzou, Earthen Sea, and Saloli in what is guaranteed to be the perfect setting for the ethereal soundscapes that will envelope the audience.
December 16: Outskirts Piano Series II: Mara Rosenbloom/Sam Yulsman at 254 Schenck Avenue, Brooklyn Pianist Eli Wallace presents the second installment of his Outskirts Piano Series with two fellow rising pianists who are putting a facelift to the jazz blueprint with their own singular voices. Sam Yulsman has worked with such envelope-pushers as bassist Brandon Lopez and drummer Chris Corsano (on 2017’s Holy, Holy), while Mara Rosenbloom’s 2017 set from Prairie Burn (with bassist Sean Conley and drummer Chad Taylor) rightfully earned her a spread in the New York Times. Tonight, Yulsman premieres two untitled compositions (one a New York premiere, the other a world premiere).
December 19: Andy Milne & Dapp Theory The Seasons of Being CD Release Show at Jazz Gallery. Pianist Andy Milne is a creative jazz veteran with a resume that includes stints with Ravi Coltrane and Steve Coleman. Back in September, the celebrated Sunnyside record label released the thickly layered and entrancing The Seasons of Being by Milne and his collaborative ensemble, Dapp Theory. An opus inspired by his battle with cancer, The Seasons of Being is based on his exploration of homeopathic healing, which led to a Chamber Music America commission composition for a chamber ensemble. The result is a spiritual, inspirational, and therapeutic experience where traces of jazz, hip hop, funk, improvised music, and poetry provide a moving soundtrack for healing. This evening, Milne is joined by a big-band made up of Ben Monder, Ralph Alessi, Michael Attias, Aaron Kruziki, La Tanya Hall, John Moon, Chris Hoffman, Chris Tordini, and Kenny Grohowski, many of whom appeared on the record.
December 19: Aaron Parks Little Big Album Release Show at (le) poisson rouge. Edgy and gifted pianist Aaron Parks has recorded for such prestigious labels as ECM and Blue Note, and now for his newest release, Little Big, he’s hooked up with the Ropeadope imprint. Post-modern with a futuristic bent, the versatile Parks and his deft group (guitarist Greg Tuohey, bassist David Ginyard, and drummer Tommy Crane) explore infectious jazz stylings peppered with electronics, funk, and Hip-Hop-tinged grooves.
December 22: Wet Tuna, Garcia Peoples, and Elkhorn at Union Pool. Wet Tuna (the duo of Matt “MV” Valentine and Pat “P.G. Six” Gubler) cranked out the epically junk-fi and chilled-out scum-blues boogie and twang on Livin’ The Die (Feeding Tube), while Garcia Peoples channeled Creedence, the Dead, and NRBQ on the chugging swamp-rock of Cosmic Clash, two surefire picks for those obligatory best-of 2018 lists.
January 4–12: Winter Jazzfest NYC: The Winter Jazzfest is unsurpassed for its commitment to the core of jazz, from its roots to its future. The centerpiece of this fifteenth iteration is the January 11–12 marathons (this year augmented by a half-marathon January 5), with multiple sets at multiple venues in and around Greenwich Village. It may seem hard to believe, but jazz was once a popular, economically viable music, and these three nights come as close as anything to recreating NYC in the ’40s, when you could hear jazz all night long, going from club to club, without ever leaving 52nd Street.
January 5: Loren Connors Curatorial Residency: Veterans with Connors/Steve Dalachinsky, Suzanne Langille/Yuko Otomo, and David Grubbs/Connors at HOLO. Experimental guitar visionary Loren Connors welcomes 2019 with the first installment of a residency he’s dubbed Veterans. Aptly, its inaugural evening features titans culled from the improvised music and poetry worlds including, legendary downtown wordsmith and Brooklyn Rail scribe Steve Dalachinsky and guitarist and author David Grubbs (both appearing in duos with Connors) and a teaming of vocalist Suzanne Langille and writer/poet Yuko Otomo. Upcoming “Veterans” performances are set to feature violinists Samara Lubelski and Laura Ortman, guitarists Lee Ranaldo, Alan Licht, and Chris Forsyth, and more.
January 5–13: PROTOTYPE: Opera/Theater/Now Festival. The most important festival of new music drama returns with new and recent works. Headlining are Ellen Reid’s prism and the tantalizing 4.48 Psychosis, from composer Sarah Kane. This year also features oratorios and choral concerts, by the choir of Trinity Wall Street and a public performance of Carlone Shaw’s Partita by Roomful of Teeth. And the festival will honor the tragic loss of musician and composer Matt Marks with a peformance of his excellent, subversive rock music drama, The Little Death, Volume 1.
January 7: The Living Large Ensemble Series Presents Joel Harrison and Infinite Possibility: New Music for Jazz Orchestra: America at War at The Slope Lounge. Alternative Guitar Summit mastermind and guitar polymath Joel Harrison is known as a style-shifting deconstructionist, evidenced by his most recent set, Angel Band: Free Country Volume 3, which arranged country and Appalachian music through the prism of jazz. Harrison’s new work, of which its centerpiece is a suite titled America at War, embarks further into the large-ensemble explorations of 2013’s Infinite Possibility but is underlined by themes of the suffering and tragedy of America’s endless foreign wars. Tonight’s performance serves as a tune-up to a studio recording happening the very next day. Harrison’s nineteen-piece big-band includes such local avant-jazz luminaries as Jon Irabagon, Curtis Hasselbring, and Alan Ferber.
January 8: Aruán Ortiz and Don Byron Random Dances and (A)tonalities CD release concert at Bar Lunático. Cuban-born, Brooklyn-based pianist Aruán Ortiz and clarinetist/saxophonist Don Byron are both free-thinking instrumentalists with craftsman-like knacks for loose, spirited interplay. That breezy hybrid was manifested on one of last year’s best jazz programs, Random Dances and (A)tonalities (via the consistently excellent Zurich-based Intakt label), a duo record of the highest improvisational order that drew from swing, blues, jazz, and chamber music. There are two times you can catch Ortiz and Byron ringing in the release of their new record: tonight and on February 27 at Mezzrow.
January 16–21: Arts for Art Presents Justice is Compassion at Nublu 151. The venerable artist-run, multi-disciplinary, and multi-cultural Arts for Art organization has put together a six-night lineup for the ages in the name of social justice under its Justice is Compassion concert series. Highlights includes Joe McPhee Trio XL (January 21), WeFreeStrings (January 19), Brandon Lopez and Body/Head guitarist Bill Nace duo (January 17), plus a stellar opening night featuring Michael Bisio/Kirk Knuffke/Fred Lonberg-Holm Trio and Jaimie Branch/Darius Jones/Shayna Dulberger/David Meier Quartet (January 16).
January 18: Jamie Saft, Brad Jones, and Bobby Previte at The Owl Music Parlor. Piano maestro Jamie Saft, electric bass legend Steve Swallow, and drummer extraordinaire Bobby Previte follow up one of 2017’s top jazz records, the all-acoustic Loneliness Road featuring punk rock godfather Iggy Pop, with a psychedelic groover of a record that is as good, if not better than that epic piano jazz trio set. On the hard-swinging, shuffling, and organ-splattering You Don’t Know The Life (via the U.K.-based RareNoise label), Saft trades the warm acoustic piano melodicism of Loneliness Road for the electrifying burn and swagger of Hammond and Whitehall organ and Baldwin Electric Harpsichord as the powerhouse trio expertly juggle a heady mix of originals and standards by the late, great Roswell Rudd, Moving Sidewalks (Billy Gibbons’ pre-ZZ Top band, and Bill Evans. This intimate appearance by Saft, Previte, and bassist Brad Jones (subbing for Swallow) is not to be missed.
January 18: PRISM Quartet with Miguel Zenón and Susie Ibarra at The DiMenna Center, Cary Hall. Eclectic new-music shape-shifters PRISM Quartet are a four-saxophone juggernaut whose works have been commissioned by composer royalty such as Tyshawn Sorey, Steve Lehman, and Dave Liebman. For this evening’s program, PRISM Quartet joins forces with alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón and drummer/percussionist Susie Ibarra in exploring world music-centric sound-worlds through compositions by Michael Daugherty, Roshanne Etezady, Matthew Levy, Chris Potter, Bach, Scarlatti, Schumann, and Sondheim, as well as pieces from Zenón and Ibarra.
Janiuary 19: ISSUE Project Room. The season opening concert for ISSUE Project Room promises more than many venues’ entire year: Matana Roberts will debut a new installment in her I Call America series, Haley Fohr debuts a new work for solo voice she calls Wordless Music, and Suzanne Langille will also deliver a vocal performace, accompanied by vocalist Neel Murgai, guitarist Loren Conners, and saxophonist Daniel Carter.
January 20: Matana Roberts/Darius Jones Duo at Downtown Music Gallery. Downtown Music Gallery, New York City’s premiere avant-garde jazz and experimental destination for CD’s and vinyl, has hosted free concerts for years headlined by the old and new guard of the ‘out’-jazz lexicon. Tonight’s show is a keeper as two alto saxophone forward thinkers—Matana Roberts and Darius Jones—come together for a duo performance (at 6 p.m.).
January 20: Samantha Riott Bloodletting Record Release Show with Luke Stewart/ Michael Foster/ Weasel Walter, SUNK Heaven, and Ava Mendoza at Secret Project Robot. No wave-inspired, punk poet provocateur Samantha Riott, formerly of skronk-wailing noiseniks Rodenticide, celebrates the release of her spit and vinegar spoken word tour de force, Bloodletting. The bill is completed by a formidable crew of Riott’s fellow mischief-makers.
January 23: William Hooker - Alchemy: An Evening of Jazz and Silent film at Shapeshifter Lab. Drummer, composer, and poet William Hooker has been at the forefront of New York City’s avant-garde jazz scene for decades, a ubiquitous presence whose creative mind knows no bounds. Tonight, Hooker’s singular vision is on full display as he first performs solo on drums to the 1920 silent classic Symbol of the Unconquered by African-American filmmaker Oscar Micheaux before shifting into screaming free jazz gear with QuartetMOON, his quartet with pianist Mara Rosenbloom, bassist Adam Lane, and tenor saxophonist Jon Irabagon.
January 24: Laraaji at The Park Church Co-op. 2018 proved to be a renaissance year for new-age icon Laraaji, an underground ambient music hero who has collaborated with Sun Araw and Blues Control and, most infamously, teamed with Brian Eno (in the producer chair) on his 1980 touchstone, Ambient 3: Day of Radiance. Last year saw the release of the critically acclaimed Arrive Without Leaving, an otherworldly sprawl of shimmering and glowing meditations accompanied by longtime musical partner Arji OceAnanda and Texas synthesizer trio, Dallas Acid, and Vision Songs, Vol. 1, a reissue of a seldom-heard set of vocal songs originally released in a limited run in 1984. Now Laraaji (born in 1943 as Edward Larry Gordon) is taking his electronic Zither to perform his transcendent new-age music in the most fitting of settings: Greenpoint’s majestic Park Church Co-op.
January 25: The Music of Anthony Braxton: Syntactical Ghost Trance // Echo E Public at Roulette. The collective oeuvre of composer and multi-instrumentalist Anthony Braxton is a classification-defying portrait of a prolific genius that never ceases to amaze. That catalog is now further enriched by the release of GTM (Syntax) 2017, which is celebrated tonight by the eleven-piece Tri-Centric Vocal Ensemble who will perform works from Braxton’s Syntactical Ghost Trance Music system. Closing the evening is the electronics/piano duo of Carl Testa and Cory Smythe performing another Braxton music system, Echo Echo Mirror House Music.
January 29-February 2: Yarn/Wire The Stone Residency at The Stone. Sonically adventurous new-music quartet Yarn/Wire have been bending minds and shattering convention with their distinct blend of percussive and piano-driven minimalism, most recently heard on Alex Mincek’s Images of Duration (in homage to Ellsworth Kelly) via Northern Spy Records. For this five-night stint, Yarn/Wire brings its hypnotic and jarring experimentation to The Stone, a run that is capped off by a fitting collaboration with tenor saxophonist Travis Laplante (Battle Trance) who will premiere an evening-length work.
January 30-February 3: Dave Harrington Group Residency at Threes Brewing. Best known, arguably, as half of Darkside with electronic composer Nicolas Jaar, guitarist Dave Harrington has proven to be a fretboard wizard in his own right, judging by 2016’s spaced-out Become Alive. On the new Pure Imagination, No Country (Yeggs), Harrington, inspired by Miles Davis’ electric period, presses deep into interstellar overdrive with an entrancing fusion of jazz, electronic music, and prog that is bathed in psychedelia and noise. For Harrington’s residency in celebration of his new record, he’ll be joined by a rotating lineup of guests including, Brian Chase, Joe Russo, Kenny Wollesen, Stuart Bogie, Yuka C. Honda, Shahzad Ismaily, Greg Fox, Jeremy Gustin, Spencer Zahn, and more.
GEORGE GRELLA is a composer and lapsed improvising musician who writes about music for the Rail, ClassicalTV.com, and the Grove Dictionary of American Music. He is the Critic-in-Residence at Galapagos Art Space. He publishes a blog at thebigcityblog.com.Brad Cohan
Brad Cohan is a music journalist based in Brooklyn who has contributed to Bandcamp, The Village Voice, NY Observer, Time Out NY, VICE, Noisey, SPIN, CLRVYNT, Red Bull Music Academy, and other fine publications.