Artist Feature: Vocalist Anais Maviel

(Photo by Michael Yu)

(Photo by Michael Yu)

Vocalist Anaïs Maviel has been an exciting and unique new presence on the Brooklyn/New York scene over the past few years. Since arriving, her fearless approach to performance has made her an in-demand musician in a number of innovative ensembles, most notably William Parker’s Martin Luther King Project, Parker’s Plaza Band, Dave Ruder’s The Gentleman Rests, Jalalu-Kalvert Nelson’s A Mother’s Lament, Matt Lavelle’s 12 Houses, Patrick Breiner’s Red Metal, and a number of other groups. Breiner praised her participation in his ensemble by stating, “She gives everything to the people and the world around her.”

Maviel’s early experiences on stage with her Haitian mother Joyshanti provided her first taste of music’s transformative power. She studied vocal jazz and Brazilian percussion in Paris and then deepened her learning through travels in Haiti. Encouraged by mentors Nicole Mitchell, Jen Shyu, and Ernest Dawkins, she first came to New York to study with Kris Davis, Gerald Cleaver and Tony Malaby, among others. A graduate of Paris Diderot University in Aesthetics, her research focused on creative music as Utopian alternative politics for social change. She is involved in Harriet’s Apothecary as a sound healer, and is working on a solo voice & percussion, ‘hOULe’ to be release early 2016 on Gold Bolus in collaboration with visual artist My Lê Chabert, & on an international multimedia & variable geometry Triple Trio – in collaboration with visual artsist Léa Lanoë.

Here is a video of one of her performances from 2014 that displays her abilities and aesthetics as a musician:

October Performances

  • Wednesday, October 7 (8pm): Anaïs Maviel Solo at Brooklyn Song Carnival at Panoply Performance Laboratory
  • Saturday, October 10 (9 pm): Patrick Breiner’s Red Metal at New Revolution Arts (7 Stanhope St, Brooklyn)
  • Saturday, October 17 (8 pm): Yulsman-Maviel at Firehouse Space (246 Frost St, Brooklyn)
  • Sunday, October 18 (5:30 pm): Hardy-Maviel-Murchison at 659 East 2nd St, Brooklyn (house concert)


Cisco Bradley: What was your first experience with creative music?

Anaïs Maviel: Well, earlier as a musician I felt like I had to get into a long inquiry before I could start playing who I am, or “free”. I first experienced creative music as a listener – Ella Fitzgerald “Live at Newport” improvises on Airmail Special free as hell, or paradise, then William Parker “Double Sunrise Over Neptune” got me in the same kind of everyday obsessive listening. Of course, through live shows I found my transcendences. As I was studying jazz at the conservatory and felt stranded – I got into aesthetics research, my subject was Music & Utopia, I wanted to prove how essential and vital creative music is for contemporary “Creole” (not quite post-colonial) society: I was trying to articulate a work that I wasn’t even happening yet – which is making the music, in relation with the world. After a few shy attempts with free improvisation, I met Nicole Mitchell (I was trying to go study with the AACM in Chicago) who simply came to my tiny room in Montmartre and played with me for two hours: ” (at least) you have your sound” she said afterwards – that was good to hear, as I could sense how blessed I was to have shared the sonic space with such a master. And she encouraged me to explore the infinite possibilities of my instrument.

Cisco Bradley: What artists or projects that you have worked with here in New York City have had the deepest impact upon you? How would you describe such influences?

Anaïs Maviel: One significant thing I got aware of being here is the responsibility of the musician to hold a sacred space for deep human values to be shared, acknowledged, celebrated, empowered: I learnt this alongside many people, including poet & musician William Parker & queer healers collective Harriet’s Apothecary.

(Photo by Eva Kapanadze)

(Photo by Eva Kapanadze)

Cisco Bradley: What aspects of healing in William Parker’s work have you found to be most inspiring and transcendent?

Anaïs Maviel: I feel that William is operating at a level that is sacred, and brings each musician he works with in this reality – the ‘tone world’. Healing is the first thing William talked about when I first went to his house. Here’s my understanding of his words: We musicians deal with a very sensitive zone of the human matter – music has a special power on people’s state of being. And we are responsible to use this towards healing, balancing out fear and despair. What led me to think later: there are ethics that come with the art of producing sounds for others. Sound is so powerful – you know it has this very direct access to emotions in the brain, and physicality through vibrations, that it can be either extremely destructive or creative.

Working with William has been the most uplifting experience I’ve had as a musician, and the more I get into the transcendent experience of music the more I feel humbled: there are some important things to be done in this medium and I am willing to disappear behind beauty to that matter, that manifests way beyond my existence.

Cisco Bradley: Can you tell us more about the work you have been doing with Harriet’s Apothecary?

Anaïs Maviel: First, “Harriet’s Apothecary is an inter-generational, seasonal, healing village led by the brilliance and wisdom of Black Cis Women, Queer and Trans healers, artists, health professionals, magicians, activists and ancestors. Our village, founded by Harriet Tubman and Adaku Utah on April 6 2014,  manifests at the bloom of every Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter in Brooklyn. We are committed to co-creating accessible, affordable, liberatory, all-body loving, all-gender honoring, community healing spaces that recognize, inspire, and deepen the healing genius of people who identify as Black, Indigenous and People of color and the allies that love us. In this magnificent collective, I operate as a sound healer and offer a creative circle singing workshop. Blending voices and rhythm is the most elevating communal experience I know of. This sonic exploration is a way to embrace both our truth and other people’s truth within our bodies: if one trusts the essential source of sound, that is life force,  then “there is no ugly, only becoming beautiful” (William Parker). Singing in a circle builds an alternative social and creative matrix where tensions are released, and the unresolved, ever-changing flow of music becomes our playground for experimenting self love and collective transformation.

Cisco Bradley: How would you describe your aesthetics as a musician?

Anaïs Maviel: My aesthetics locate somewhere deep in water flows, where things are originally formless, where there is no difference between music and art, between art and life, life and freedom. I aim to express fearlessness, great things that I cannot put into words, relating to multiple layers of reality at the same time. This can take many forms, resemble various aesthetics, & lives in transformation.

Cisco Bradley: What projects are you now leading or co-leading?

Anaïs Maviel: Now I am leading 2 cross-media ensembles, experimenting improvisational and structured figures emerging from long run conversations with artists I collaborate with, such as Daro Behroozi, Pascal Niggenkemper, Jake Sokolov, Claire deBrunner, François Grillot on this side of the Atlantic, and Léa Lanoë, My Lê Chabert, Jalalu-Kalvert Nelson, Leïla Renault, Thomas Letellier, Rafaëlle Rinaudo on the other side. I am interested in the manifestations of chaos and balance in collective conversations, in finding a common ground that allows each singular personality to be embraced. I also focus on the commonality/diverstity of sound, time and space, through everlasting narratives such as cyclic times and birds migration.

I co-lead a few small ensembles, more or less sustainable – gathering beautiful spirits such as Michael Foster, Lathan Hardy, John Murchison, Sam Yulsman, Daniel Carter, Maria Grand, Luke Stewart and Brandon Lopez.

I also love to serve the visions of Dave Ruder (The Gentleman Rests), William Parker (Martin Luther King Project, Plaza Band), Patrick Breiner (Red Metal) & Cooper-Moore (A Moorish Night).

Cisco Bradley: What music will you be presenting in your solo performance at the Brooklyn Experimental Song Carnival on October 7?

Anaïs Maviel: My solo is the space where I can explore my wonderings as an artist, experiment music that I may transcribe to larger ensembles – my solo is an immediate window to the depth of my creative journey. Also, I am staging a conversation with myself, using my voice, but also the different instruments that I’ve been trying to tame: the surdo (brazilian bass drum) & the n’goni (west african bass cora). I have a tricky relation to words, and my solo work also witnesses this sensitive encounter between sound and language. It is improvised music for the largest part and has some toe dipping in performance art, to the extent that I deal with the unexpected moment, space & people impacting the output of my music. Lately I have been looking more into traditional chanting as my musical practice is flirting with transe.

Cisco Bradley: Are there any of the small ensembles that you mentioned that you would like to discuss further? How did those groups form and what do you feel you have done with them so far?

Anaïs Maviel: Well, I’d love to talk about everybody I mentioned – next time. For now I’ll say something about our duo with Michael Foster that has been magically prolific and transformative. As we share a common point of departure – the vulnerability and strength of humans in an instantaneous creative situation –  it feels like we organically grow towards letting go all the random wolves and crabs out of our mouth… not that random actually. Another approach could be “It’s like we didn’t try to create anything, we just played the things that are already there” – as Michael was saying after our last show. I find this inquiry very nurturing and I am grateful to be able to explore trust and fear within such intimacy.

Cisco Bradley: Could you talk more about your most productive work with Daro Behroozi, Pascal Niggenkemper, Jake Sokolov, Claire deBrunner, François Grillot. What manifestations of chaos and balance have emerged from these collaborations? How does that relate to the cycles of life that you mentioned?

Anaïs Maviel: These people all have a very strong personality and musical presence, which is an exciting and challenging gift to work with in a large ensemble that I try to shape ‘my way’ somehow… It starts with loving, embracing them as people and musicians. I love to talk or not talk, play and not play with these people, and we are learning trust as we all work from the most tender spots of our craft – with improvisation, but also with my directions. The way we’ve been working was a lot of writing from my end: poetic/symbolic reflexions around time, sound and space. I initiate a conversation around these metaphysical concerns that impact humanity & beauty, togetherness & freedom – how do those thing somehow make find balance, way beyond the schemes of good and bad? How do we move and co-exist towards freedom? How observing the swells of the sea, listening to the rain or contemplating the figures that birds draw in the sky can inform our behaviour towards ourselves and each other?

I love that with all of these musicians I chose to work with, there are strong visions and values that are expressed in lifestyles as well as art making. And those sharp angles are also what I love to confront in the bandleading journey: I love to work with this heterogenous and complex human material. It is so interesting to work with such honest artists. Also with my dear friend Léa Lanoë – who’s contributing the video work to the ensemble – we’ve discussed the intersection of art and life to a point that we could keep working together in long distances, which made me understand that the nature of my work reveals in travels, delays and displacements. So I also developed some similar work back to France, working on the same ideas, hoping to cross both ensembles one day. The triple trio’s first attempt can be seen and heard here.

Cisco Bradley: You are both a performer and an academic. In what ways do you see creative music as utopian alternative politics for social change?

Anaïs Maviel: I believe art that matters has a vital function in society – that is why I am interested in various traditional music: they carry this essential quality that is meant to transform people’s lives from within, in the collective experience of ritualistic art forms. “Utopia” is the subversive word that I found to challenge the corrupted word “politics”, not that it can replace it. Utopia reminds us of the so called “impossible” of dreams and hope. But I learnt form Creole cultures – which gave birth to jazz wonder children – that art is one of the rare ways to overcome “impossible”, to articulate “freedom” in a mindset that is not allowing it. This is how the legacy of utopic art can move than ever challenge post-modern blasé politics & aesthetics, because freedom only needs a slight shift in people’s ability to sense and grasp it.

Cisco Bradley: Can you give an example of freedom you have experienced from music-making in your own life?

Anaïs Maviel: As you seek freedom in music practice, you somehow learn to tame it’s qualities within yourself, and realize it is not so wild or contradictory with the rest of the world. Freedom could be stillness, or silence. It could be right here beneath your feet, not that long of a trip to brush against and cultivate. Freedom may run like water, but I can grasp it as soon as I give up looking for it on the furthest shores. I even suspect it to be co-existent with structure. As far as everyday life, I feel that music is a liberating teacher, just as any other activity you devote yourself to, with passion and faith. I feel free when I learn to open up, which is contagious, and dangerously beautiful.

–Cisco Bradley, October 5, 2015

Playlist for September 28, 2015

  • Katie Bull Group Project – All Hot Bodies Radiate (Ashokan Indie, 2015)
  • Talibam! – Ordination of the Globetrotting Conscripts (Azul Discografia, 2007)
  • Ross Hammond – Flight (Prescott, 2015)
  • Various Artists – Audio Dispatch 01 (Free103point9, 2001)
  • Edward Ricart Quartet + Paul Dunmall – Chamaeleon (New Atlantis, 2013)
  • Sikora / O’Hara / Lacey – Arbour (Fort Evil Fruit, 2013) [cassette]
  • Pride of Lowell – self-titled (Dirty Pillows, 2013) [cassette]
  • Brandon Lopez and Peter Evans – Gravesend after Hours no. 2 (Freedom Garden, 2015) [cassette]
  • The Gate – Chuck (Astral Spirits, 2015) [cassette]
  • Cecil Taylor & Gunter Sommer – Riobec (FMP, 1989)
  • Cecil Taylor & Paul Lovens – Regalia (FMP, 1989)
  • Cecil Taylor & Louis Moholo – Remembrance (FMP, 1989)
  • Mat Maneri – Sustain (Thirsty Ear, 2002)

Playlist for the Week of September 21, 2015

  • Black Artists Group – In Paris, Aries 1973 (BAG, 1973) [vinyl]
  • Eye Contact – War Rug (KMB Jazz, 2006)
  • Nicole Mitchell’s Black Earth Ensemble – Black Unstoppable (Delmark, 2007)
  • Signal Gain – self-titled (OutNow, 2015)
  • Daniel Levin & Juan Pablo Carletti – Illusion of Truth (OutNow, 2015)
  • Matthew Welch – Hag at the Churn (Newsonic, 2003)
  • Harris EisenstadtCanada Day IV (Songlines, 2015)
  • Tim Berne’s Science Friction – Mind over Friction (Screwgun, 2002) [3 CDs]
  • Solarists – Haitian Rail (New Atlantis, 2015)

Lisa Mezzacappa to Premiere Glorious Ravage, a Song Cycle for Large Ensemble and Film, in Los Angeles (Sep 26) and San Francisco (Oct 1-2)

(photo by Heike Liss)

(photo by Heike Liss)

Bassist and composer Lisa Mezzacappa is set to premiere her most ambitious work to date, Glorious Ravage, an evening-length song cycle for large ensemble and film at the Angel City Jazz Festival in Los Angeles, September 26, and at the Brava Theater Center in San Francisco, October 1-2. The work takes its inspiration from Victorian-era lady adventurers who traveled the world. The work is also the product of an extensive collaboration with four moving image artists: Konrad Steiner, Alfonso Alvarez, Kathleen Quillian, and Janis Crystal. Here are some cuts from the work:

The ensemble of performers includes a veritable Who’s Who of cutting edge, innovative musicians of recent years, drawn primarily from L.A. and the Bay Area: Myra Melford (piano), Mark Dresser (contrabass), Nicole Mitchell (flute), Vinny Golia (reeds), Michael Dessen (trombone), Darren Johnston (trumpet), Kyle Bruckmann (oboe), Cory Wright (reeds), Dina Maccabee (viola), Kjell Nordeson (percussion), Jordan Glenn (drums), John Finkbeiner (electric guitar), Tim Perkis (percussion), and Mezzacappa (bass, conduction), as well as Brooklyn-based vocalist Fay Victor. The work itself draws lyrics and inspiration from the travelogues of Mary Kingsley, Ida Pfeiffer, Isabelle Eberhardt, Louise Arner Boyd, Isabella Bird, Marianne North, and Annie Peck. Mezzacappa has distilled the most resonant themes of these evocative, personal texts from reading dozens of these women’s accounts, and her music explores their feelings of isolation and alienation, their restlessness, their unflagging ambition, their almost obsessive
quests for new experiences, and their wonder at the natural world and its inhabitants.


Cisco Bradley: What was the inspiration for Glorious Ravage?

Lisa Mezzacappa: The idea for Glorious Ravage was born from my first musical meeting with Fay Victor, in fall of 2011… our musical chemistry was instant, and I knew I needed to write for her unique talents. I started composing trio music, and in my search for texts that would become lyrics, I began with Fay’s journey west, from where she lives in Brooklyn, New York, to the Bay Area. I had also made that journey years before, not knowing where it would lead. So I began reading journals, letters and travelogues of women who had made epic trips—first pioneer women headed west in covered wagons, then all sorts of women from all over the world, each of them hitting the road for their own reasons.

CB: From the seven Victorian era authors you selected, Mary Kingsley, Ida Pfeiffer, Isabelle Eberhardt, Louise Arner Boyd, Isabella Bird, Marianne North, and Annie Peck, what themes did you find to be most evocative when you began composing music for Glorious Ravage?

LM: I didn’t really choose seven women actually – I read dozens and dozens of accounts by so many women of the era, many lesser known than those mentioned above. It’s just that some of them made it into the work more tangibly – through images or lyrics or some story – than others. The music and film explore all these different people’s accounts and writings in an impressionistic way, connecting one woman’s words with another’s story. So there’s rarely a moment when the lyrics and imagery and theme of a piece are all about the same person, it’s very non-literal and non-narrative in that way. Some of the juiciest descriptions and language, and emotional power came from accounts of horrible ordeals, from scientific explorations, from accounts of solitude and loneliness, from love affairs on the road, from impressions of how others live in the world compared to back home, from the awe of nature, the drive to escape, an obsessive drive for new experiences, and also in particular, people’s vivid accounts of California when they visited during the Gold Rush.

CB: What do you find most relevant about their adventures in today’s world?

LM: I don’t know about today’s world, but I know what resonated with me personally –
The more I read of these women’s letters, journals, published accounts, the more they became real, intriguing people to me – far outside the realm of your typical Women’s History Month mention of women of this era.  Most compelling were the complexities, dissonances, ambiguities of their personalities and motivations—they were part of a rotten Colonial system, even if they had issues with it; they could be hypocrites, opportunists, narcissists, hypochondriacs and slackers; but also could be very perceptive, generous, fearless, resourceful, determined – and so this work embraces that interesting grey zone that seems to surround real, flawed, yet pretty interesting people.
Some of them wrote so evocatively that their words immediately inspired lyrics. Others were so single-minded in their pursuits, that I began to score these different aspects of their ambitions. The fact that there was no contemporary precedent for how they chose to live their lives, and the great lengths they went to live so fully off-script, really resonated with me.

CB: What is the origin of the title Glorious Ravage?

LM: The title comes from a phrase in a letter Isabella Bird wrote to her sister from Hawaii in 1872.

CB: How did the collaboration with filmmakers Konrad Steiner, Alfonso Alvarez, Kathleen Quillian, and Janis Crystal Lipzin come together? In what manner has this cross-disciplinary collaboration opened up new artistic pathways for you?

LM: I’ve been collaborating with visual artists and moving image artists for many years, but mostly in smaller projects. My film collaborators in this project are part of a diverse community of Bay Area moving image artists, an amazing scene with a rich and unique history, that has welcomed me into its anarchic, collective fray, through organizations like Artists’ Television Access, Illuminated Corridor, and SF Cinematheque.  I chose these four because we had either collaborated already on smaller works together, or I’d always wanted to work with them.  Most of them have been part of a live music and film series I founded/program called Mission Eye & Ear.

CB: How much of a role did you play in selecting the themes that each of the filmmakers explores in their individual sections?

LM: This work was really created as four simultaneous collaborations spinning out in their own directions, and taking on lives of their own, with me kind as as a hub at the center.  I led Janis, Alfonso, Kathleen and Konrad to a trove of sources, texts, stories, and encouraged them to jump in—they came back to me with more ideas, more sources, more compelling questions about possible directions we might pursue. My instructions at first were very open-ended, I really wanted each of them to find something that resonated with them, that connected to their current work and interests, for us to develop and pursue together. I didn’t want to “assign” any topic or woman or theme to anyone.

CB: How did you select the musicians for your Grapevine Orchestra and what unique abilities does each bring to the group and its music?

LM: One important idea in this project was for me to make some connections between the Southern California and Northern California improvisers’ scenes – it’s a big state and we really don’t have enough opportunities to interact. So I wanted Mark, Nicole, Michael, who live in San Diego and Irvine and Long Beach, to meet and play with my peers who I’ve been working with for so many years up in the Bay Area, in my ensembles and also in their groups. Vinny is a hero of large ensemble music, so he had to be part of this; Kjell lived up here but has been gone at grad school in San Diego the past 5 years and we miss him. Dina’s sound on the fiddle kept calling to me as I was assembling the personnel for the band.  None of us up here gets to play with Myra enough. So I wanted to create an opportunity for all these people I admire so much, to work together.  They are all superlative musicians, the absolute greatest improvisers, and each of them has such a unique sound and voice, so I’m doing my best to honor that in the music I’m writing for them.

CB: Fay Victor is featured as a lead performer in the ensemble. What does she bring to this music that helps capture the necessary aesthetic for the project?

LM: I can’t imagine anyone else singing these songs… they were written for Fay, for what she does as an improviser, for her SOUND.

CB: Among the performers you have selected, I see a concentration of musicians already immersed in the vocabulary of avant-garde jazz. What about that background made these artists especially qualified to perform the music you had in mind for Glorious Ravage?

LM: I guess it really works the other way around – more like, what kind of music can I create for these musicians I want to put together and work with? It’s all really specific to what each player does, likes to do. I am constantly struggling with the balance between controlling elements in the composition and allowing for freedom and surprises. So I guess it’s all about creating possibilities (to borrow from the wisdom of Henry Threadgill), within a compositional framework that’s informed by all this research I’ve done, all these ideas that have bubbled up from the texts.  I’ve never written for a group of this size before, either, so that is a whole new dynamic in tending to that balance, I’m finding. Chaos happens really fast with 15 people, if you don’t hold on to the reins!

CB: It all sounds fascinating. Let’s hope that you can bring this work to New York City!

–Cisco Bradley, September 21, 2015

Playlist for Week of September 7, 2015

  • Nels Cline, Chris Corsano, Carlos Giffoni – Graduation (free103point9, 2004) [vinyl]
  • Weasel Walter and Chris PitsiokosDrawn and Quartered (One Hand Records, 2015) [vinyl]
  • Frank Lowe – Black Beings (ESP’ Disk, 1973) [vinyl]
  • Gold Sparkle Band – 2 by Shipp (Nu Records, n.d.) [7″ vinyl]
  • Ingrid LaubrockAnti-House (Intakt, 2010)
  • Gregg Belisle-Chi – Tenebrae (Songlines, 2015)
  • Fantasm – The Loft Sessions (Nemu, 2014)
  • Gold Sparkle Trio – Thunder Reminded Me (Clean Feed, 2003)
  • Matthew Welch & Craig Colorusso – Rusted Breath Quiet Hands (M.U.D.D. Industries, 2007)
  • Derek Baron – The Man I Love (Freedom Garden, n.d.) [cassette]
  • Windhorse – self-titled (Freedom Garden, n.d.) [cassette]
  • The SB / Cheyntara – Split (White Tapes, 2002) [cassette]
  • A.M. Salad / The SB – Split (White Tapes, 2006) [cassette]
  • The SB / Oblong Box – Mugshots, vol. 2 (Fargone Records, 2005) [cassette]
  • Dave Scanlon-Zach Pruitt Duo – From D to Z (Freedom Garden, n.d.) [cassette]

Krste Rodzevski Live at Joe’s Pub, Sep 7, 2015

(photo by Cisco Bradley)

(photo by Cisco Bradley)

Macedonian singer-songwriter Krste Rodzevski played a splendid set of music last Monday before a sell-out crowd at Joe’s Pub. The occasion was the release of Rodzevski’s debut record, Batania (Much Prefer Records). The live set featured a series of sensual, yet edgy ballads featuring Rodzevski’s lyrics over acoustic guitar. The lyrics themselves were composed in Macedonian and it was evident from the audience’s response that many people in attendance were fluent Macedonian speakers requiring no further explanation. But Rodzevski also introduced each tune either with titles in both languages and, at times, with a brief backstory. Even for English-speakers like myself, the humanness of the songs readily communicated across language boundaries, telling stories of love, loss, memory, and home. Rodzevski’s tenor voice is warm, yet capable of injecting necessary touches of melancholy. And while the leader of the band could have elected to present this in a solo format, the band that backed Rodzevski significantly deepened impact of the music. Tomas Fujiwara–one of New York’s most consummate drummers, known particularly for his work in improvised music–propelled the ensemble, providing a constant source of energy and a sense of purpose. Michael Blanco (bass) added structure to the pieces as well as some gripping solo work. Mary Halvorson provided dark fire on guitar and pushed the music to its climax in the penultimate piece of the set through a brilliant solo in a song that Rodzevski noted was about “death” and “going home.” Trumpeter Kirk Knuffke, who normally plays with the band, was unable to join the band for this date. The electric atmosphere of Joe’s Pub was the ideal place for Rodzevski’s debut record release. The record, Batania, captures the magic of the music presented in the live set and should definitely be appealing to fans of varied musical interests ranging from southeastern European folk music to cutting edge jazz.

September Artist Feature: Drummer Kate Gentile

Gentile Kate

Brooklyn-based drummer and composer Kate Gentile has been working in a number of innovative groups since graduating from the Eastman School of Music and settling in the city in 2011. Next week, Thursday to Saturday (September 10-12), she will be playing a three-night residency at Ibeam in Brooklyn. The schedule of events follow:

Thursday, September 10

8:30 & 10 pm: Kate Gentile Quartet with Jeremy Viner, Matt Mitchell, Adam Hopkins (2 sets)

Friday, September 11

8:30 & 10 pm: Kate Gentile Quartet with Jeremy Viner, Matt Mitchell, Adam Hopkins

Saturday, September 12

8:30 pm: Snark Horse: Matt Mitchell and Kate Gentile with Ava Mendoza

10 pm: Kate Gentile, Michael Attias, Matt Mitchell, Sean Conly

The following track, “mannequin #3” is a good example of the music of the Kate Gentile Quartet:


Cisco Bradley: What are some records that have recently caught your ear?

Kate Gentile:
Steve Coleman – Synovial Joints
Pygmées Aka – Centre Afrique: Anthologie de la musique de Pygmées Aka
David Torn – Only Sky

Two recent live performances jump out in my mind that I wish were records I could list:  

Michael Attias’s band Spun Tree on his recent Ibeam residency blew my mind, despite thinking I already knew how good that band was. And Jonathan Finlayson’s sextet at the Jazz Gallery. Wow.

CB: What are 10 records you’ve found to be especially inspiring or influential?

KG: I’m skipping over several of my favorite records ever for the sake of concentrating on the “inspiring/influential” part:

  1. Miles Davis – The 1964 Concert (My Funny Valentine + Four and More)
  2. Miles Davis – Nefertiti
  3. Tim Berne – Bloodcount – The Paris Concerts
  4. Marc Ducret – Tower 2
  5. John Coltrane – Transition
  6. Bill Frisell – Before We Were Born
  7. Bob Drake – The Skull Mailbox
  8. Jim Black – AlasNoAxis – AlasNoAxis
  9. Miles Okazaki – Generations
  10. Robert Pollard – all. This isn’t cheating, because what’s inspiring and influential with him is the sheer amount of great, constantly creative records. There’s over 70.

CB: What groups will you be featuring during your residency at Ibeam?

KG: Thursday and Friday will be my quartet with Matt Mitchell, Adam Hopkins, and Jeremy Viner, and we’ll play both sets each night…there’s a lot of music. We’re recording it in January.

On Saturday, Snark Horse is at 8:30. That’s a collaborative project with Matt Mitchell. We play with different people, and this time it will be with Ava Mendoza. At 10pm I’ll play quartet with Michael Attias, Sean Conly, and Matt again. We’ll be playing a really really fun set-long tune I wrote.

CB: When/how did your quartet come together and how has it evolved since its formation?

KG: Tim Berne maybe had a hand in Matt and I playing together, and also told me I should find Jeremy Viner and play with him…and I met Adam in a field somewhere in the middle of nowhere. (Weird, and true.)

Matt and I had been hanging and playing sessions from the beginning of when I moved here, though we met in another city and had a huge head start on our ongoing nerding-out. He values so many of the same things as I do musically. I realized his willingness to play with me meant I could write anything I wanted without limitation and someone was going to actually play it with me AND be able to improvise with whatever the material was, no matter how crazy. That spurred a huge composing spree.

Adam Hopkins was in another band I had briefly, for about a year or two, and I wanted to keep playing with him. He’s game to learn and work on any music, and I like his improvising choices…I’m trying really hard not to compare him to Formanek because he is very different and definitely uniquely himself, but there’s a connection that’s hard to ignore. It’s a visceral, blood and guts type thing, and a sense of momentum and pacing…sneaking bass lines into everyone’s subconsciousness before they realize they’re actually hearing them, that kind of stuff…like magic tricks.

I added Jeremy around December 2014 after we had been rehearsing for a while because I realized how much adding another voice helped clarify things that were going on compositionally. There are a lot of layers and counterpoint, and it doesn’t always translate well on the first listen with just piano and bass.

Jeremy’s a beast and totally intriguing. There’s so much I dig about his playing – he makes interesting moves improvising, and the way he improvises with the composed material, or doesn’t…he’s harmonically interesting; he’ll blow your brains out with fire or sheets of sound type things with overtones – maybe like Evan Parker, if Evan Parker played involved notated material or improvised over forms. Sometimes it sounds like some psycho combination of simultaneously wrapping you up in beautiful layers of sound and getting stabbed in the gut, which is pretty rad… Also, I think my music is relatively easy for him, which is a huge relief. That counts for a lot.

As far as ‘evolution’ – it’s still relatively early on, but the instrumentation and sound palette have expanded. It started out piano trio, and now is piano, bass, drums, clarinet, tenor, electronics, and I might add vibes to my setup not too far in the future. It’s my way of fighting against the fixed nature of piano sound.

Ambitious music usually takes longer for the process of feeling completely free with it to happen, but the progress being made toward that is starting to feel really good. It’s been growing like what you’d expect from any band that plays together for long enough – the compositions become more internalized, everyone starts to feel like they can really play and go for it, and we’ve played through our initial, obvious ideas about approaching the music and become more open to all of the way-more-interesting “OK, we already did that, now what?” type of possibilities. And again, it’s still really early on for this quartet.

CB: What music have you been writing for your quartet? What kinds of improvisational strategies are you employing with that group?

KG: The music has written material that is pretty detailed and extensive, but tons of improvising as well – probably a 1:1 ratio. It’s jazz in the sense that we play tunes and improvise on them, but the rhythmic and harmonic material and forms are not conventional and the improvising takes a variety of approaches. Instead of improvising on chord changes and a form, you’re improvising with chunks of music. There’s forms and totally open parts and things in between.

Ultimately, it’s all music that’s me just writing whatever I want with the extreme luxury of having a quartet willing to deal with that. There is no intellectual overarching concept across all the tunes, no non-music ideas it’s directly connected to, etc.

A great example of improvising I like is the second Miles Davis quintet, especially the rhythm section: total freedom to do anything at any point, complete mastery and internalization of the tunes they’re playing, and fiery inventiveness. I like things to feel different every time, and I want people to make strong moves and go for risky ideas.

I also think a lot about approaches to improvising that are more abstract…Rate of transitions. Notes per breath. Textures. Playing with or against someone. Playfighting. Ideas from visual art…’blurry’ in contrast with ‘sharp points’. Resonance. Making ‘systems’ or rules in one’s head like tying articulation or dynamics to register. Instigating. Patterns. Additive. Kung fu. Timbres. Energies. Anything, nothing. That way of thinking is in the composing, too.

CB: Snark Horse, your duo with pianist Matt Mitchell, will also be featured during the residency. What is the concept for the band? Why specifically have you asked Ava Mendoza to join you for the session?

KG: Snark Horse started with Matt and I one-upping each other writing single bars of music, just for fun, emailing them back and forth. The idea was to have a bar that could stand alone and have a compelling enough of an idea to not feel like just a fragment of something bigger.

Matt’s record Fiction is a bunch of one-page-max etudes, and the bars are almost like taking that idea and condensing it even more. The cool thing is whenever you repeat something enough, even the craziest shit starts to sound normal or catchy, so when the tune is only one bar you can really do anything. And form possibilities are endless, not only with constructing putting bars together either separated by improvisation (or not), or alternating between bars, but also dissecting them in a micro-level, like making forms within the bars…so many possibilities.

We decided that because the tunes are so short, it’s fairly easy to have someone just do one rehearsal – especially since Matt and I are playing all of the written material. Anyone else is just doubling, so it’s up to them how much they want to learn the music or just improvise. So far everyone has opted to learn the music as well as possible. We’ve done it with Ben Gerstein and Jon Irabagon, and Mary Halvorson is going to do it in March along with those guys.

Matt and I both heard Ava Mendoza online and dug her sound and playing, and Matt did a session where she did a pretty great job sight reading some of the bars and expressed enthusiasm to do more. We played some more sessions and the bars sound awesome with guitar, specifically her sounds. And she’ll pick out weird inner voices to play sometimes, which Jon and Ben do also. There are no set “parts” to the bars, you can just play whatever parts of it you want – and she has been really into figuring out how to play more layers than one would expect a guitar player to play. Her improvising is really cool also.

CB: What does the electric version of Snark Horse allow you to do?

KG: E-Snark is piano-less and Matt uses his laptop-controller setup. He actually makes electronic versions of the bars that he can manipulate on the spot with a zillion different tools, setting algorithms for affecting pitch, timbre, volume, leaving stuff out, tempo, whatever – plus he can play keyboard (controller) while those things are happening from the laptop….it’s nuts. And Ava’s guitar sounds go really well with that – she’s doing an eSnark Horse gig with us at Rye on September 16th. Jon Irabagon is playing also, both soprano and sopranino. His sopranino playing is totally nuts!! The bars sound amazing with what he does.

It’s interesting that you use the word “allow” because it does allow us to do more in a way – sometimes the bars are happening and unfolding from their electronic versions, so they’re present even if no one plays them, which frees us up to do anything.

–Cisco Bradley, September 4, 2015