Tag Archives: Kit Downes

February 2019 – upcoming jazz gigs in London and Cambridge – Seed Ensemble (1st February); Warmer Than Blood (2nd February); Irreversible Entanglements and Matana Roberts (2nd February)

28 Jan

Cassie Kinoshi & SEED Ensemble, 1st February 2019

Perhaps there’s not a great deal that I need to say about Cassie Kinoshi. The most visible of the current generation of jazzwomen from the Tomorrow’s Warriors Female Collective, she’s clearly on the ascendant, working extensively across the jazz, classical, dance and drama worlds, and with her two-year-old SEED Ensemble now getting high-profile gigs. One of these is at Kings Place this Friday, in which SEED unveil their debut album ‘Driftglass’, showing off the end product of the multicultural London influences which inspire them: groove-based British jazz with strong flavour of West African and Caribbean diasporan music.

If that sounds a bit cuddly, then check out the title – and the combative, sarcastic thump – of the second of the two clips below. It’s a parodic, pointed Mingus-worthy musical representation of white people’s fear-driven misconceptions about black people, drawing on the wildness, grief and defiance of New Orleans funeral music and underpinned by the double-low-end honk-n’razz attack of Theon Cross’ tuba and Rio Kai’s double bass.



 
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Up in Cambridge the following day, guitarist/composer Chris Montague (previously seen in here via his work with Alex Roth and Chris Sharkey in Future Currents) reveals his new project Warmer Than Blood. It’s a trio in which he combines with pianist Kit Downes (Troyka, F-IRE Collective) and bass guitarist Ruth Goller, whose pedigree takes in a host of projects from Acoustic Ladyland to Sephardim ballad revivers Sephiroth plus (amongst others) the manouche of Kamao Quintet, the punk jazz of Let Spin and rough-edged North African-influenced Melt Yourself Down, the Latin folk of Oriole and the up-in-the-air experimental indie-rock of Bug Prentice.

Warmer Than Blood, 2nd February 2019

All three are longtime friends and collaborators, seeking yet another new approach. They seem to have found it with Chris’ newest batch of compositions and improvisation-seeding situations, which he suggests consist of “intricate textures, dark pools of harmony, layered melodies, kinetic group improvisation and percussive prepared piano… fractious composed passages can inhabit the same sonic space as spare, ambient melodies, often described as melancholic and uplifting at the same time.”

Warmer Than Blood are a couple of months away from properly recording a debut album, but two live tracks on their homepage point the way in which they’re going. Introverted and ominous, their name-track’s a quiet etiolated piano exploration over a minimal pulsing guitar-chord cycle and locked-in bass rumble. The excerpt from a longer piece, FTM, is a gradual evolver in which Chris hovers in menacing sustain/volume-swell textural clouds and momentary dust-devils over ghost-Latin clicks and bass piano thuds (Kit muting the piano at both ends) before the trio expand into what’s partly a kind of haunted country music (like a Bill Frisell ensemble scoured to the bone by plains wind), and partly like a salsa band coming to terminal grief in a badlands dustbowl.

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Back in London, and also on the Saturday, the Barbican’s Milton Court hosts Brooklyn-based “liberation-minded free jazz collective” Irreversible Entanglements. If you’re after a jazz band to represent and reflect these increasingly ugly, stormy, oppressive times from the bottom up, you couldn’t find a better one – but be careful what you wish for. They aren’t an easy listen, and they’ve got no intention of being so.

Irreversible Entanglements, 2nd February 2019

Free jazz (especially, though not always, when it becomes a hand-me-down in the hands of white musicians) can often be a fussy, elitist abstraction. Irreversible Entanglements uncompromisingly return it to its roots in black radicalism and to an absolute connection to the injustices of society. In doing that, they’re stepping into the first-generation protest-jazz shoes of Archie Shepp, Joseph Jarman, Max Roach, Albert Ayler.

If you’ve been reading ‘Misfit City’ over the last couple of months, you may remember Elaine Mitchener reviving this tradition with her Vocal Classics Of The Black Avant Garde project last month. While operating in a similar field, Irreversible Entanglements have no interest in curating those impetus and protests as museum pieces. Instead, they create their own protest. It should go without saying that they’re tied deeply into the #BlackLivesMatter initiative. Originally forming the band four years ago to play at a Musicians Against Police Brutality event, saxophonist Keir Neuringer, bassist Luke Stewart and poet/proclaimer Camae Ayewa subsequently added trumpeter Aquiles Navarro and drummer Tcheser Holmes for more rhythm and flammability.

The resulting quintet sounds far bigger, far angrier and far more righteous than seems possible, jetting out sheets of rattling, scouring brass over gargantuan shifting rhythms like wrenched building piles. Key to it all is the fierce female voice at the core. Camae’s better known for her Moor Mother solo project, in which she declaims jarring, terrifying accounts of personal and cultural pain over a barrage of hip-hop/slamtronic sound. I’ve written previously about the way in which her deep drilling of psychic scar-tissue within the African-American experience turns her into time-traveller, authorative witness-bearer and angry documentarian. With Irreversible Entanglements, she taps into another heady well of black American cultural memory, this one passed down via saxophones, bop and overblown sheets of sound. It’s not the first time that a jazz band has been centred on a woman’s voice, but you’ll rarely, if ever, have heard it done this way, in which the texts and the delivery not only match the hurricane of music, but simultaneously drive and ride them. This is serious schooling.



 

In support at Milton Court is Chicago-born, New York-based saxophonist and sound experimentalist Matana Roberts. While it’s not unusual for a jazz player to appear on a record on post-rock spearhead label Constellation, it is unusual for one to be signed to the label. Matana, however, is not a standard jazzer (she prefers the term “sound adventurer”, considering herself to be a hybrid connected to multiple sonic approaches), and she was probably signed more because of her general experimental tendencies than because of her past collaborations with Silver Mt. Zion and with Tortoise members.

An orchestral clarinettist with a politicized background, Matana journeyed through punk, Riot Grrl and avant-garde music to where she is now. Though she seems quite capable of punching out Chicago post-bop/free sax on the stand, she doesn’t restrict herself to standard (though demanding) jazz forms. Instead, she treats music as a prime artistic unifier crossing over into dance, theatre, poetry…. not in itself unusual, but rather than just strapping standard music tropes onto other forms she allows those forms to wash in, dissolving and reforming her approach to her music.

Matana’s best known for her ongoing ‘Coin, Coin’ series, a projected twelve-album project started in 2005 and still in its relatively early stages (it’s about a third done). In this, whether working on her own or with others, she utilises a technique she originally dubbed “panoramic sound quilting”, joining together blocks of noise and scoring from a variety of sources but with an assemblage idea borrowed from rag-bag folk art. In particular when she’s recording alone, her pieces feature multiple Matanas – some rolling out saxophone lines, but many engaged in vocal chants or drones, or layered swatches of conversation. Some sing or scream, or hurtle along the arresting bloodied ribbon that separates the two: like Moor Mother, Matana takes pride in black history and resistance while establishing that it has to be represented via a certain sound of historical pain. The rawness there goes beyond filters of culture and into filters of humanness.”

Unsurprisingly, her performances have a reputation for being immersive experiences. Sounds like she’ll make the perfect gigmate for Irreversible Entanglements.



 
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Dates:

Jazz re:freshed present:
SEED Ensemble
Kings Place, 90 York Way, Kings Cross, London, N1 9AG, England
Friday 1st February 2019, 8.00pm
– information here and here

Listen! presents
Warmer Than Blood
Unitarian Church, 5 Emmanuel Road, Cambridge, CB1 1JW, England
Saturday 2nd February 2019, 7.30pm
– information here and here

Irreversible Entanglements + Matana Roberts
Milton Court Concert Hall @ Guildhall School of Music & Drama, Silk Street, Barbican, London, EC2Y 8DT, England
Saturday 2nd February 2019, 7.30pm
– information here and here
 

May 2018 – upcoming London classical/experimental gigs – Hen Ogledd’s freak-folk roar plus performances of Conlon Nancarrow, Alice Jeffries and original work by Naomi Sato, Lore Lixenberg and Serge Vuille at Kammer Klang (1st May); Tre Voci & Kit Downes EP launch (15th May)

21 Apr

Kammer Klang, 1st May 2018Kammer Klang presents:
Hen Ogledd + Lore Lixenberg + Naomi Sato + Serge Vuille
Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Tuesday 1st May 2018, 7,30pm
– information here, here and here

Headlining this coming month’s Kammer Klang is the shifting noise-folk improv collective Hen Ogledd: named after the ancient Celtic kingdoms of northern Britain and centring on improvising harpist Rhodri Davies and the distorted bass and acoustic guitar of Richard Dawson (once described as “a one-man Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band“).

Richard and Rhodri initially used the name for a 2013 duo album before expanding it to a larger project. Writer-musician Dawn Bothwell (a sometime video-art-curator who also plays “altered electronic torch songs” as Pentecostal Party and drum machine experiments as half of Blep) joined as an equal partner in 2016, her vocals and electronic instrumentation (synths, loops, delay pedals, telephone) simultaneously pulling the project deeper into freak-noise and adding forthright song structures. On this occasion, Rhodri, Richard and Dawn will be accompanied by a fourth member – frequent Dawson collaborator Sally Pilkington – on keyboard, synth and voice; further thickening a startling brew of sound which seems to excavate, parasitize and transform ancient folk music with a roaring dirty-electric experimentalism.


 
The rest of the bill is solo sets of various kinds.

Outstanding avant-garde mezzo-soprano Lore Lixenberg will be flying in from her Berlin base to perform her own multi-tracked vocal version of Conlon Nancarrow‘s ‘Study for Player Piano No. 31’ (one voice live, the rest on tape). Nancarrow specialised in piano pieces with a forest of ecstatic multiple parts: impossible for one human to generate on a single standard piano with only ten fingers, but more readily performable via the automatic pedal-pumped player piano (whose system of playing programmed music from punched paper rolls like a computer or music box proved prime for hijacking).

Lore’s apparent aim is to demechanise the music – respecting its original method but bringing it closer to human performance. Though she’s jokingly dubbed this “Nankaraoke”, in a recent interview with NMC Records she also revealed “the idea is to keep the consistency of timbre of the player piano but with the liveness that Nancarrow couldn’t find in his lifetime. I was talking to David Alberman about the first time Nancarrow heard his music played in ensemble; apparently he nearly cried, having been told his whole life that his music was unplayable…”

 
Saxophonist and reedist Naomi Sato (of Duo X Project, Karooshi Vlinder Vangers and assorted orchestras) will be performing an unspecified solo set on shō (the Japanese 17-pipe bamboo mouth organ). To complete the evening, the Fresh Klang event of new and rare music will be performed by percussionist Serge Vuille – premiering a new work by emerging young British composer Alice Jeffreys, whose music “explor(es) emergent temporal paradoxes in listening”.


 
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I always seem to be doubling up news of Kammer Klang and Nonclassical events, and this time’s no exception. In mid-May, Nonclassical are putting on another Tre Voci gig as the cello ensemble launch their new ‘Auro’ EP with regular collaborator, jazz pianist and organist Kit Downes. (This follows up their previous shared concert) back in February.)

A quick burst of press release for the unfamiliar:

“Formed in 2012, Tre Voci is comprised of Norwegian cellist Torun Sæter Stavseng and British cellists/composers Gregor Riddell and Colin Alexander. Their repertoire ranges from medieval and renaissance vocal music to new commissions and their own compositions. The trio is also focused on structured improvisation, performing with live processed electronics as well as explorations of Scandinavian folk music.

“Kit Downes is a BBC Jazz Award winning, Mercury Music Award nominated, solo recording artist for ECM Records. He has toured the world with artists such as Squarepusher, Thomas Strønen, Aidan O’Rourke and Django Bates and written commissions for Cheltenham Music Festival, London Contemporary Orchestra, Stavanger Konserthus, Cologne Philharmonie, BBC Radio 3 and the Wellcome Trust.”




 
As is usual with Tre Voci concerts, there will be a mixture of site-specific improvisations plus written pieces, including original works by all performers. Presumably the setlist includes Kit’s Tre Voci ‘Auro’ commission ‘The Cult of John Frum’ plus the fifteenth century Josquin des Prez and Johannes Ockeghem pieces which also appear on the EP.

Nonclassical presents:
Tre Voci & Kit Downes
The Old Church, Stoke Newington Church Street, Stoke Newington, London, N16 9ES, England
Tuesday 15th May 2018, 8:00pm
– information here, here and here

Tre Voci + Kit Downes, 15th May 2018

 

February 2018 – upcoming classical etc. gigs – Tre Voci, Kit Downes and Southbank Gamelan Players in London (7th February); Psappha’s ‘Caught In Treetops’ concert in Manchester (15th February)

2 Feb

Tre Voci + Kit Downes + Southbank Gamelan Ensemble, 7th February 2018

Tre Voci presents:
‘Auro’ (with Tre Voci + Kit Downes + Southbank Gamelan Players + Nonclassical DJ set)
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Wednesday 7th February 2018, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here

Classical/experimental cello trio Tre Voci (who, back in December, were integrating and sparring with an Iranian hand-drummer and a Norwegian soprano, continue their tradition of cross-pollinating musical events by collaborating with jazz pianist/organist Kit Downes and four players from London-based Indonesian percussion ensemble the Southbank Gamelan Players at a pre-launch event for their upcoming EP ‘Auro’ (released on 25th February).

The gig’s being done in cahoots with Nonclassical, who are releasing the EP, performing (via head honcho Gabriel Prokofiev) a DJ set embracing and challenging western classical traditions, and hosting this interview in which Tre Voci’s Torun Stavseng and Gregor Riddell expound on the EP and on what they’re hoping to achieve with the concert. The interview reveals that not only will there be a extra guest appearance from cellist and singer Laura Moody, but that in an attempt to emphasise “the transcendental qualities of Gamelan music (which) lend (themselves) well to an innovative use of light and space” they’ll attempt to use the Chapel’s architecture to transport the audience into a “kaleidoscopic, illusory realm playing with their sense of space, time, light and sound. We will position the Gamelan players on the main stage whilst Kit will be hidden behind the organ and the cellos symmetrically dispersed in the corners of the chapel, with the aim to create an interplay with the sound reflections against the stone walls.”

The collective piece being performed and premiered here is ‘To Shadow’, composed by Bryn Harrison, which he describes as consisting of “rising lines in which the parts ghost each other… An idea I’ve been working with in this piece and other recent projects has been to increase the levels of repetition as the piece continues to create the feeling of being inside the music. I like to resist change when I working, trying to think into an idea rather than out of or away from it. There’s a different kind of musical development at play, where the act of listening changes rather than from specifically what happens in the music. I’m interested to see how this work with this particular combination of instruments and with the freer elements that Kit brings to the piece.”

Kit’s own recent ‘Obsidian’ album featured him playing various structured improvisations on a variety of church organ, so it looks as if the Chapel’s resident Willis organ will also be taking a jazz hammering. In addition, Kit has written a quartet piece for the ‘Auro’ EP (‘The Cult of John Frum’) which features himself on Hammond organ and will be performed at the concert. Depending on various sources, the concert will also feature fifteenth century music rearranged for cello trio (probably the Josquin des Prez and Johannes Ockeghem pieces featured on ‘Auro’), various group improvisations and a performance of John Cage’s ‘The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs’.





 
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Psappha presents:
‘Caught In Treetops’
St Michael’s Church, 36-38 George Leigh Street, Ancoats, Manchester, M4 5DG, England
Thursday 15th February 2018, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here

Psappha, 15th February 2018Mancunian classical ensemble Psappha are performing a showcase of emerging composers at a mid-month concert in their main Manchester home.

‘Caught In Treetops’ is centred around Charlotte Bray’s piece of the same title, a work for solo violin and ensemble which responds to two contrasting lunar poems (“A Match with the Moon” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and “The Moon Sails Out” by Federico García Lorca). For this concert, it will features guest appearances by violinist Benedict Holland and conductor Mark Heron. Here’s an earlier performance of the piece by Neue Musik and Wibert Aerts:


 
The concert also showcases a selection of pieces from Psappha’s own emerging composer schemes. Robert Reid Allan‘s ‘The Palace Of Light’ is a sympathetic piano tribute to a notorious Glasgow cottaging location, musically characterised by tinkling water-dripping notes and an apprehensive, fractured romanticism, while Anna Clyne’s ‘Paintbox’ is “an immersive soundscape which combines recorded voice, breathing and other sound loops with a sonorous cello line” exploring “the life-changing effects of the atomic bomb.” James Williamson‘s ‘Fault-Klang’ equates extended clarinet techniques with geologic upheaval; Michael Cryne‘s flute-and-pedal-electronics piece ‘In Cloud Light’ takes its inspiration from the kinetic wind sculptures of American artist Anthony Howe. Will Frampton‘s ‘The Greening Variations’ is a violin/cello/piano trio in which each successive variation refreshes – or “greens” the previous one on an instrument-by-instrument journey “commencing…in an extreme register before narrating its way to a climatic melody accompanied by distinctive trill figures.” Written for mixed-percussion soloist, Lucy Armstrong‘s ‘Space Adventure’ works from a pulp science fiction scenario of hapless human explorers being obliterated by merciless aliens. Inspired by “an experience of being trapped in a place that is usually bustling with life, but is now deserted”, Bethan Morgan-Williams‘s ‘In Kenopsia’ is a unsettling, deceptive duet between a trombonist and a violinist (the first a live performer, the second only a strange mnemonic presence on electronic samples pieced together, warped and reshaped as a phantom accompanist).

Bar the Clyne, all of these pieces are already well-established in the Psappha repertoire, and you can watch and listen to previous performance of them below. In addition, if you turn up with your ticket at 6.40pm before the concert, there’ll be a “Demystifying New Music” talk introducing you to the composers and expanding upon their ideas.







 

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