Entries tagged with “Seattle Improvised Music”.


This year the Seattle Improvised Music Festival brought in Taku Sugimoto from Japan. Regular readers of this blog will know that I’ve been a long time follower of Sugimoto’s work though certainly have not followed him everywhere he’s gone. Regardless of the end product, the journey has always been fascinating and it’s always been worthwhile to keep up with his current activities.  I’ve managed to see nearly all of the musicians in the small modern improv scene that has dominated my interests over the last decade but Taku Sugimoto has always managed to slip out of my grasp. So I was particularly pleased that SIMF brought him by this year.


Empty Bass

Taku Sugimoto wasn’t the only non-Pacific Northwester that SIMF brought in this year, and they did do sixteen sets over four days all told.  I’ve really moved into a space where I try to not over consume music, both in buying of physical objects but also in how much I hear. I’ve come to find it a lot more valuable to let music that I find really compelling to sink in, to not immediately overwhelm it with another piece. So I only saw nine of those sixteen sets and even that was too much in my mind.  Each night that I went I’d come home and put up a short report onto Google+ of the Sugimoto set from that night. I’m going to collect those here, perhaps slightly expanded and with a couple more photos. I should not that the lighting was low and overall my photos were fairly bad.


Mark Collins, Mara Sedlins, Taku Sugimoto, John Teske

Thursday February 9th, apart from being my birthday, was also the second night of SIMF 2012 and the first of three nights with sets featuring Taku Sugimoto.  On this night we had a world premier Taku Sugimoto composition: Two Contrabasses, Viola and Guitar. The performers were  Mark Collins and John Teske handling the contrabasses, Mara Sedlins playing the viola and Taku Sugimoto handling the guitar. I really enjoyed the piece, it was mostly long bowed tones from the strings and Sugimoto cycling through eBow, muted plucked strings, chords and then open plucked single notes. Dynamics were low throughout and stayed in a single register giving it a kind of Feldman-ish feel. The string players almost always seemed to bow in one direction which I assume was for a particular timing or sound. The slow, soft bowing the the occasionally dry percussive elements of Sugimoto’s playing also made me think of Jacob Ullman’s A Catalog of Sounds. Good piece, afterwards I had to leave without seeing the next two sets as I wanted to let this one settle through me.

Taku Sugimoto and John Teske

Friday February 10th featured a solo performance by Taku Sugimoto. This was of course going to be interesting as Sugimoto solo has gone anywhere from him continuously playing scales, to playing only a handful of notes over the duration.  Tonight though he stuck with his recent practice of sticking to composition and  performed Michael Pisaro’s Melody, Silence. This was a nice piece like most of Pisaro’s compositions. It was made up of single plucked tones that were sometimes allowed to fully decay, other times strung into simple near melodies. These different modes of operation cycled and between then they were interspersed with short segments on the eBow. There wasn’t a ton of silence, the longest sections when he’d pick up the eBow. In that regard it reminded me more of how John Cage would use silences in the number pieces which were mainly short (though still longer than you’d normally find in a “classical” piece) and seem more about allowing each sound to be allowed to breathe. Taku’s touch on the guitar is really quite good, he’d gently pluck the strings giving a rich, full tone that was really compelling in and of itself.  The hollow body guitar he uses has a particularly nice sound for what he does. The piece wasn’t too long, I’d say maybe twenty minutes and it definitely kept me captivated throughout.

Taku Sugimoto performs Michael Pisaro’s Melody, Silence

Saturday February 12th was the final night of the festival and the only night that Taku Sugimoto engaged in improvisation playing in a quartet with Gust Burns, Jeph Jerman and Tyler Wilcox. As they were setting up Taku put stools on either side of the rear stage with (at least on my side) a wine bottle on it. He poured out a glass of this wine into a styrofoam cup. On stage Jeph scatted about his collection of items: a small zither, some mallets, a radio, small speakers, rocks and twigs. Gust opened the lid of the grand piano but had none of his usual dowels (perhaps he is post-dowel now). Tyler simply had a chair and his sopranino sax. Wilson Shook came on stage to announce the group and that the lights would be turned off.

Jeph Jerman, Gust Burns and Tyler Wilcox

The group played in the near darkness with only the exit signs and the light through the chapel stained glass windows coming in. Playing in the darkness seems to always lead to even more hushed music than normal and it was very low dynamics throughout. Jeph rattled things and tapped on the floor, Tyler emitted very quiet mostly short tones and Gust held back for quite a while. Taku wandered around and shined lights on things. At first seemingly just on the crowd but then on a mic stand with his hat on it. Later he had a shoe on the mic stand. Jeph placed an eBow on his zither and let it run for some time, first high, then low then high again. Tyler would match this for brief intervals creating sections of beating tones that was quite nice. Gust began playing single notes, fairly high and usually damped fairly quickly. Taku walked to my side of the stage and place a blinking green light that was shaped like a glow stick into the bottle of wine. At this point a regular beeping sound began, but if this was something of Taku’s or one of Jeph’s little toys I don’t know. It beeped for a while as Taku was behind the rear stage curtain playing with a white light.

Wine bottle, stool

Taku also had a red light in his belt and eventually he made his way to the opposite side of the stage and set it up (presumably also in a bottle). So on either side of the stage a red and green light was blinking away. Jeph finally removed the ebow and seem to focus more on rustling sounds and wobbling rocks. Gust was still just playing the occasional single note, now more mid-range. Tyler was doing a bit more hissing sounds at this point. Taku shined his light on the back of the heads of the audience a bit but then made his way to the back where he returned to the show on the mic stand. He placed his flashlight in another mic stand and proceeded to manipulate the shoe for a bit, slow lowering it and then rotating it. This was cast as a huge shadow on the screen that is behind the stage curtain. This was the climax so to speak and after he cut that light I think he only projected lights once more for a short time. The musicians were slowly winding down as well, though of course it had never gotten more intense then the eBowed zither. At the end they just sat in the dark for a bit making no sounds. Eventually Tyler said thanks and it was done.

Great performance, I really enjoyed it. While the theatrical stuff was really engaging what I think made it completely compelling was that there was great music throughout.

Over the next five days there are four concerts and two panel discussions well worth seeing. The first four days were setup by Seattle Improvised Music, so much thanks to them for continuing to bring great musicians to Seattle.  The fifth day is a west coast tour from NYC based Delicate Sen, who will be playing a number of other shows.  Additionally lot of these musicians are also playing Portland (probably already have I’m afraid) and some will also be doing (or have done) Vancouver, so if you are in the PNW but outside of Seattle check around. Anyway I’m going to try to make most of these shows, but will definitely not be able to make it to tomorrows panel discussion (2pm Friday afternoon – I wonder who is expected to make it?). If anyone reading here does make it to that panel let me know how it goes.

Update 08.21.09
So I went to the first of these shows last night (the only non-performer in the audience – c’mon Seattle!) and it turns out that these shows are also including local improvisers. I don’t think the lineup will be the same for all nights but last night it included Gust Burns, Wilson Shook and Mara Sedlins. I think Gust and Wilson at least will be playing tonight and tomorrow possibly with other locals.

August 20th

Bonnie Jones, Vic Rawlings, Bryan Eubanks, Chris Cogburn
with locals Gust Burns, Wilson Shook and Mara Sedlins
Chapel Performance Space, Seattle WA USA

August 21st
Panel Discussion: Improvised music today – perspectives on artist run infrastructure
with Bonnie Jones, Vic Rawlings, Bryan Eubanks, Chris Cogburn
Gallery 1412, Seattle WA USA

Bonnie Jones, Vic Rawlings, Bryan Eubanks, Chris Cogburn
Chapel Performance Space, Seattle WA USA

August 22nd
Bonnie Jones, Vic Rawlings, Bryan Eubanks, Chris Cogburn
Gallery 1412, Seattle WA USA

August 23rd
Panel Discussion: Improvised music today – improvisation in community
with Bonnie Jones, Vic Rawlings, Bryan Eubanks, Chris Cogburn
Gallery 1412, Seattle WA USA

August 24th
Delicate Sen (Billy Gomberg, Anne Guthrie, Richard Kamerman)
with locals Mark Collins, Mara Sedlins, Tyler Wilcox and Wilson Shook
Gallery 1412
, Seattle WA USA

Seattle Improvised Music Festival 2009

[Ed: Updated Feb. 13th  now that the final schedules seem to be in place]

This weekend is the first of two weekends for this years SIMF. Once again there is a lot of music packed into the two weekends, even more then normal as this year some sets feature multiple performances.  I’ve covered the festival at length the last few years and once again I do intend to attend the bulk of it.

As usual the festival brings in a number of national and international improvisers and showcases them within their own contexts (solo or their own projects) as well as in various combinations with regional improvisers.  The two halves of the festival feature different groups of guests and locals with some overlap with the locals. The second half seems to still be up in the air; previously there was a number of shows listed with Micheal Thieke, Kai Fagaschinski and Lê Quan Ninh that are now all TBA.  [ed: not TBA at all, see comments for hints to why].

Anyway with the second week still up in the air, lets just focus on the first half of the festival:

February 13th

7pm: Chapel Performance Space

  1. Greg Kelley / Doug Theriault / Kelvin Pittman trio
    Christine Sehnaoui solo
  2. Greg Kelley / Gust Burns / Mara Sedlins / Mark Collins / Wilson Shook quintet
    Andrew Drury solo
  3. Liz Tonne solo
    large ensemble

February 14th

12pm: Gallery 1412

Workshops with festival Improvisers TBD

7pm: Chapel Performance Space

  1. Greg Kelley solo
    Christine Sehnaoui / Liz Tonne duo
  2. Kelvin Pittman solo
    Wally Shoup / Greg Kelley / Andrew Drury trio
  3. Doug Theriault solo
    large ensemble

February 15th

12pm: Gallery 1412

Panel Discussion with festival Improvisers TBD

7pm: Gallery 1412

  1. Kelvin Pittman / Andrew Drury duo
  2. Christine Sehnaoui / Greg Kelley / Doug Theriault / Gust Burns quartet
  3. Large Ensemble

The first half features Greg Kelley, a fantastic trumpeter from the east coast in various combinations with regional players. Kelley, one half of nmperign, plays trumpet in about the most extended manner possible, working in small, spare sounds, sometimes augmented with simple preparations and the occasional electronic effects.  The first performance he is involved with is highly intriguing: a trio with Kelvin Pittman and Doug Theriault.  Pittman is a great sax player from Portland OR, who  is a versatile player that I’ve seen in numerous contexts but have enjoyed the most his abstract work that doesn’t at all remind me of Butcher, or Rives or Wright.  Theriault, I haven’t seen in a long time and am quite curious what he is up to now. A curious mix of guitar and “live electronic music systems” which IIRC are semi-autonomous  software programs he interacts with via his guitar. In this set along with this trio, will be Andrew Drury, a NYC based percussionist, performing solo. I’ve heard Drury in a couple of combo’s, but am not really up on his sound so I’m looking forward to get a chance to become familiar with his work.

The second set features Kelley with the Gust Burns Quartet, whom I’ve seen before and quite enjoy. Kelley’s minimal, sound oriented playing should meld perfectly with this quartet and is definitely a set I’m looking forward to. Performing solo this set, is MA based vocalist Liz Tonne.  I have not enjoyed the work of hers that I have heard in the past, either solo or in combination, but I know she has her fans. You can download a track from her (and also Kelley) from the excellent Music Overheard comp to a preview..

The final set is Christine Sehnaoui solo, apparently a France based Saxophonist whom I’m completely unaware of (always exciting!) and the ubiquitous “large group”, which presumably is all of the nights musicians performing in one large group. Somewhat of a cliche for these types of festivals, but one that SIMF has not indulged in for the last few years. But it is back in force, with each night ending with this. New this year is the solo along with a group for each set. This is interesting I think, especially as these solos tend to be pretty short.  It guarantees a full evening of music and the festival is starting early (7pm) each night to accommodate this.

The next two nights involve various combinations of the players introduced on this first night. Greg Kelley solo is sure to be a highlight and I’m curious about Pittman and Theriault’s solos as well. I’m not sure how the Kelley/Drury/Wally Shoup trio will work out: Wally Shoup is more of the fire music class of the free jazz school and I’m not sure how Kelley will fit in with that.  I’m looking forward to the the Sehnaoui/Kelley/Theriault/Burns quartet curious how Sehnaoui’s “personal language of electronic music on an acoustic instrument” will work out with Kelley’s minimalisms, Theriaults electronics and Gusts dry tones.

It is looking to be another strong year for the SIMF and I’m definitely looking forward to a number of sets and am curious about several more. If you can only make one day, I’d make the Friday that day, but there are great looking sets every day. Additionally there are workshops and roundtables, though no details about those have been released yet.

Seattle Improvised Music Festival Day 4

February 17th, 2007

Gallery1412, Seattle WA

The final day of the 22nd Annual Seattle Improvised Music Festival was an eclectic and varied mix. I had an idea how Andrea Neumann would be solo and was one of my more anticipated sets of the fest. Andrea and Nate are a great paring but after Nakatani’s solo set of the set before I wasn’t sure if he’d fit in. I’ve seen Shoup and Horist before so I knew this would be a free jazz blowout – not too bad a away to wrap it all up I suppose.

Andrea Neumann
Andrea began with eBow’s on the lower register of her piano innards generating a low tone which was supplemented by a more electronic sound perhaps from her pickups or a contact mic.  Gradually she added layers and layers of sound to the this base using additional eBows and then running a small electric fan across the strings. On the edge of the piano innards is a flat area which on the upper portion she has set down her various manipulators, but the bottom is a metallic plate that must have a mic or pickup in it. This can generate more percussive sounds and it is to this that she turns after an extended period of using the fan. She attacks this with a  series of short percussive strikes, along with a harsh scraping sound in a rather insectile fashion for a decent interval before stopping dead. She turns up an input and immediately a buzz comes up, some sort of internal feedback that she allows to become dense and multilayered, almost loud but not overbearing at all. She begins to cut this feedback out, glitch like, stuttering the sound while plucking the occasionaloccaisonal string in an almost music box kind of sound. She keeps this up for a bit, altering it so it almost has the sound of a manipulated turntable then begins to bring it down. Slowly and subtly she lowers the volume and then concludes by rubbing her hands gently over the strings. She bows to use and grins at the applauding audience. A really nice set, nice use of the solo idiom. Interesting sounds, well placed deep and attention holding.

(for Alastair and Richard; Andrea was wearing a red and white checkered long sleeved shirt under a grey sweater vest. Dark slacks the same as the day prior. Hope this helps. )

Andrea Neumann, Nate Wooley, Tatsuya Nakatani
It turns out that my early misgivings were justified regarding this set. I began all right with Nakatani bowing his gong in a fairly restrained manner. Neumann added in a gentle electronic wash and Wooley a subtle hiss from his trumpet. This went on for a bit and while a bit droney thanks to the overtones of the bowed gong Nate and Andrea added in some nice textured and spikier elements. Eventually though Nakatani tired of this sound and began to move through his bag of tricks. Pretty much the same sort of sounds and techniques from his solo set and it became increasingly difficult for Nate and Andrea to find a way in. Nate has played with Nakatani before and clearly has played free jazz in the past but I don’t know if he was moved on, or just felt it wasn’t appropriate for the circumstances but he increasingly laid out as Nakatani got more and more dominant. He did occasionally rise to the challenge with the metal sheet over his trumpet bell he could almost compete with the volume of the percussion. Andrea’s washes, low volume plucked strings and sonic detritus seemed to fare the worst against Nakatani’s assault. Lost in the background as it were even though she too tried to add to the maelstrom with some blasts of feedback and percussive attacks. One memorable segment in about the middle of segment involved Nakatani with about a dozen brass bowls on top of his floor tom first hitting them and then shaking the tom generating a terrific racket. Neumann and Wooley laid out competlely and for quite a while as this rose to a fever pitch. Nakatani eventually was crawling across the floor pushing the floor tom ahead of him and then pulling it back as he reached the audience.After all the bowls had been shaking loose, he picked up the floor tom and held it above his head so that with his head thrown back he could blow raspberries on the drumhead. Several times during this display I caught Nate and Andrea looking at each other in disbelief. v After this monumental display of egotism Nakatani sat back down and rattling things around for a bit finally settled again on bowing the gong. Andrea and Nate finally came back in with some rubbed and plucked strings from the former and a gentle tocking from the later. Nakatani slowed down his bowing until there was nothing less and this mess was over.

Nakatani behaved pretty much exactly has he had during his solo set, not listening nor really paying much attention to his fellow musicians at all. There were some nice bits where he was more restrained or taking a monetary breather but for the most part he was just engaging in the worst form of egotism. Disappointing and rather a waste in my opinion.

Wally Shoup, Tatsuya Nakatani, Bill Horist
This was pretty much what I was expecting having seen the bulk of this musicians before. Wally Shoup is a free jazz player of the fire music school and Bill Horist plays prepared and effected “laptop” guitar rather in the O’Rourke vein. Nakatani of course plays solo regardless of whether there are others playing or not. In fact while I’m not a huge fan of the free jazz this set was again marred by Nakatani. Wally laid out quite a bit and Bill as well or would provide support but Tatsuya was always full bore all the time. Bill can generate some interest sounds with his instrument, especially when he stuffs various cymbals under the strings, but this was often lost under the cacophony. One bit was truly depressing about the most irked I’ve been at a live show in recent memory. Bill was making this great fragmented tones with a combination of eBow and cymbals under the strings, very delicate but rich with subtle spikes and skittery static. Wally sat out during this but through the entire segment Nakatani with this disturbing stoic expression on his face play marching rhythms on his snare. Just absolutely abysmal. There was some good long tones from Shoup and some firey blowouts as well and occasionally Nakatani’s soloing fit in well with the proceedings, but overall this was actually worse then I was expecting.

The end has finaly come to this festival (and to this series of reports for which I must beg forgiveness for the delay) which overall was a really well programmed affair. Some great out of town guests and locals and really I think only Nakatani was a mistake. Some sets were less interesting then others but really only a couple of bad ones. And there truly was some inspired music played. I got to spend a but of time talking to Bonnie, Andy, Kyle, Andrea and Gust and it was great to hear their thoughts on playing this music. I also was able to pick up a lot of music at the shows, which is the best way to support the musicians. A whole lot of fun and I look forward to next years festival.