photography by Gina Garbero
You perform a lot of new music and contemporary improvisation. What got you into modern music?
My parents have a great love of music -- my dad has a fantastic jazz and classical record collection and we went to a lot of concerts. I attended a public arts high school where I studied theory and composition with Jon Grier, who introduced me to a lot of contemporary classical and early music.
As a clarinetist, you are able to perform with many different ensembles from classical orchestras to ragtime jazz. Do you have any interesting experiences from your various performances?
I’ve improvised while under hypnosis, played duets with Gnatheonemus petersii (a Nigerian Elephantnose fish that emits an electrical impulse), and performed blindfolded while accompanying a dancer who was also blindfolded.
In contrast to those experiences, one of my favorite ongoing projects has been working with Orlando’s Dream, a clarinet trio that specializes in 16th and 17th century music originally composed for consorts of viols. The clarinets mirror the transparent timbre of the viols, so the music suits our instruments quite well. Don Jacobs plays Bb clarinet, and Kurt Bjorling plays basset horn and leads the group. Though he's best known for his work in the Klezmer world, Kurt has extensively researched early music and is quite knowledgeable about performance practice. He brings a wealth of musical experience as well as seemingly boundless enthusiasm and energy into every rehearsal. I never had the opportunity to play chamber music regularly in school, so I've learned a tremendous amount by rehearsing nearly every week with such accomplished musicians over the past three years.
What do you think of music criticism and music journalism?
I’m particularly happy to see more musicians stepping up to the plate by writing about their own music, and advocating for their peers and heroes in a meaningful way. I also enjoy reading and listening to interviews led by musicians, where there's an implied sense of trust and the specifics of their music and history are laid out more directly.
Are you working on anything new? Do you have any upcoming performances?
I'm excited about Trio Clarice, a new group with clarinetist James Falzone and vocalist Carol Gennetti. We recently performed a compositions of Carol's at the MCA. I’m working on a new piece for the group that’s based around a text from some speech recognition software left to its own devices.
I’m looking forward to devoting more time to quiet improvised music that incorporates unpitched, extended techniques and copious amounts of silence. I’m playing a concert or two with Graham Stephenson, Aaron Zarzutzki, Daniel Fandiño and Marc Riordan with this focus in mind. I hope to collaborate again with Ohio-based percussionist Ryan Jewell and Chris Riggs in this vein as well.
Anton Hatwich and I play jazz brunch every Sunday at Township in Logan Square. We're using this as an opportunity to dive into Herbie Nichols and Monk tunes.
What is your most-desperately-needed non-music art form? How do you think this influences your work? (asked by Chad Langford)
I’ve recently ventured into film photography by purchasing a 35mm camera. It’s an artistic outlet that serves as a break from music making, not to mention an excuse to get outside when the weather is cooperating. Photography also satisfies a need to create something that might eventually become a physical object (far less expensive than making records). Using film obligates me to be conscious of my materials.
With both music and photography, I'm interested in the idea of creating, as opposed to filling, a sense of space and time. I’m also reminded that a moment captured on film is unique – nearly impossible to recreate even under similar circumstances – a concept that applies to any sort of performed music as well.
What would be a good question to ask the next musician on By Measure?
How do the musicians you regularly collaborate with influence your work?
(stream these songs here)
Don't Jazz Me - Rag (I'm Music) -- James Scott (performed by Bob Wright, piano)
Garden Cress -- The Contest of Pleasures (John Butcher/Xavier Charles/Axel Dörner)
Something to Live For -- Steve Lacy
Moldavian Zhok -- Duo Controverso (Kurt and Annette Bjorling)
God's Girlfriend -- Tres Hongos (Jacob Wick/Marc Riordan/Frank Rosaly)
Wolverine Blues -- Jelly Roll Morton
Karaharapriya-Athi -- Brahma Sri Tiruchendur Appadurai Aiyengar
Take Me Back to Baltimore -- Elizabeth Cotten
Fantasie No. 4 a 3 -- Orlando Gibbons (performed by Jordi Savall)
Good Vibrations -- James Gadson