Monday 7 January 2019, 7.30pm
Elaine Mitchener turns to the black avant-garde and to the overflow of experiment that occurred within improvised music, often springing directly from lived experiences of racial injustice.
The repertoire for this 60 minute programme consists of a number of seminal works, drawn from the 1960/70s African-American avant-garde, which combine vocals and text with experimental jazz forms.
These works illuminate an occluded moment in American cultural history, when the avant-garde aesthetics of new jazz doubled as a metaphor for the imminent politics of civil rights. Composed in very specific response to the perilous condition of black people in America, the works’ synthesis of experimental sensibilities, radical political sentiment, and gutbucket expression cuts across boundaries of time and space to resonate universally in the here and now. In the era of #BlackLivesMatter, these works speak powerfully of the need for resistance and resilience, sound stark and original, their hypermodernism firmly rooted in vernacular tradition.
For Vocal Classics Of The Black Avant-Garde, highly charged and political works by Eric Dolphy, Archie Shepp, Joseph Jarman, and Jeanne Lee will be re-interpreted and re-presented by an ensemble of leading UK jazz musicians brought together for this event by Elaine Mitchener Projects.
Jason Yarde / sax(s) M.D.
Elaine Mitchener / voice, concept
Mark Sanders / drums/perc
Neil Charles / bass
Dante Micheaux / speaker/poet
Byron Wallen / trumpet/ flute
Dominic Canning / piano
Saxophonist Jason Yarde has already been a veteran of the leader's bands for some two decades. He is himself one of the most sought-after musicians of his generation, and has been a member of groups led by Andrew Hill and Jack DeJohnette, amonst many others. He is also a renowned composer, having been widely commissioned (including by the London Symphony Orchestra).
Born and raised in East London of Jamaican heritage Elaine Mitchener is a contemporary vocalist, movement artist and composer, who encompasses improvisation, contemporary/experimental music theatre and dance. She has worked and collaborated with numerous leading artists including Camae Ayewa (Moor Mother), Mark Padmore, George E. Lewis, The Otolith Group, Sonia Boyce, Tansy Davies, Hamid Drake, Van Huynh Company, Apartment House, David Toop, London Sinfonietta, Steve Beresford, Christian Marclay, Phil Minton, Ensemble Manufaktur für aktuelle Musik, William Parker, Alexander Hawkins. She is founder of collective electroacoustic trio The Rolling Calf with saxophonist Jason Yarde and bassist Neil Charles.
“Elaine Mitchener has ACHIEVED A MOST DIFFICULT CHALLENGE ; She has created a dauntingly vivid theatrical evocation of deep and prolonged collective pain in such a way as to bring out OUR emotional empathy fundamental to communication. She has not aimed for ‘beautiful art’ but her unblinking honesty and the ultrasensitive resonance of her three musical companions, has parAdoxically created something of real, visceral beauty- art,in fact.” – Robert Wyatt THE WIRE
“SWEET TOOTH is a vital black British addition to those seminal creative statements of resistance and defiance from the African Diaspora.” (Kevin Le Genre, Jazzwise)
Mark has worked with a host of renowned musicians including Derek Bailey, Henry Grimes, Mathew Shipp, Evan Parker, Roswell Rudd, in duo and quartets with Wadada Leo Smith and trios with Charles Gayle with Sirone and William Parker.
In situations using composition Mark works in a number of projects including Christian Marclay’s Everyday for film and live music and John Butcher’s Tarab Cuts - both projects have performed major festivals throughout Europe and Brazil. He has performed works by guitarist John Coxon in Glasgow and Sydney playing with the Scottish and Sydney Symphony Orchestras. With New York’s ICE Ensemble he has performed John Zorn’s The Tempest in London and at Huddersfield New Music Festival.
Mark also works in the groups of Paul Dunmall including Deep Whole Trio with Paul Rogers, and the ensembles of Sarah Gail Brand, including a long-standing duo. He has a lengthy discography including a solo album, has performed internationally and played at major festivals including, Nickelsdorf, Ulrichsburg, Womad and notably at Glastonbury with legendary saxophonist John Tchicai.
"ubiquitous, diverse and constantly creative, drummer Mark Sanders always outdoes himself, whether playing with restraint or erupting like a dynamo." Bruce L Gallenter, Downtown Music Gallery. NY
Neil Charles is a bassist, electronic producer and composer. He regularly performs, records and tours with numerous jazz, classical and contemporary music bands and ensembles like alex Hawkins, mingus big band, has played with Terence Blanchard, black top and is a member of the electro-acoustic jazz trio, Zed-U.
DANTE MICHEAUX'S poems have appeared in various journals and anthologies, in the United States and abroad. His honors include the Oscar Wilde Award and fellowships from Cave Canem Foundation and The New York Times Foundation. Micheaux resides in London and New York City.
“Dante Micheaux’s poetry is always musical. He plays in a group with Cavafy, Lorca, Komunyakaa. His instrument is a clear exact voice with his heart beating so loud you can hear it. He has highs and lows that reach into something Greek, into jazz, into the blues, into metaphysical English poetry. He pulls all this off remaining wonderfully African-American.”—Stanley Moss
“The passionate music woven through Dante Micheaux's Amorous Shepherd emanates out of a deep belief of human possibility and trust. Basic and highly sensual, this collection unfolds with a disrobing of body and soul. Each compressed, terse poem pops with shaped certainty. There isn't anything overly precious in these poems, but only a marvelous sonority and sincerity that go directly for the experienced heart.”—Yusef Komunyakaa
Byron Wallen (b. 1969) was raised in a musical family and as a child studied classical piano, euphonium, trumpet, flute and drums. In the mid 1980’s the trumpet became Wallen’s primary instrument of choice.
Wallen’s first major work, Tarot Suite, (1994) was inspired by a love of mythology and symbolism, which reflected the archetypal journey of human life through an interdisciplinary pan-continental approach.
Wallen’s study of cognitive psychology has aided his transition towards conceptualising music as a medium for healing. Wallen raises awareness and invokes change by unlocking boundaries through the nature and science of sound. – Jazz Connects
Alexander Hawkins is musician who is ‘unlike anything else in modern creative music’ (Ni Kantu) and whose recent work has reached a ‘dazzling new apex’ (Downbeat).
As a pianist, he has been described as ‘remarkable...possessing staggering technical ability and a fecund imagination as both player and composer.’ Concerning his organ playing, critic Brian Morton recently commented that ‘[t]he most interesting Hammond player of the last decade and more, [Hawkins] has already extended what can be done on the instrument.’
His writing has been said to represent ‘a fundamental reassertion of composition within improvised music’ (Point of Departure), and his voice one of the ‘most vividly distinctive...in modern jazz’ (The Jazzmann).
An in-demand collaborator as well as soloist, composer, and bandleader, Hawkins continues to be heard live and on record with vast array of contemporary leaders of all generations, including the likes of Evan Parker, John Surman, Joe McPhee, Mulatu Astatke, Wadada Leo Smith, Anthony Braxton, Marshall Allen, Han Bennink, Hamid Drake, Rob Mazurek, Taylor Ho Bynum, Harris Eisenstadt, Matana Roberts, and Shabaka Hutchings, amongst many others. He has also been noted for a number of years for his performances in the bands of legendary South African drummer, Louis Moholo-Moholo.
Concert appearances have taken him to major club, concert and festival stages worldwide.
“…Hawkins is a really vital link in a long historical chain, and his ability to sculpt his own language from a deeply rooted creative bedrock is compelling” - Jazzwise
“Sounds like all the future jazz you might imagine without ever being able to conceive of the details” - The Guardian