The other day I was able to talk on Radio New Zealand about some of the inspiring music I've encountered over the years, sharing original music from Nicole Mitchell, Toni Kitanovski, Steve Coleman, Holophonor, and Callum Allardice. Listen below for some really good music and my thoughts and experiences with it.
At long last the album On the Face Place by the Macedonian jazz collective CSPS Ensemble has been released. Big thanks to Dave Lisik at SkyDeck Music and Victoria University of Wellington for their support. We did a release show in Skopje at Stanica 26 on February 2 (pictures and videos to follow) and are so happy with the album artwork by Nika Gavrovska and engineering and mixing by my co-producer Alen Hadži-Stefanov. The band features:
Kiril Kuzmanov - alto saxophone, flute
Ivan Ivanov - tenor saxophone
Dave Wilson - baritone saxophone, flute
Trajče Velkov - trumpet
Kiril Tufekčievski - bass
Bojan Petkov - guitar
Ratko Dautovski - percussion
Check out this composition The Red Barbunya by Kiril Tufekčievski from the album:
or stream the whole album here:
In Passing is an oud and clarinet/bass clarinet duo project that explores the intersections of a number of jazz sensibilities and music cultures of the Middle East. It emerged from a dynamic year of collaborating with Gabe Lavin in 2015 and 2016, and we're so grateful that we had the opportunity to record the music that we spent so much time writing and performing together. We also had the honor of including incredible performances by Albert Agha on vocals and Pablo Infante-Amate on riqq. Here's a track from the album featuring Albert:
and you can stream the whole album here:
I had the great privilege of spending the last week of July in Skopje, preparing the debut performance of our tentatively-titled Encounter project. As I mentioned at the concert, it was one of my shortest stays in Macedonia in recent memory, but also one of the sweetest, mostly because of the time spent working with so many wonderful musicians: bassist Kiril Tufekchievski, guitarist Bojan "Shamba" Petkov, saxophonists Kiril Kuzmanov and Ivan Ivanov, trumpet player Stelios Chatzikaleas (Greece), and percussionist Ratko Dautovski. It was an honor to share our music as part of the Skopsko Leto Skopje Summer Festival, and the concert was attended by an outstandingly supportive audience at the beautiful 15th-century Suli An venue in Skopje's old town, the stara charshija. Video is coming soon, but here is the link to a preview article, thoughtfully written by arts journalist Ljupcho Jolevski (Google translate may be required).
In May, I organized a tour throughout Macedonia and Kosovo for Dr. James Newton and the UCLA Charles Mingus Ensemble. Here is a full-length video of our performance at Goce Delchev University in the town of Shtip. It was a great privilege to share our music with the students and faculty of the university at our performance and a few master classes.
Here is a video of an interview we did with Dr. Newton and pianist Kiefer Shackelford for the local radio station, with my live English translation:
I've been collaborating with DJ Maci here in Skopje since the summer of 2012, and yesterday we were fortunate enough to do a live set of some of our material on Skopje's jazz radio station, Jazz FM. Here's the whole set -- which starts with an interview (in Macedonian) with Maci, myself, and Alen Hadzistefanov, one of the owners of the radio station. We're so grateful to Alen for the opportunity to share our music!
Here are some edited-together excerpts of Springs of a Desperate Heart performed by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. Thanks again to the ACO and the BPO for this great opportunity!
A few months back I had the honor of having my piece Springs of a Desperate Heart read by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO) as part of the Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute EarShot Readings, put on by the American Composers Orchestra and sponsored by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Herb Alpert Foundation. Alongside three prestigious mentor composers (Nicole Mitchell, James Newton, and Anthony Davis) I and four other composers had the opportunity to have our new orchestral works read and workshopped by the wonderful musicians of BPO under the baton of Associate Conductor Matthew Kramer.
The wisdom and experience of the mentor composers, along with Maestro Kramer's outstanding musicianship and the excellent performance and feedback from the musicians of the orchestra, made it easy to navigate the many challenges of writing for a symphony orchestra (for all of us, it was our first composition for a full orchestra). I learned so much about issues of notation, balance, rhythm, and meter (among many other musical aspects) and about how to communicate jazz and Balkan folk music sensibilities effectively on the page to musicians who may or may not be familiar with the nuances of those musical languages.
One highlight for me was getting to work with BPO English Hornist Anna Mattix, who taught me the basics of playing the oboe when I was an undergraduate at Indiana University! It was such a pleasure hearing her play once again and offer constructive feedback on my work as well.
We were also joined by two journalists in residence, who offered some timely advice on how to continue pursuing the composition of new music and how to engage with communities of musicians and audiences interested in jazz and new classical music. Howard Mandel (president of the Jazz Journalists Association and a highly esteemed jazz journalist) offers his reflections on the week here, and Frank J. Oteri of NewMusicBox deals with the challenges of writing for an orchestra here. Their insights for us about the intersection of the musical and the extra-musical in composition were among the many highlights of the week.
This was an experience I will not soon forget and will definitely use what I've learned to not only refine Springs of a Desperate Heart for future performances, but also more effectively express my musical ideas in all of my compositions.
(Excerpted recordings of the reading coming soon!)
I had the pleasure of playing piano with artist Chris Mann on the Ellen show last week. Here's the performance, Chris's version of "Need You Now." It was a great experience all the way around--everyone at Ellen was so great, especially Ellen and the audience!
I co-wrote "Don't Leave Me Hanging" with the ever-so-talented Adjoa Skinner, and she just released this great music video of the song! Check it out and her other projects, she's got a lot of cool stuff going on.
You can check out some of my ongoing projects here, along with some musings on music and human experience.