Peter Brotzmann returns to Philadelphia on May 30 to perform in the breathtaking German Society library.


Peter Brotzmann returns to Philadelphia on May 30 to perform in the breathtaking German Society library.

Tonight, William Parker concludes his ANW-commissioned four-part suite, Flower In Stained Glass Window (for creative music ensemble and improvising trio), featuring an all-Philadelphian chamber ensemble, led by Keir Neuringer (alto saxophone), and featuring Veronica Jurkiewicz (violin), Ryan Frazier (trumpet), Mike Watson (bass clarinet), Larry Toft (trombone + baritone horn), Diane Monroe (violin), and Thomas Kraines (cello). Keir shares his thoughts on these four nights:

In 1963 Martin Luther King wrote, in his too-infrequently read Letter from a Birmingham Jail, "the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be...the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists." I have been motivated by this statement, on and off stage, for years. William Parker is the rare musician working these days who connects the notes he plays and composes, the things he has to say, the way he operates in the scene, to the revolutionary legacies of jazz. His example is visionary and inspiring. He is a creative extremist.

When Ars Nova announced that William Parker and Muhammad Ali would be coming to the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia to perform a King-inspired piece with local improvisers, I knew I had to connect to this project. Even before knowing that MLK had attended a formative sermon here, I knew the genius loci of the side chapel to be deep. I recorded my solo album in its meditative, warm resonance last summer. But this project is not about solos, despite the roster of Philly elders joining us - Odean Pope, Marshall Allen, Dave Burrell, and Bobby Zankel. Parker's work seems to me to be about a collective expression. He gave us an instrumentation and it was a privilege to find and put together a new ensemble of Philadelphia musicians very much dedicated to this kind of work. The scores that Parker created reveal not too much beyond short motifs and harmonies of intense beauty. But the music is not on the paper; rather, it's in the interactions and the musicians ourselves. We will use the scores to support, propel, and contrast the improvisations each night, navigating Parker's ideas and our collective intuition to further the revolutionary legacy of this music.

The William Way LGBT Community Center, with generous support from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, is proud to announce OutBeat: America's First Queer Jazz Festival, set to take place on the final days of summer - Thursday, September 18 to Sunday, September 21. OutBeat host to a number of critically acclaimed jazz artists across a broad musical spectrum including: John Coltrane's favorite vocalist, Andy Bey, Grammy® Award-winning pianist Fred Hersch, Patricia Barber Quartet and drummer Bill Stewart. Additional headliners and further details will be announced throughout the spring.

Ars Nova Workshop is pround to announce that Artistic Director Mark Christman is helping co-produce the festival, which has already garnered a tremendous amount of buzz from outlets such as The New York Times, Philadelphia Magazine, DownBeat Magazine, and WHYY.

The New Paths Festival is underway, and the local press has shared our excitement.  Our pairings of music and place have generated interest from several media outlets. 

WHYY’s Peter Crimmins joined us for the festival opener, Ken Vandermark’s Made to Break at the Barnes Foundation, and spoke to both Vandermark and ANW executive director Mark Christman about “Fourth Foundation,” the composition commissioned by ANW for the festival. 

WXPN’s Alex Lewis covered last weekend’s presentation of Milford Graves at Bartram’s Gardens for The Key, calling it “a mesmerizing display of focus and virtuosity”.  If you missed this show, Lewis’s write-up really captures the impetus behind the New Paths Festival – it’s a glowing review of Graves’ performance with a healthy dose of background and context.

Additionally, other Ars Nova Workshop events have been receiving great press.  Tonight’s Nels Cline Singers show has garnered attention from several outlets, including Philebrity, and the Philadelphia Inquirer recently spoke to Cline about the influence of Coltrane, playing in Philadelphia, and his relationship with ANW: “I want to work with any such quixotic cultural organizations," he says, "who offer me these opportunities rather than me going to them, and ANW really keeps track."

On Monday, April 21, Ars Nova Workshop presents Ken Vandermark's Made to Break at the Barnes Foundation, kicking off our New Paths Festival. We asked Barnes Foundation director of education Blake Bradford - who we'll present in conversation with Vandermark at 7pm, just before the performance - to share some of his thoughts in preparation of Vandermark's first performance in Philadelphia in five years:

I think my first encounter with  Ken Vandermark was seeing him as part of Peter Brötzmann’s Chicago Tentet in the late 90s. With these improvised music big bands, my process was usually to see the large ensemble live, and then take in other projects and recordings from individual members.

I quickly realized that this approach wouldn’t work with Ken. By the turn of the century, he had appeared on a bunch of records, as both a leader and a contributor. How many is a bunch? Go ahead, pull him up on Amazon or Discogs or whatever music portal you prefer. You’ll see how prolific and varied his career has been. How could I take it all in? I learned to stop worrying about record collecting and committed to open my ears to whatever was available.

Seeing Ken perform and listening to his records, I began to see his connectedness in the midst of all the variety as his hallmark. It made me think about the way composure and composition come from the same place. What I imagined I heard was Ken, within ensembles of different size, shape, and style, transmitting his certainty of the music’s cohesion and underlying logic.

In preparation for this project, I shared that the thing people find most striking about the Barnes Foundation are the Wall Ensembles. Albert Barnes created deliberate combinations of what might be considered incongruous objects—eastern and western, sacred and secular, fine art and craft. All that stuff! Barnes’s arrangement of paintings, furniture, metalwork, and more were meant to bring these elements into active dialogues. With that sentiment in mind and a belief in forging new connections, I’m looking forward to hearing the conversations inspired by Ken’s time at the Barnes Foundation.

Blake Bradford serves as the Barnes Foundation’s Bernard C. Watson Director of Education. He has been on the Foundation’s staff since 2009, conducting programs that engage the Barnes’s full range of audiences and leading dedicated initiatives for adult learners, families, K-12 students, and pre-school aged children.

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Ars Nova Workshop is a Philadelphia nonprofit jazz and experimental music presenting organization.  As a facilitator between artists and their audiences, Ars Nova Workshop works to inform, inspire and challenge listeners in order to elevate the role of jazz, improvisation and experimental music in contemporary culture.

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Music is the Healing Force of the Universe

"The challenge of creative music has never been more important than in periods of profound unrest and realignment." 
-Anthony Braxton