This is an equal opportunity jazz blog. A few days ago I previewed the Madison Jazz Society’s spring concert series of traditional jazz offerings. Today we travel to the other end of the spectrum to see what’s new on the Madison free jazz scene. I prefer to say “free jazz” rather than “creative improvised music” as the latter term seems like a criticism of other types of jazz.
The free jazz scene has been quiet lately. The howling, piercing sounds of JoAnne Pow!ers saxophone on State Street are one of the few signs of life for free jazz in Madison. Hannah Jon Taylor’s place is closed, there is no apparent activity from his MCCCA (such as a repeat of last Febuary’s Freedom Fest), and he’s working more in Chicago. Roscoe Mitchell still maintains a residence in Madison but he’s not here; he’s teaching in California. Joan Wildman performances are becoming rarer.
The audience for free jazz is limited, but the same is true for traditional jazz yet it manages to support a recurring concert series. What is the difference? The free jazz scene doesn’t have a strong backer like the Madison Jazz Society.
JoAnne Pow!ers is out to change that. She is working with the Madison Music Collective to get her off the streets, literally. Together they are trying to arrange a performance series of free jazz (inside the dry, warm, confines of a Madison venue) for local musicians and those that are traveling through.
Planning is in the very early stages but you only have to wait until this Saturday to catch her next indoor performance. Saturday, December 20th she will be playing at Mother Fools with the Pow!ers/Pendur/Karetnick trio. Here’s their preview of that performance:
On the last day of autumn, multi-faceted percussionist Ben Karetnick joins infamous Madison saxophonist JoAnne Pow!ers and bassist Jennifer Pendur to ring in the longest night of the year with a program of high energy collective improvisations. After years of collaboration, Pendur’s inscrutable bass and the dulcet yet harrowing tones of Pow!ers form an intricate sonic language of whispers, growls and screams. Karetnick, who has worked with many of the East Coast’s most notable improvisors, punctuates the conversation with a startling array of textures and rhythms from around the globe. The incalcitrant fire of these formidable improvisors provides the energy for a final, stubborn challenge to the encroaching winter.
The Pow!ers/Pendur/Karetnick Trio:
JoAnne Pow!ers – saxophones
Jennifer Pendur – bass
Ben Karetnick – drums
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Mother Fool’s Coffeehouse
1101 Williamson St.
Free jazz outlaw JoAnne Pow!ers plays frequently in the Madison Area both as a solo act and with her trio (The aptly-named JoAnne Pow!ers Trio). Pow!ers also makes occasional appearances in the [sometimes literally] underground music scenes of New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. Her frenetic saxophone abuse is often compared to that of Albert Ayler and Peter Brötzmann, with further influences from late-period John Coltrane and legendary Japanese free-improviser Kaoru Abe. With a tone that has been known to alternately peel the paint off of walls and lull angry babies to sleep, Pow!ers is known for her lightning-fast keywork, and heavy use of multiphonics and other extended techniques. While largely operating within the “Energy music” school of improvisation, Pow!ers’ music also incorporates elements of the music of the Middle East and India. In addition to her trios, Pow!ers’ collaborators have included New York percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani; Dave Rempis (saxophones), Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello), Tim Daisy (percussion), Jaimie Branch (trumpet) and Marc Riordan (percussion) of Chicago’s thriving improvised music scene; extreme vocalist D.B. Pedersen, and the late multi-instrumentalist Lyx Ish.
Jennifer Pendur evolved her eclectic multidimensional musical aesthetic from many sources, including early exposure to Cleveland radio during its experimental non-commercial heyday. As a child she cheerfully absorbed
musical influences from anywhere and everywhere, discovering in her teens the works of John Cage, Morton Feldman, Arnold Schoenberg, Ornette Coleman, and Charles Mingus. The interplay of natural environmental sounds
and “noise” has always fascinated her, and she began composing with magnetic tape in eight grade, when she became fascinated with collage and its application to sound and begged her parents for a tape recorder. While she has also studied French horn, piano, flute, guitar and dulcimer, her bass and her voice are her primary instruments at this time. She took up the upright bass after moving to Chicago in 1974, and has studied at length with the legendary Russell Thorne, and also recorded with him in the Giordanisti Trio and Emergency Theatre Ensemble. During her tenure in the Midwest improvised music scene, she has also performed with the likes of Donald Raphael Garrett, Chicago free-jazz legend Hal Russel (who began his avant-garde career with Russell Thorne in the Joe Daley Trio), and Milwaukee instrument-inventor Hal Rammel. She has appeared numerous times with the astonishing jazz-rock guitarist Elijah Israel (now tragically deceased) in the psychedelic jam-band Earthen Vessels.
Originally from Vermont, with a modest tenure in New York City, Benjamin Karetnick now resides in Madison, WI. Karetnick began studying percussion classically at age 10. His studies evolved into work on the drumset, and in his teenage years played in hard hitting rock bands, and was a key player in the Western Massachusettes underground rock scene. He began serious studies on the drumset in his later teen years while in New York City, and a few years after that he began his collaboration with multi-reedsman Sabir Mateen. His playing incorporates various elements into the drum set; heavily rooted in the jazz tradition, he adds elements inspired by the rhythms of Africa, Cuba, and around the globe, while maintaining his concept of “Universal swing”. He has worked with multi-instrumentalists Sabir Mateen, Joe McPhee, Joe Fonda, Daniel Carter, and Richard McGhee, the late-great trumpeter Raphe Malik, pianist Joan Wildman, saxophonist Assif Tsahar, and many others. He has lead his own groups, including the Free Jazz Destroyers, Ben Karetnicks WOMAD (Weapons of Mass Destruction). He has toured the Northeast and the deep-South extensively. Karetnick has studied with such innovators as Barry Altschul, Andrew Cyrille, and Susie Ibarra. He has recorded with Sabir Mateen for JMZ records, and Joe McPhee, Joe Fonda, and Cliff White for the German Konnex label.