Improviser Takes The Center Stage

Other Minds had a stellar roster of jazz-influenced improvisers scheduled for Moment’s Notice 2020. All of the final-minute decisions were supposed to be made on the stage.

Instead of performing spontaneously created music by elite musicians, Harry Bernstein was trapped in Groundhog Day hell, and had to reschedule the festival over and again as the virus spread.

While he’s monitoring every tick in COVID-19’s trackers, he’s also looking for signs that the series of music will be held at War Memorial Veterans Building’s fourth-floor Taube Atrium Theater, from Thursday through Sunday.

Even after Other Minds reached an agreement on new dates, COVID restrictions from Europe regarding travel and health remained. On Oct. 16, the East Bay trio of Larry Ochs on saxophone and Donald Robinson on drums took over for Wadada Smith’s multimedia piece Meditations & Reflections on Monk. This ensured that festival’s innovative offerings were kept fresh.

Roscoe Mitchell (81), a composer, saxophonist and sound explorer, will perform Saturday with Trio Five. This is a continuation of the festival’s partnership with Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.

In addition to the Saturday program, there are a number of interesting bills that will be presented at the festival. These artists come from the mysterious, undefined realm in which free improvised musical compositions converge with other avant-garde idioms. This spotlight is on the luminaries who hail from this amorphous and undefinable region where free music can converge with many avant-garde idioms. The players create the musical landscape in real-time, often without any roadmap, with an adventurous spirit and keen melodic creativity.

Conveyance Media will live stream the entire festival. This gives a worldwide audience an inside look at the music and intermission features include Nate Chinen (editorial director of WBGO), a New Jersey public radio jazz station.

Anthony Braxton (Mitchell’s AACM colleague, and fellow National Endowment for the Arts jazz master), headlines the festival’s final day. At 76, Braxton is also in the midst a very productive late-career run. Sylvie Courvoisier, pianist, and Mary Halvorson (guitarist), open the show. Mary Halvorson was an already prolific artist prior to receiving a MacArthur Fellowship in 2019.

The singular New York multilingual soprano, multi-instrumentalist, and performance artist Jen Shyu, whose solo piece “Nine Doors” finishes the festival’s inaugural program on its opening night, illustrates the vital area that Other Minds occupies.

“Nine Doors” is a ritual. It’s a simplified version of Sri Joko Raharjo’s larger work. He was a master of Javanese shadow puppetry. Her theatrical style includes song, dance, chant and the Taiwanese moonlute. She also uses the Korean zither, sori drum and Japanese biwa. Timorese gongs and Japanese zithers.

On Friday, October 15, The Sky Is Trembling features a performance of William Parker (bass, flutes and brass) and Hamid Drake (percussion and voice). Parker says that Nicholson created and directed the Vision Festival in New York, New York. It has been New York’s most prominent free improv show since 1996.

They are all imbued in the same spirit of world-building and idealism as many others.

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