Music Program

Monday, March 2, 2015 at 8:00 p.m.

FREE admission ($10-20 suggested donation)

The Renga Ensemble

James Falzone (Bb and Eb clarinets)
Ken Vandermark (Bb clarinet, bass clarinet, baritone saxophone)
Keefe Jackson (tenor saxophone, bass clarinet, contra Bb bass clarinet)
Jason Stein (bass clarinet)
Ben Goldberg (Bb clarinet, contra Eb alto clarinet)
Ned Rothenberg (Bb clarinet, alto saxophone)

The Renga Ensemble was convened by clarinetist and composer James Falzone for a series of concerts and a recording in April, 2013 in Chicago. The ensemble was handpicked by Falzone, drawing together some of the most diverse and adventurous clarinet and saxophone players working in jazz and improvised music today:

The conception of the project is rooted in persona: how do diverse musical voices converge and find common ground, especially in a setting where composed and improvised elements coalesce? The intention in assembling such diverse players, most of whom had never played together before, was to allow space for each voice to be heard yet challenged and shaped by another, equally strong voice.

James named the group Renga after a centuries-old form of collaborative Japanese poetry, where two or three poets blend their words into a single meditative work. James' compositions, written especially for this project, were conceived around a haiku by American poet Anita Virgil. The titles of the 5 main compositions make up her stunningly clear poem:

Not Seeing
The Room Is
That Red Apple

Six other shorter pieces were conceived as soundscapes for each member of the ensemble to improvise within, the written material assembled by James as a personal statement on the soloist's musical vocabulary. Additionally, the group creates fully improvised pieces making use of the full spectrum of clarinets, from the low contrabass to the high Eb.

Press quotes on Renga

"There is a wealth of tonal information and gutsy feeling yet the music of Renga is never all-at-once. As with many advanced or simply excellent music its secrets are both revealed gradually and plainly in view." - Clifford Allen (from the liner notes to The Room Is)

"Composing yearning lyrical lines filled with dramatic turns of phrase and dynamic shifts in mood, Falzone's writing style blends the angular rhythmic punch of Henry Threadgill with the folksy, subdued lyrical quality of Jimmy Giuffre and the esoteric mysticism of Olivier Messiaen." - Troy Collins, Cadence Magazine

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Laylah Ali
Paintings and Drawings

Laylah Ali's work explores power dynamics and interpersonal conflict through compositions that position culturally, racially and sexually ambiguous figures in precarious, loaded, and unexpectedly humorous situations. Ali uses concise—even minimal—imagery that is specific in rendering and intent. While there are narratives in Ali's work, they are stories whose open spaces often give them the atmosphere of fables.