Michael Formanek’s renowned Ensemble Kolossus headlines our next Traveling Loft

Click for a hi-res version of the poster.

Click for a hi-res version of the poster.

True to its name, Michael Formanek’s 19-piece Ensemble Kolossus makes music of enormous scope. But it’s also intricate and textured. And just as important, it allows its improvisers a remarkable amount of space in which to express themselves. Partly that’s because Formanek — a renowned bassist and composer who’s based in Baltimore but tours around the world — is also a fabulous writer for large ensemble. And partly it’s because he knows he has one of the greatest big bands in jazz, featuring the likes of Mary Halvorson, Tomas Fujiwara and D.C.’s own Brian Settles.

It’s no surprise that Ensemble Kolossus’ debut album, The Distance, released last year on ECM, was met with immediate critical acclaim from the likes of The Guardian and JazzTimes.


There are some textures, timbres and harmonies that can only be conveyed in a group of this size; the myriad voices build upon each other to create something that’s both monumental and fleeting. Formanek uses the vast ensemble to dramatize his compositions’ remarkable dissonances, angular harmonies and passages of collective meditation. His writing draws from across the map of American music — from Ellingtonia to David Murray’s swinging, skronking big bands, to Carla Bley’s ensembles.

On Saturday, April 22, Formanek brings the full 19-piece Ensemble Kolossus to the Abraham Family Auditorium, on NYU’s D.C. campus, for the spring edition of CapitalBop’s Traveling Loft. Opening for this titanic outfit is fellow Baltimore bassist and bandleader Jeron White. With his combo Polarity, White’s compositions — like Formanek’s — suggest a search for new sonic and spiritual horizons, while also hinting at the tightness and groove of the DMV’s funk and soul tradition.

This engagement of Michael Formanek’s Ensemble Kolossus is made possible through the DC Special Presenters Initiative program of Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation with support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

CapitalBop’s Traveling Loft series is funded in part by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, an agency supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.



About Jackson Sinnenberg

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Jackson Sinnenberg is a broadcast journalist and a freelance writer. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, JazzTimes, Downbeat, NPR Music, NPR.org, the Washington City Paper, On Tap/District Fray Magazine and the blog of Smithsonian Folkways Records. He began covering the city’s music scene for WGTB, Georgetown University’s radio station, where he was a show host, writer, and columnist. He graduated from Georgetown with a bachelor’s degree in American Musical Culture. Reach him at [email protected]. Follow him at @sinnenbergmusic.

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