Prepare to kick off the new year with an energizing, palette-cleansing festival of improvised music. This weekend, join us for The Preparation, a three-night series featuring some of the best names in creative music, all at Union Arts. The matchless duo of Nate Wooley and Ken Vandermark (a MacArthur “genius” grantee, among so many other accolades) is coming from Chicago to perform on the final night. That same evening, D.C.’s mighty Anthony Pirog is bringing his mid-size ensemble (after tearing it up at the Fridge last month with his trio). Earlier shows will feature Dave Ballou and Lafayette Gilchrist and Jaimie Branch, among the leading lights on Baltimore’s flourishing avant-garde (Gilchrist as part of Lenny Robinson’s trio with Tarus Mateen). And plenty of homegrown, D.C.-based artists will be on display, too.
Doors open at 7 p.m. for all three shows, and the whole series takes place at Union Arts, located at 411 New York Ave. NE. Below you’ll find a list of performers. And note that on Saturday, for the festival debut, there’s a twist: We’re collaborating with our friends at Mousai House, who are bringing the extraordinary DJ Native Sun to perform during set breaks; we’ll also be screening a short documentary film on him between the first and second sets. Don’t miss out!
What it is
Music has the ability to alter one’s consciousness. With every note played, there’s potential for a catastrophic change in your outlook, your feeling, your future expectation. Music is there to prepare the mind, and condition it for the world. The Preparation is a celebration of so-called “creative music,” which you can think of as the improvisational and compositional expansion of the world’s many musical traditions. Though this kind of music is heavily layered with new ideas, fresh directions, improvised collisions, all it takes to enter the world of creative music is an ability to listen, sustain attention, and challenge your own conceptions.
Eight creative ensembles will perform over three nights—some of the music will be improvised, some composed, some standard repertoire. All of it stems from the approach of creating unique and challenging sounds, with the goal of providing a life-changing musical experience—preparing the audience for deeper, more engaged interactions.
Saturday, Jan. 10: Dave Ballou’s LEAP / Jaimie Branch / Mindbreath Trio
Sunday, Jan. 11: Organix Trio / Pat Cain + Nate Scheible / Lenny Robinson + Lafayette Gilchrist + Tarus Mateen
Monday, Jan. 12: Ken Vandermark + Nate Wooley / Anthony Pirog Ensemble
Dave Ballou’s LEAP
Baltimore-based trumpeter Dave Ballou has been a major force in jazz and creative music for many years—performing in his hometown, along the East Coast, and in Europe. He has performed with legends in the Music, such as Andrew Hill, but has forcefully made a name for himself as a deeply engaging improviser and composer. His drummerless ensemble LEAP employs some of the finest improvisers in Baltimore. The sparse nature of the group allows space for the musicians to create more freely with more attention to melodic and harmonic improvisation, oftentimes in a collective setting.
For many years, Jaimie Branch was a stalwart member of Chicago’s rich Creative Music community. She performed and developed alongside musicians in a city known for its innovation in improvised music, following the examples of the AACM and the fertile community trailblazed by musicians such as Weasel Walter, Jason Adasiewicz and the aforementioned Ken Vandermark. Since moving to Baltimore, Branch has continued along her path of innovative improvisation on the trumpet, using extended techniques to craft highly emotional and challenging soundscapes.
Free improvisation is the governing paradigm of this collective’s musical approach. The trio explores a spontaneous melodic prosody that translates thoughts and images from mind to breath to sound: Improvisation as exhalation of consciousness. Mindbreath combines the bodily presence and directness of jazz with the cerebral nuance of contemporary art music.
Lenny Robinson/Lafayette Gilchrist/Tarus Mateen
Known as one of the most in-demand jazz drummers in the D.C. area, Lenny Robinson is almost never wanting for gigs. But when he assembles his own ensemble to perform his original music, as we’ve asked him to do at many CapitalBop shows in the past, the result is some of the deepest sound around. His bouncing drum style is steeped in the jazz tradition, but his vision moves things forward, presenting contemporary jazz that is spacious and sensitive, compelling and challenging, original yet familiar. Here he’s joined by two of the most freethinking—and internationally beloved—musicians in the area: Lafayette Gilchrist on piano and Tarus Mateen on bass.
Multi-instrumentalist Jamal Moore recently returned to his home city of Baltimore after receiving a masters degree in African-American Improvised Music at CalArts, where he studied with the legendary Wadada Leo Smith, among many others. Organix Trio uses jazz’s traditional saxophone-trio format, with Moore accompanied by drummer Warren “Trae” Crudup III and bassist Jeron White. The sounds they create, however, are transcendent, taking the audience on a spiritual journey through music, and always planting you firmly in the present moment.
Pat Cain/Nate Scheible
Relative newcomers to the D.C. music world, Pat Cain and Nate Scheible were highly active in the experimental communities of their cities of origin. Cain specializes in analog tape loops in which he records live and manipulates sounds emminating from cassettes, a classic approach within musique concrete. The abstract drone is then amplified by his piercing tenor saxophone. His focus is on sound more than notes, building tension and layers with the manipulation of homemade electronic instruments. Scheible, a drummer, has the right sensibility to interact with a musician like Cain: He also works with tape loops, and approaches his drum kit with a fire reminiscent of the legendary free jazz drummers of the 1960s.
Ken Vandermark/Nate Wooley
Two of the most iconic names in Creative Music, Chicago’s Ken Vandermark and Nate Wooley are master innovators in improvisation. Individually the two have each exhibited strong bodies of work, while connecting the dots of a vast network of musicians worldwide. All the while they’re deeply engaged as students of the history of music. Both have developed a strong individual language on their instruments, which they use to explore various ways of musical communication in a duo setting. In addition to original composition and improvisation, saxophonist Vandermark and trumpeter Wooley have delved into the legendary music of John Carter and Bobby Bradford, and have helped put a renewed spotlight on that influential collaboration. Following a lineage of innovation while existing in the present and forging ahead in their personal creation, Vandermark and Wooley are two of the best improvisers around.
Anthony Pirog Ensemble
Guitarist Anthony Pirog has been performing along the East Coast for over a decade, but with his debut solo album released this year, the young phenom has just begun to gain wider notice for his daring approach. A follower of the guitar experimenter Bill Frisell, Pirog has managed to incorporate a high level of technical prowess and a vivid imagination, crafting works that straddle several popular genres: post-rock, new music, free jazz and more. His vision will be expanded for this performance with a six-member ensemble.