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New Festival Alert: Announcing The October Revolution of Jazz & Contemporary Music

Peter Gannushkin
Anthony Braxton at Le Poisson Rouge in New York, 2010.

Experimental music fans have a new festival to look forward to this fall: The October Revolution of Jazz & Contemporary Music will take place in Philadelphia from October 5-8. Presented by Ars Nova Workshop in partnership with FringeArts, it will include Anthony Braxton, the eminent multi-reedist and composer; The Art Ensemble of Chicago, a pioneering group in the postwar avant-garde; and Claire Chase, flutist and founder of the International Contemporary Ensemble.  


Also on the roster are Tim Berne’s Snakeoil, led by its namesake saxophonist and composer; Sun of Goldfinger, which includes Berne and guitarist-producer David Torn; and a new duo consisting of harpist Zeena Parkins and drummer Brian Chase (formerly of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs). The Sun Ra Arkestra, an inimitable legacy band with deep roots in Philadelphia, will perform the landmark album Space is the Place in full. More artists will be announced in the coming months.

The festival borrows its title, and to some degree its ethos, from The October Revolution in Jazz, a four-day series held in 1964 at the Cellar Café in New York. Organized by trumpeter and composer Bill Dixon, it gathered dozens of artists then pushing against the known syntax of jazz — including Sun Ra himself, as well as pianists Cecil Taylor and Paul Bley, among others.

Ars Nova Workshop — which has presented Taylor, Bley and Dixon in Philadelphia, as well as the Arkestra — is one of the leading presenters of avant-garde jazz in the country. (Full disclosure: its founder and executive director, Mark Christman, is a good friend.) Since 2000, the organization has held concerts in a range of spaces around Philly, from the western bar Boot & Saddle to the Philadelphia Art Alliance.

Credit Courtesy FringeArts
Courtesy FringeArts

The October Revolution will mostly unfold at FringeArts headquarters on the Delaware River waterfront, in a repurposed factory complex near the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. Performances will be held in multiple spaces there, and at a few locations in the adjacent Old City neighborhood.

But the festival isn’t being designed with a Choose Your Own Adventure restlessness in mind. “‘Deep listening’ is the watchword of the OctRev Festival,” reads a press release, alluding to a term coined by composer Pauline Oliveros. “The entire infrastructure of the festival will be focused on supporting that experience, to ensure that audiences have the comfort, freedom, time, and access to interact fully with the performances.”

For tickets and more information, visit theoctoberrevolution.org or call FringeArts at 215-413-1318.

A veteran jazz critic and award-winning author, Nate Chinen is editorial director at WBGO and a regular contributor to NPR Music.