Get hyped for the Other Minds Festival, with Tyshawn & King, Sara & Roscoe, Sylvie & Mary, William & Patricia, & Darius alone
The 25th edition of the Other Minds Festival, an intently exploratory affair based in San Francisco, was originally scheduled to take place in April 2020. We know what derailed those plans — but the fest is roaring back this week, with four evenings of programming at the Atrium Theater. I'll be on hand throughout the festival, which will be presented both in person and via ticketed livestream. So in anticipation of that event, we're devoting this week's Take Five to an array of artists on the festival bill.
King Britt and Tyshawn Sorey, "Untitled Three"
If you follow contemporary currents in creative music, there's a decent chance you know Tyshawn Sorey — son of Newark, MacArthur Fellow, prized collaborator for everyone from Claire Chase to Vijay Iyer. Jazz partisans could be forgiven for not also knowing King Britt, a pioneering producer and composer who got his start on the Philadelphia club scene, toured internationally with Digable Planets, and became something of an electronic music guru. (Britt is also, like Sorey, an academic; he teaches a course at UCSD titled "Blacktronika : Afrofuturism In Electronic Music.") Around this time last year, the Philadelphia chapter of the American Composers Forum presented these two artists in a far-ranging conversation. They'll participate in a similar talk before their Other Minds performance on Friday — reflecting in part on a forthcoming album, Tyshawn & King, due out on The Buddy System on Oct. 21. Listen to "Untitled Three," the third of five tracks on the album, and you'll have some sense of the scope they bring to the project, which harnesses elements of techno and Minimalism in the service of an entirely malleable and unpredictable exchange.
Sara Schoenbeck with Roscoe Mitchell, "Chordata"
On her self-titled new album, bassoonist Sara Schoenbeck explores the broad potential of her instrument in a series of duets, with partners ranging from drummer Harris Eisenstadt to flutist Nicole Mitchell to guitarist Nels Cline. One of the most purely exploratory of these tête-à-têtes is with Roscoe Mitchell, the NEA Jazz Master and founding member of the AACM. "Chordata," a track on the album, is a three-and-a-half minute excerpt of a longer improvisation between Schoenbeck and Mitchell. The video above, which premieres here, unfurls over more than 10 minutes of spontaneous discovery. It was filmed and recorded in Madison., where Mitchell has taught at the Univ. of Wisconsin. And while he sits behind an array of percussion instruments (mainly gongs and cymbals), he sticks to soprano saxophone throughout — not that he is limited sonically, in any way, by that restriction. Mitchell will perform at Other Minds on Saturday with Trio Five, featuring Junius Paul on bass and Vincent Davis on drums; he'll also present his music on Oct. 28 at Roulette in Brooklyn, as part of the venerable Interpretations Series.
Sylvie Courvoisier & Mary Halvorson, "Bent Yellow"
Pianist Sylvie Courvoisier and guitarist Mary Halvorson first collaborated as a duo several years ago, for a fine album, Crop Circles, that arrived early in 2017. In the wake of that release, they toured in Europe and the United States, deepening their rapport. And they brought that additional insight to Searching For the Disappeared Hour, which will be released on Pyroclastic Records on Oct. 29. Halvorson's "Bent Yellow," premiering here, captures the balance of sensitivity and flinty clarity in their musical bond, with a particular spidery grace that has been the composer's stock in trade. Courvoisier and Halvorson perform at Other Minds on Sunday night.
Darius Jones, "Figure No. 2"
NEA Jazz Master Anthony Braxton, who plays the final set at Other Minds on Sunday night, is known for (among other things) helping to establish the improvised solo saxophone recital as a full-spectrum experience. His example lurks on the periphery of Raw Demoon Alchemy (A Lone Operation), a new solo album by Darius Jones, recorded at Holocene in Portland, Ore. almost exactly two years ago. It's worth noting here, of course, that Jones has a sound on alto far removed from Braxton's; it conveys the sweet, succulent complexity of a perfect blood orange. And the repertory on the album ranges from Roscoe Mitchell to Sun Ra to Georgia Anne Muldrow, whose "Figure No. 2" is a sorrowful scrap of melody worried through repetition, as in a prayer.
William Parker and Patricia Nicholson, "Struggle"
The presence of multi-instrumentalist William Parker and dancer-choreographer-poet Patricia Nicholson at Other Minds should call to mind another unclassifiable summit of the avant-garde: the Vision Festival, which began as a hopeful byproduct of their creative partnership and has taken on a life of its own. On No Joke! — an album due out on ESP-Disk on Oct. 29 — Parker and Nicholson explore their collaboration anew, with contributions from tenor saxophonist James Brandon Lewis, violist Melanie Dyer and others. "Struggle," featuring Nicholson's spoken-word verse over a sinuous desert groove, captures the core attitude of the project. ("You know how Sisyphus always be pushing that boulder up a hill?" Nicholson prods. "Never gettin' nowhere.") The political urgency of the track should also suffuse their festival performance on Friday, featuring longtime fellow traveler Hamid Drake on percussion and vocals.