MSP/Piano: Post-jazz compositions for improvisers w Aaron Bennett’s Electro-Magnetic Trans-Personal Orchestra, Mon 10 Mar @ Duende, Oakland, 10pm | Set 1: Gangsa: Electroacoustic Percussion by Chris Brown & Lightbulb Ensemble, @ 8pm | Set 2: Darren Johnston Trio +1 @ 9pm

Duende, Oakland - the Bay Area's place for choice pintxos and creative music

I’m excited to once again play Aaron Bennett’s unique compositions for improvisers with the Bay Area’s most startling post-jazz ensemble, the Electro-Magnetic Trans-Personal Orchestra — especially in the unique venue which Chef Paul Canales and impresario Rocco Somazzi have made into an essential gathering place to enjoy exquisite Basque pintxos & the best of the Bay Area’s jazz and creative music – Duende (468 19th Street, Oakland – map).

The Oakland Freedom Jazz Society

And even better, we’re playing under the auspices of the Oakland Freedom Jazz Society, whose curator Fernando Carpenter has made the Duende Monday Night Series into a Mecca for lovers of the now-moment in Bay Area jazz. (Fernando is also the ringleader of the essential Oakland cultural resource and ʿAlī Bābā’s cave of LPs, VAMP, which will put on a pop-up record shop at the show.

The name says it all...

It’s aways an adventure at warp-drive to play with Aaron Bennett’s EMTPO, and I look forward with special pleasure to bringing the superluminal energy of his fantastic “comprov” charts to Duende’s beautiful performance space.

If you’ve already heard the first album of Aaron Bennett’s unique compositions released by Electro-Magnetic Trans-Personal Orchestra (cover below), you’re already coming to this great show. If not, run, don’t walk, to get a copy at and hear what the fuss is about.

Electro-Magnetic Trans-Personal Orchestra (cover art: Nancy Bennett)

Among Aaron’s many stellar contributions to the Bay Area improv and new music scenes (like sax trio arrangements of Bollywood standards) are fantastic “breathing chart” compositions for large improvising groups that deliver heightened coherence and adventure at the same time. They stand as Himalayas of group improv music. And Electro-Magnetic Trans-Personal Orchestra is the Mt. Everest.

Vapor Trails of Structure in Electro-Magnetic Trans-Personal Improv...

To quote Aaron: “The members of this ensemble utilize the electro-magnetic field of their collective mind to attain a unitive transcendent state of sonic consciousness and in turn, create sublime and/or unusually expanded sonic experiences for their listeners.”

The electro-magnetic field is tuned and amplified by means of unique “breathing chart” compositions using a special graphic notation Aaron has designed for large improvising ensembles to focus and unleash aural energies. The resulting sound is like nothing else and has amazed audiences in a string of orgone-accelerating Bay Area performances over the last year.

We’re excited to premier Aaron’s new charts “5” and “Y“, and may revisit some old standards such as “X“.

(For a more detailed interview with Aaron about this music, please check out Craig Matsumoto’s post: Aaron Bennett’s Electro-Magnetic Improv).

Aaron Bennett in Space

Bio note: Saxist/composer Aaron Bennett has been bending space in the Bay Area jazz and improvised music communities for more than 15 years. Beyond his studies in composition and performance of western music at California Institute of the Arts, Aaron has also studied and played the music of West Africa, Indonesia, India, and Traditional Japanese 雅楽 (Gagaku) music. He has performed throughout the United States and abroad including performances with Wadada Leo SmithPeter KowaldJohn ButcherDonald RobinsonMarco EneidiGianni GebbiaWeasel WalterAdam LaneLarry OchsSteve AdamsJohn RaskinVictoria WilliamsAphrodesiaLagos-RootsThe ROVA Saxophone Quartet and many others.

Aaron Bennett in Time

He leads his own groups Go-Go-FightmasterElectro-Magnetic Trans-Personal Orchestra and performs in the Oakland Active OrchestraLisa Mezzacappa’s Bait & SwitchVijay Anderson Quartet, and Guerilla Hi-Fi. Aaron has composed for large ensembles, chamber groups, plays, films, dance performances, wind quintet, saxophone quartets and trios as well as pieces for solo instruments.

In addition to Aaron Bennett (sax & compositions), the line-up for this show will also include:

Kristina Dutton – violin

(L → R) Kristina Dutton, Teddy Rankin-Parker, and Daniel Pearce perform at the Emerald Tablet, San Francisco, 09 Jan 2014

Rob Ewing – trombone

Rob Ewing

Jeff Hobbs – violin, or cornet, or…?

Jeff Hobbs (L) & Bob Marsh (R)

Darren Johnston – trumpet

Darren Johnston

Joe Lasqo – piano, laptop, solkaṭṭu (சொல்கட்டு)

Joe Lasqo @ Meridian Gallery, 11 Jan 2012 (Photo:,

Bob Marsh – accordion and/or guitar (and spiritual guidance counselor)

Bob Marsh performing in Sonic Suit #1, Outsound New Music Summit, 2011 (Photo-,

Lisa Mezzacappa – bass

Lisa Mezzacappa

Crystal Pascucci – cello

Crystal Pascucci

Teddy Rankin-Parker – cello

Teddy Rankin-Parker

Preceding us at the beginning of the evening in Set 1, 8pm will be a rare performance of Chris Brown’s electro-percussive masterwork Gansga, featuring the LightBulb Ensemble.

Chris Brown

Chris Brown, composer/pianist/improvisor and professor of music at Mills College in Oakland, composes music that most often includes close interaction of acoustic and electronic instruments.

Gangsa (2010) is one such piece, that features 4 Philippine flat-gongs played in phasing rhythmic patterns while a computer creates interlocking transformations of their sounds in real time.

Gangsa of the Indonesian gamelan

Although the term gamelan baru (“new gamelan”) is usually applied to neo-Indonesian music (where “gangsa” is an instrument in the gamelan ensemble), here Chris widens its field of application to the greater tradition of South-East Asian metallophones, extending far beyond Indonesia, in this case, to the Philippines, where Chris spent his childhood.

Gangsa of the Philippine Cordillera (Photo - Ash Velasco,

The flat-gong gangsa pictured above is played among the native peoples of the Cordillera mountains in Northern Luzon in the Philippines, a center of resistance to Spanish colonialism for 300+ years and where many today continue to struggle against economic neocolonialism.

Gangsa is only one of the electro-percussive tours de force from Iconicities, by Chris Brown, w William Winant & Ensemble

In an exploration of the “wrinkles and crumples of temporal dissonance”, Chris Brown’s Gangsa employs a polymetric rhythmic structure of growing and shrinking patterns in 8, 7, 6, and 4 beats which form a complex composite cycle.

These are then time-crumpled by means of half-cycle displacements played back from sample buffers for each gong, creating a deep hocket.

Further time-wrinkling is effected by means of an exponential tempo curve that temporally warps the structure from 30bpm → 62½bpm and back again over the first and last composite cycles, while occupying a high mesa of 125bpm for the middle 8 composite cycles.

Following this mesmerizingly precise experience of new meanings of time and pulse will be an improvised piece for the ensemble with computer driven percussion.

(L → R) Chris Brown, Tim Perkis, and Scot Gresham-Lancaster perform as Fuzzy Bunny

Chris Brown’s music has evolved within the intersections of many different traditions and styles. Following early training as a classical pianist, he was influenced by studies of Indonesian, Indian, Afro-American, and Cuban musics, and then took off on branches provided by the American Experimentalists in inventing and building a personal electronic instrumentarium. At first these were amplified acoustic devices; then he went on to build analog circuits that modified their sounds, and custom-made computer systems that interactively transformed them. More recently, he’s extended this fascination with instrument building to the design of computer network systems that interact with acoustic musicians and with other computers and musicians connected over the internet.

Collaboration and improvisation have been primary in the development of his music for various traditional instruments and interactive electronics. H’es had commissions for such pieces from the ROVA Saxophone Quartet, the Abel-Steinberg-Winant Trio and the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra, among others. He was a member with percussionist William Winant, saxophonist Larry Ochs, and electronic musician Scot Gresham-Lancaster of the pioneering group Room (1984-94), which explored the intersection of composition, improvisation, and electronics.

Lava, by Chris Brown

One of my favorites among his works is his 1992 composition Lava, for 8 instruments and interactive electronics, an hour-long, quadraphonic sound environment that virtuosically employs live-sampling to create spatially flowing counterpoints of timbre and rhythm.

As pianist with the Glenn Spearman Double Trio he has performed and recorded music in the free-jazz tradition at venues including the San Francisco and Monterey Jazz Festivals, the DuMaurier and Victoriaville Festivals in Canada, and in Europe. He has performed and recorded with such prominent and varied improvisors as Butch Morris, Anthony Braxton, Wadada Leo Smith, Marilyn Crispell, Barry Guy, Ikue Mori (もりいくえ), Dave Douglas, and John Zorn. He has also been active as a pianist in performing the music of composers such as James Tenney, Henry Cowell, Christian Wolff, William Brooks, David Rosenboom, John Coltrane, Luc Ferrari, and Terry Riley.

The Hub

Between 1986-97 he was also a member of The Hub, an ensemble of computer musicians who developed “Computer Network Music”, a genre whose sound arises from the interdependency of multiple computer-music systems. The Hub toured extensively in the US and Europe, released 3 CDs (much of whose material has been recently re-released, with previously unreleased tracks, as the magnificent Boundary Layer box set by Tzadik), and collaborated with such composers as Pauline Oliveros, Alvin Curran, and Ramón Sender. The Hub also participated in several media projects, including remote-site concerts (distance-musics), and a live, video-generated realization of of John Cage’s chance-operations score Variations II. Bay Area audiences have recently been fortunate to hear to stunning concerts from a revived Hub which has vigorously popped back up from the rhizome.

Other pathbreaking projects by Chris include the TRANSMISSIONS series, is a collaboration with composer Guillermo Galindo using 4 FM radio transmitters to interact with an audience carrying portable radios & Talking Drum, an installation involving networked rhythm-machines spread throughout a large space which has been produced in Montreal, San Francisco, and Holland.

Chris is a featured composer, performer, and/or producer on over 30 recordings of new music, including CDs of his own compositions. He’s published articles on his innovative approach to live electronic music in Computer Music Journal & Leonardo Music Journal, as well as the article “Pidgin Musics”, on hybrid musical cultures, in Arcana: Musicians on Music, published by Granary Books. He has been an Artist-in-Residence at such institutions as STEIM in Amsterdam, Institute for Studies in the Arts (ISA) at Arizona State U., & the Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito, CA.

Since 1990 he has also taught electronic music, composition, world music, and contemporary performance practice at Mills College, in Oakland, where he is a Professor of Music and Co-Director of the Center for Contemporary Music.

Lightbulb Ensemble performing Prāṇa (प्राण) by Brian Baumbusch, June 2013

The Lightbulb Ensemble is a newly formed composers collective that champions experimental music, instrument building, & contemporary gamelan. The ensemble emerged out of the culture of new music surrounding Mills College, as well as the Bay Area’s longstanding Balinese Gamelan Sekar Jaya.

The Lightbulb Ensemble performs on steel metallophones built and designed by Brian Baumbusch, and heralds a new genre of American Gamelan rooted in the tradition of American Experimentalism. Performing only new repertoire, the group presents in-house compositions & collaborates with active members of the American new music community, including The Paul Dresher Ensemble, The Jack Quartet, The Center for Contemporary Music, among others.

Brian Baumbusch

Lightbulb Ensemble’s personnel in this show will include Brian Baumbusch,

Nava Dunkelman, photo by Mido Lee

Nava Dunkelman,

Ryan Jobes

Ryan Jobes,

SoundCloud avatar of Scott Siler

Scott Siler

Peter Sloan performing “Noise-To-Signal” for trombone and lawnmower

and Peter Sloan.

Following in Set 2 will be the warm, wonderful Darren Johnston Trio +1.

The Darren Johnston Trio

The Darren Johnston Trio’s sympatico, curious instrumentation (Darren: trumpet, Matt Szemela: violin, and Doug Stuart: bass. The “+1” in tonight’s equation is Jordan Glenn, drummer and percussionist extraordinaire), and diverse collection of musical interests allows them to create a sound that’s completely and uniquely their own. Fragmented improvisations lead into delicate ballads, which can be followed by a swinging uptempo. Drawing from Johnston’s original material written for such projects of his as his Nice Guy Trio, Darren Johnston Quintet, the United Brassworker’s Front, Broken Shadows, and other projects, along with a collection of covers ranging from jazz classics, to songs from Romania, Chile, Ethiopia, the French impressionists, and and neo-Balkan копаница, this exciting and unpredictable new group relishes in being in the moment above all else, and fluidly mixes “outside”, “inside”, and “sideways”.

Darren Johnston

Canada-born trumpeter/composer/songwriter Darren Johnston has collaborated and recorded with an extremely diverse cross-section of artists, yet always finds ways to be true to his own unique voice in each context. From straight-ahead jazz luminaries such as bassist/composer Marcus Shelby, to experimental icons like ROVA Saxophone Quartet, Fred Frith and Myra Melford, rising star in the singer/songwriter world like Meklit Hadero, or traditional Balkan brass band giants Brass Menažeri. As a bandleader he has made his mark with the award winning The Nice Guy Trio, The Darren Johnston Quintet, the category defying Broken Shadows, and more.

Darren was featured as one of Downbeat Magazine’s “25 Trumpeters for the Future,” and has been listed multiple times in the critic’s polls. His debut quintet recording, The Edge of the Forest received 4 stars by 4 very different critics in the Downbeat “Critics Polls,” and was given an honorable mention by the Village Voice for the top 10 CDs of the year. Darren has a BA from the Cincinnati Conservatory of music, and an MFA in composition from Mills College. He’s received commissions for dance companies such as Kunst-Stoff, and Robert Moses’ Kin, and AXIS Dance, presenting organizations such as Intersection for the Arts, the De Young Museum, and the Yerba Buena Garden Festival, and his music has been used in independent films.

His original works have been supported by the Zellerbach Family Fund, Meet the Composer, and SF Friends of Chamber Music, most recently by the commission of a major work on the immigrant experience from the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival, Letters From Home, developed in collaboration with choreographer Erika Chong Shuch, for which he formed a multi-generational chorus with 80+ participants, the Trans-Global People’s Chorus.

Matthew Szemela

Praised by the New York Times for his “outrageous fiddling,” Mannes College graduate Matt Szemela crosses musical styles with ease. Originally from Maine, Matthew has performed as soloist, chamber and orchestral musician in New York’s Carnegie, Alice Tully, & Merkin Recital Halls, and abroad in Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy, & Australia. Matthew has toured and recorded with singer-songwriter Nina Nastasia, recorded with Sufjan Stevens, and served as concertmaster of the Hustla Symphony Orchestra for Jay-Z at Radio City Music Hall in New York. Matthew has collaborated with tap dancer, actor, & choreographer Savion Glover on his production Classical Savion, and he has appeared with artists Sting, Dave Stewart (Eurythmics), Lana Del Rey, and Cassandra Wilson as well as the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, guitarist Vernon Reid (Facebook page: link) of Living Colour, Susan Sarandon, and Beyoncé Knowles.

Matthew’s credits in violin jazz include performances and recordings with Dan Levinson & his Canary College Dance Orchestra, Barbara Rosene & her New Yorkers, and performances with The Manhattan Ragtime Orchestra, Vince Giordano & The Nighthawks, and Gregory Moore & The Cosmopolitan Orchestra. He was a long-time member of the Mahavishnu Project, the repertory ensemble for the music of John McLaughlin and his contemporaries. With pianist Eric Lewis, Matthew has performed at the American Jazz Festival in Paris, the Traumzeit Festival in Duisburg, the Montreux Festival in Switzerland, and the Ischia Global Film and Music Festival in Italy. And in 2007 Matthew portrayed an Irish rock violinist in the Warner Brothers film August Rush.

Matthew left New York for Berkeley, CA in the summer of 2011 where he performs with the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra and Quartet San Francisco as well as in the Darren Johnston Trio.

Doug Stuart

Doug Stuart is known for his 2-bass (Doug himself & Scott Brown), 2-sax (Aaron Bennett & Aram Shelton) and 1 drumset (Shaun Lowecki) band Catfish, which, by way of scream, preach and howling, aims to summon the spirit of artists like Eric Dolphy, Pharaoh Sanders, and Ornette Coleman, navigating open forms of improvisation through the lens of busted rhythmic cycles, melodic motifs, and an underlying love for the guttural feelings of jazz and blues. This unique outfit of two basses, two saxophones, and drumset explore the extremes of their instruments while remaining firmly rooted to their connection and interaction.

Doug is also features in recordings such as The Pear And The Pepper, and a member of the Oakland Active Orchestra.

Jordan Glenn

Jordan Glenn spent his formative years in Oregon drawing cartoons, taking dance classes from his aunt, and putting on plays with his sisters. As he got older he began making movies with his friends and studying lots of jazz, classical, and rock music. After receiving a degree in Jazz Studies from the University of Oregon, he relocated to the Bay Area and since has worked closely with Fred Frith, William Winant, Zeena Parkins, Roscoe Mitchell, Ben Goldberg, Todd Sickafoose, John Schott, Dominique Leone, Aaron Novik, Darren Johnston, Aram Shelton, Cory Wright, Lisa Mezzacappa, Karl Evangelista, Michael Coleman and the bands Jack O’ The Clock, Arts & Sciences, 20 Minute Loop, Beep!, tUnE-yArDs, and the Oakland Active Orchestra. He also leads and conducts the project Mindless Thing, a collaboration with poet / free-jazzer / sage Jim Ryan, as well as the long standing trio Wiener Kids and the 10-piece expansion, The Wiener Kids Family Band.

Join us for a unforgettable night of jazz, post-jazz and computer-driven electropercussivity at the warm, hospitable, hip, and in every sense delicious Duende.

Laister arte denoi!


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