MSP/Piano/+: w Thollem McDonas’ Werkstattband, Mon 28 Jul @ CMC, San Francisco, 8:15pm

Outsound: A New Sonic Collective for the 21st Century

I’m keenly looking forward to playing again with Thollem McDonas in his Outsound New Music Summit Werkstattband.

A peripatetic, “perpetually touring” improvising pianist renowned for his powerful solo performances and scintillating collaborations, Thollem also specializes in improv-workshops where music is roughed out among the participants one day and served hot and fresh soon afterward, and that’s the scenario he’s bringing to the Outsound New Music Summit this year.

(For a post-show review which later appeared in, see here.)

Thollem McDonas (Image - Angela C. Villa)

Thollem McDonas (Image - Angela C. Villa)

The Werkstattband resulting from Thollem’s workshop will perform at 8:15pm, Mon 28 Jul @ the CMC (544 Capp Street, San Francisco, CA – map).

Current line-up:

Thollem McDonas: piano, Franken-B3 MIDI controller, instigator/leader

Kersti Abrams: sax & rhaita (غيطه‎)

Michael Aubin: bass guitar

Ferrara Brain Pan: bass clarinet, flute, sopranino sax

Jill Burton: voice

Brett Carson: piano & Franken-B3 MIDI controller

Tania Chen: piano, radios, gadgets, toys

Ron Heglin: trombone & voice

Heikki Koskinen: digital trumpet & recorders

Joe Lasqo: laptop & piano

Collette McCaslin: trumpet & electronics

Michael Mersereau: guitar

Ann O’Rourke: percussion, electronics, vocals

E. Doctor Smith: The Drumstick (invented e-percussion instrument)

Eli Wallace: piano & Franken-B3 MIDI controller

Sandy Yolles: electronic percussion

Thollem McDonas w Piano & Victrola (© 2012, Angela C Villa)

Thollem McDonas w Piano & Victrola (© 2012, Angela C Villa)

Thollem McDonas is a pianist, composer, improviser and teacher. He travels perpetually internationally performing as a soloist as well as in collaboration with a wide array of artists in wildly divergent directions. In the past 7 years, he has added 32 albums to his discography on 15 different vanguard labels in 5 different countries. He was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area of Irish and Cherokee descent. At the age of five, he began studying the keyboard repertoire from the medieval to the 20th century and studied with many notable teachers including Aiko Onishi (大西愛子) and Lou Harrison. After graduating with degrees in both piano performance and composition, he stepped from the concert pianist trajectory to dedicate his time to grassroots political movements and ecological restoration projects. In 2005, he returned to his music as his full focus, incorporating his myriad experiences into his compositions, improvisations and teaching.

On Debussy's Piano And…, by Thollem McDonas & Stefano Scodanibbio

For musicians and listeners saddened by the artificial split between “classical” and “improvising” traditions, Thollem’s incorporation of radically re-imagined patterns and strategies from classical music into a fiercely trans-idiomatic gumbo, along with elements of free jazz, transmuted Latin music, and other influences, will be especially interesting and beautiful. A wonderful CD (among many) highlighting this is On Debussy’s Piano And…, an incredible collaboration with the late, great Italian bassist Stefano Scodanibbio, which Thollem performs on the last piano owned by Debussy.

The hands of Thollem McDonas, Bairro Alto (© 2010 Angela C Villa)

Thollem has performed extensively as a soloist as well as in piano concertos with symphonies, West African drumming troupes, Javanese gamelan ensembles, punk bands, with film makers, dancers, poets and painters and a wide array of divergent musicians, both famous and under-known. He is the founding director of Estamos Ensemble, a Mexican-American cross border ensemble for musical exchange.  As a writer, his essay, “Deep Listening and the Peripatetic Life of an Improvising Musician” was written specifically for An Anthology of Essays on Deep Listening (Deep Listening Institute, 2012) in honor of Pauline Oliveros‘ 80th birthday and he is a regular columnist in Full Moon Magazine (Prague), a print publication dedicated to independent music. His music is diverse, with each album and every concert exploring a variety of approaches and paths, resulting in dramatically new and different outcomes.

His collaborations with musicians, dancers, and film-makers take up 23 single-spaced lines (here) and continue to grow rapidly.

Joe Lasqo & Morgana perform w Jim Ryan's Green Alembic in the sfSoundSalonSeries at Center for New Music, San Francisco, 15 Apr 2014 (Photo by Carly Hoopes)

It will be my pleasure and honor to join Thollem and the other members of the Werkstattband in one of the many great events of the Bay Area’s freshest new music festival, the Outsound New Music Summit.

For a look at what happened last time we played together, the video above, provided by the generosity of videographer Charles Smith, is of the first piece from our “double trios” show at Center for New Music in San Francisco on 15 Jan 2014.

Line up: Bruce Ackley & Steve Adams (saxes), Thollem McDonas (piano) & Joe Lasqo (piano / laptop), Nava Dunkelman (percussion), Cheryl E. Leonard (meta-percussion, natural objects, viola), & Nan Busse (dance).

Who knows what fireworks Thollem and crew will launch this time? Come vibrate with us and find out….


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