Burnt Sugar / Terry Adkins at Levy Gorvy

To celebrate the exhibition, Terry Adkins – The Smooth, The Cut, and The Assembled at Levy Gorvy Gallery last February, Greg Tate, with the Burnt Sugar Arkestra Chamber conducted a live score to Adkins’ video work Synapse — A Faustian portrait of Beethoven glacially transforming into a young black man and back, pondering the rumors of Beethoven’s Moorish ancestry, as well as his triumph over deafness.

Terry Adkins created performances he called Recitals as part of his installations and exhibitions, after they had been open for a time and he felt they needed to be “activated”. At Performa in 2013 Adkins dedicated his Sacred Order of the Twilight Brotherhood Recital to his friend, the composer Butch Morris, who had just died of cancer, sadly about a year before Adkins would also succumb to the disease. Butch Morris was the type of iconoclastic, under-recognized figure that Adkins might’ve explored in his work. He invented a ground breaking form of improvisation called Conduction, using a highly refined language of gestures to shape the music of an improvising ensemble in performance.

Acclaimed musician, writer and cultural critic Greg Tate became friends with both Adkins and Morris as a teenager in Washington D.C. in the 1980’s. Calling Morris his “sensei” Tate was inspired to study and begin practicing Conduction, forming the Burnt Sugar Arkestra Chamber in the late 1990’s. Their prismatic, organic integration of avant-garde jazz, electric funk, rock and contemporary composition was beautifully adapted for a live score to Adkins’ droning Synapse video, and to celebrate the lives and achievements of both Morris and Adkins.

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Galway Jazz Fest / Pat Steir Concert at Levy Gorvy

I’ve had an amazing few months traveling through Australia and Europe, leading up to two exciting events this week. I spent August as an artist in residence at CAMAC Art Centre in Marnay-Sur-Siene, France and for the past month at Interface in the stunning Inagh Valley of Connemara western Ireland, culminating with a performance at the Galway Jazz Festival this Saturday, October 10th. I’ll be performing with Rauno Nieminen, a renowned performer, luthier and scholar of the medieval instruments of Northern Europe, who I began collaborating with in Finland in 2014. When I first met him to experiment with processing his instruments through MaxMSP software, he said to me, “the kantele is the national instrument of Finland and the Kalevala (creation myth), so it will be important to destroy it.” Here is a recording of us doing that.

Next Wednesday, October 11th, I’ll be back in New York in my capacity as Cultural Program Curator at Lévy Gorvy Gallery where we will present a concert in celebration of the exhibition Pat Steir: Kairos. Starting at 7pm with a set by the phenomenal Sandbox Percussion, and followed by a set from singer Alicia Hall Moran, guitarist Brandon Ross and bassist Melvin Gibbs that promises to be fantastic.

I look forward to seeing you there or wherever we may meet again.

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Frank Ténot

There's a joke about a guy who explains what he does in life by saying: "I'm a jazz musician but I'm only in it for the money." – For these past few weeks I had no idea that I was living amidst this obscure gem of jazz history: Frank Ténot, the founder of CAMAC, was a French media mogul and jazz impresario, who from 1955-71 broadcast the radio show "Pour Ceux Qui Aiment le Jazz" and later, "Salut les Copains" on Europe n° 1, from this very building in the little town of Marnay-Sur-Seine (where he was also later the mayor). These shows were largely responsible for introducing jazz to Europe. I discovered these magnetic tape archives, covered in dust and cobwebs in the former studio downstairs, and I'm told that greats such as Ray Charles and Duke Ellington performed right here. – This is an article about Tenot buying Jazzman magazine in 2003, one year before he died – http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/23/style/paris-jazz-frank-tenot-expands-his-empire-of-music.html?mcubz=1

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Peter Evans at Lévy Gorvy – The Meeting of Edgard Varèse and Charlie Parker

“Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn. They teach you there’s a boundary line to music. But man, there’s no boundary line to art.” – Charlie Parker

In celebration of Lévy Gorvy’s inaugural exhibition, Willem De Kooning – Zao Wou-Ki, I’ve curated a concert exploring the historic and unlikely meeting of French avant-garde composer Edgard Varèse and revolutionary jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker.

To realize a program that juxtaposes the disparate music of these two 20th-century masters, trumpeter Peter Evans, uniquely qualified as an acclaimed jazz improviser and a virtuosic classical performer, has assembled a brilliantly versatile ensemble just for this occasion, including: Warren Smith – percussion, David Taylor – bass trombone, Jon Irabagon – saxophones, Levy Lorenzo – percussion/electronics, Alice Teyssier – flute.

The Chinese painter Zao Wou-Ki moved to Paris in 1947 with his wife Lan Lan, a composer; amidst the artistic circles there he befriended Edgard Varèse, the inconoclastic composer of dense works of dissonance, noise and visceral new electronic sounds. In 1964 Zao dedicated a monumental painting to his friend.

Dutch born painter Willem De Kooning often claimed his love of jazz as an inspiration for coming to America, once saying, “‪[Miles Davis] doesn’t play the notes, he bends them. I bend the paint.” With a technical facility that was both effortless and explosive, Davis’ mentor, Charlie Parker, would also influence every generation of jazz musicians to follow with the serpentine rhythmic swing and visionary harmonic flights that would become known as bebop. Shortly before his death in 1954, Parker sought out Varèse to study orchestral music with him, while they were both living in Greenwich Village.  Varèse said of Parker, “He was like a child, with the shrewdness of a child. He possessed a tremendous enthusiasm.” The two never met again, but the encounter would resonate with Varèse as well and in 1957 he composed a graphic score for improvisation and recruited some of the top jazz musicians of the day to perform it.

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NYC Jazz Record Best of 2016

I’m thrilled that Ergo – As subtle as tomorrow was included on the New York City Jazz record‘s Best Albums of 2016 in their January issue. Thanks to the many people that worked on it and everyone who gave it their time and ears. Upwards and onwards!

A photo posted by b za (@srokasonic) on Dec 31, 2016 at 9:18am PST

“Ergo has fine-tuned an unusual and evocative mix of tautness and incongruity…. There are a lot of unusual elements at play but what makes Ergo so great is that in the end all the parts fit.” – NYC Jazz Record

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Sandbox Percussion at Dominique Lévy Gallery

I’ve recently taken on the role of Cultural Programming Curator at Dominique Lévy Gallery where I’ve been programming performances for the last year or so. This Thursday the wonderful new percussion ensemble Sandbox Percussion will perform in celebration of our current exhibit of the sculptor Joel Shapiro. To sonically consider the playful weightlessness and the deceptive simplicity of Shapiro’s materials, forms and suspended installations, Sandbox Percussion will perform a program of Akiho, Cage, Crowell and Reich on December 8th.


Lauded by The Washington Post as “revitalizing the world of contemporary music” with “jaw dropping virtuosity,” Sandbox Percussion has established themselves as a leading proponent in this generation of contemporary percussion chamber music. Sandbox made their New York debut in 2012 and in their fourth season last year gave a staggering twelve world premieres by new music composers at venue’s including the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, the Yale New Music Workshop, Peabody Conservatory, Curtis Institute, Cornell University, and Brooklyn’s National Sawdust. Through compelling collaborations with composers and performers, Jonathan Allen, Victor Caccese, Ian Rosenbaum and Terry Sweeney seek to engage a wider audience for classical music.

This concert is FREE.
Please rsvp to: ada@dominique-levy.com

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Altar at Cooper Gallery – Harvard University

This Thursday, December 1st, 6pm at the Cooper Gallery of African & African American Art at Harvard University artist/activist Shani Jamila will give a talk and present her short film Altar: A Moving Meditation, featuring the electro-acoustic vocal music I made with Alicia Hall Moran. Altar was premiered at the New Museum in September and is fittingly screened at Cooper Gallery as part of the exhibit of artist Carrie Mae Weems – I once knew a girl…

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Jen Shyu at Dominique Lévy Gallery

Through a serendipitous intersection in my life, my work at Dominique Lévy Gallery has evolved to include occasional music programming, and on June 7th we will present the phenomenal Jen Shyu in a performance of her Solo Rites: Seven Breaths. I saw this gorgeous and intense piece premiered at Roulette in 2014 and thought it would be a wonderful compliment to the first U.S. solo exhibition and career survey of the Korean, monochrome artist Chung Sang-Hwa, presented in collaboration between Dominique Lévy Gallery and Greene Naphtali Gallery. This is a FREE event with RSVP to mackie@dominique-levy.com

“She has drawn large parts of her music from travel and study in places including East Timor, Taiwan and Indonesia, where she has learned spoken languages, folk narratives, dances and instrumental techniques… There’s great erudition in her work, but she wears it lightly; what you notice, both in her singing and her band-leading, is wild originality, purpose and discipline.” – The New York Times
Chung Sang-Hwa

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Tomorrow, Ergo will perform in celebration of our new release, As subtle as tomorrow on Cuneiform Records.

It was a long road to make and finally get this music released, over two years the seven pieces were composed concurrently, sharing melodies, motifs all while developing the Max/MSP software instrument that would transform those acoustic components into electronic reflections. The post-production took just as long, but has been a fulfilling process, bringing me together with so many collaborators, including the good folks of Cuneiform records, the musicians, various recording engineers, photographers, and visual artists, including one of my oldest friends, artist Alex Barry, who made this stunning watercolor animation for Yet but, from the new record.

No project ever turns out as magnificently as you imagine at the outset, but I feel really proud of this one. With so much great music out there my hope is that this record at least occupies a place of it’s own in today’s jazz landscape, and I hope you can join us tomorrow.

Brett Sroka

Tuesday, April 26, 2016, 8pm & 10pm
Ergo – Record Release Show
Cornelia St. Cafe

29 Cornelia St.
New York, NY
$10 cover, $10 minimum
facebook event page

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