Festival Of New Trumpet Music To Honor Wilmer Wise January 13th

December 15, 2009

Wilmer Wise

On Wednesday, January 13th at 7:30 p.m., The Festival of New Trumpet Music (FONT Music) will honor esteemed trumpet player Wilmer Wise with a special concert and reception at Abrons Arts Center in New York. This festive presentation, which will feature performances by FONT Music co-founder Dave Douglas, Wise himself and a number of surprise special guests, will serve as both a fundraiser for the organization and the opening night of Forward Flight, its third and final event of the 2009-10 concert season. Forward Flight, which celebrates the eclecticism of the trumpet in contemporary music with a variety of concerts and free workshops on both of Abrons Arts Center stages, will continue through Saturday, January 16th.

Tickets for the opening night benefit concert are $35, which also includes a membership in FONT Music and admission to the pre-concert reception, and can be purchased here. Tickets for the other three nights are $15 ($12 for students with ID and FONT Music members) per night and can be purchased at (212) 352-3101 or online. A festival pass is also available for $40 ($30 students with ID and FONT members). Passes can be purchased here. The Abrons Arts Center is located at 466 Grand Street (at the corner of Pitt Street) on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Venue information is available at (212) 598-0400 and http://www.abronsartscenter.org

FONT Music is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that sustains trumpeters and new trumpet music by commissioning composers, producing concerts, presenting workshops and panels, and supporting music programs in New York City’s public schools. Founded in 2003 by trumpeters for trumpeters, the organization and its diverse programs are currently overseen by Douglas and a volunteer board featuring some of contemporary trumpet music’s most celebrated practitioners.

It has presented over 200 concerts by emerging artists and creative pioneers alike at venues all over New York, commissioned new works from more than a dozen young trumpet players and paid tribute to a variety to the instrument’s legendary performers. “By definition,” adds the New York Times‘ Nate Chinen, “the Festival of New Trumpet Music prizes a spirit of innovation; that ‘new’ in the title is no accident.” Learn more about FONT Music at http://fontmusic.org

About Wilmer Wise:

More than two decades before Wynton Marsalis was famously straddling the worlds of jazz and classical music in the 1980’s, trumpeter Wilmer Wise was blazing a trail for musicians with the versatility to perform in settings ranging from jazz to Broadway to the highest levels of the classical music establishment. As an African-American musician of advanced abilities and an impressive classical pedigree coming onto the scene in the years leading up to the height of the Civil Rights Movement, Wise carved a unique path as the only black trumpet player in the ensembles he performed with in the early days of his career.

Fifty years and a wealth of experience later, his eclectic and groundbreaking body of work includes faculty positions at Morgan State University and Johns Hopkins University’s Peabody Conservatory and countless collaborations with many of the most prominent musicians, composers, conductors and ensembles of the 20th Century. Working with everyone from Pablo Casals to Placido Domingo, Philip Glass to Steven Sondheim, Rudolph Serkin to Leonard Bernstein, the Marlboro Festival Orchestra to the New York Philharmonic, Quincy Jones to Weather Report and many others in between, Wise has truly been there and done that.

Born in Philadelphia on December 21st, 1936, Wise began playing the trumpet when he was eight years old. His first teacher was Anthony DelCampo, a general music teacher at the local high school who also taught Wise’s fellow Philadelphians, Eddie Fisher and Mario Lanza. DelCampo’s class featured students on various instruments, giving Wise early experience playing with other musicians, transposing music into various keys and reading in different clefs thanks to the teacher’s insistence that the students learn solfeggio.

Growing up, his main musical influences at home were his mother’s player piano, which his sister also practiced on, and the radio shows favored by his father, including live broadcasts of the New York Philharmonic. He was also a fan of cornetist James F. Burke, a veteran of Dr. Edwin Franko Goldman’s famous band and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, thanks to Burke’s performances as a soloist with the The Cities Service Band of America, which had its own weekly radio show from 1948-1954. Little did he know at the time that he would fulfill his childhood dreams by performing with both Burke (as a member of the Trenton Symphony) and the New York Philharmonic in the coming years.

Wise went on to study for six years with the legendary Sigmund Hering, a forty-year veteran of the Philadelphia Orchestra and widely considered the most influential trumpet teacher of his day, as well as Hering student Gil Johnson, Sam Krauss and Nat Prager, before turning professional in 1960. He began his career as the only black musician in the orchestras for the Broadway show previews in Philadelphia, including Showgirl with Carol Channing, and also performed as a guest soloist with groups such as Quincy Jones’ band as they passed through town. In the early 60’s, he also joined the trumpet section of Johnny Lynch’s Club Harlem Band of Atlantic City, which already included Johnny Coles and Lamar Wright.

In 1965, Wise began a five-year stint as the Baltimore Symphony’s Assistant Principal Trumpet. In a city that was slow to accept racial integration, the only place he could live was the Mount Royal Hotel, a well-known haven for African-American entertainers such as Flip Wilson and Richard Pryor, who Wise already knew from his days in Philadelphia. That same year, he also joined the Symphony of the New World, a fully integrated orchestra that featured both black and white performers, as well as men and women. The group, which also featured Joe Wilder on first cornet, was sponsored in part by the Ford Foundation and played its own concert at Carnegie Hall. 1965 was also the year he toured Europe as first trumpet in the Marlboro Festival Orchestra, conducted by Rudolf Serkin, and played on the ensemble’s famous recordings with cellist Pablo Casals.

One of the first jobs he got upon relocating to New York in 1970 was playing in the American Symphony conducted by Leopold Stokowski. A year later, he played in his first show on Broadway, Lovely Ladies and Kind Gentlemen, an unmemorable flop that actually led to a more lucrative job at Madison Square Garden. Wise would go on to become a first-call trumpeter on Broadway, playing lead trumpet in more than 30 shows, including five of Steven Sondheim’s biggest hits and their original cast recordings. He also played lead trumpet on the only recording of West Side Story conducted by Leonard Bernstein, as well as on many of Philip Glass’ movie soundtracks. His most long-lasting job was as the Brooklyn Philharmonic’s principal trumpet, a position he held for more than three decades until his retirement in 2003.

“At nearly 73, he is still playing at the top of his game,” declares cornetist/composer and fellow Festival of New Trumpet Music board member, Taylor Ho Bynum. “Wilmer shows that all these streams of contemporary music are deeply intertwined; that American music is not about the differences between genres, but the conversations and exchanges amongst them. It’s a great honor to work with him on the FONT Music board, and to hear him and fellow trumpet legend Lew Soloff perform Ornette Coleman’s ‘The Sacred Mind of Johnny Dolphin’, and talk about his long and prestigious career as part of the free FONT Music Workshop Series, is going to be amazing. I’m so glad we’ll be able to honor him, hear him play and give him the recognition he deserves at this year’s Forward Flight event. ”

Bynum-Hébert-Cleaver Trio In Philly Tonight

November 2, 2009

Bynum-Hébert-Cleaver Trio

Tonight at The Rotunda in Philadelphia, the recently formed Taylor Ho Bynum-John Hébert-Gerald Cleaver Trio will finish its three-city tour before heading into the studio tomorrow to record its debut for the RogueArt label.

“These three are pacesetters in modern improvisation, so the very idea of their convergence as a trio is rich with promise,” writes Philadelphia Weekly‘s David R. Adler. “Cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum has worked alongside Cecil Taylor, Anthony Braxton and other giants; his own bands include SpiderMonkey Strings and Positive Catastrophe. Bassist John Hébert played with the great Andrew Hill until the pianist’s death in 2007; he’s currently with Fred Hersch and leading his own Byzantine Monkey. Drummer Gerald Cleaver can wail with free-jazz icons like Roscoe Mitchell and Matthew Shipp, then turn around and offer swinging, melodic treasures with his own group Violet Hour. Together, they’ve got six wide-open ears and infinite musical options.”

Fay Victor Ensemble Tonight At Roulette (NYC) + Sunday At The Rotunda (Philly)

October 1, 2009

Vocalist/composer Fay Victor and her longstanding quartet, The Fay Victor Ensemble, will celebrate their new release, The FreeSong Suite (Greene Avenue Music), tonight at Roulette in New York.

A second CD release show will follow at The Rotunda in Philadelphia on Sunday.

Critical praise for the disc, and Ms. Victor’s innovative approach to creative improvised music, continues to roll in.

“Fay Victor’s second recording of original material, The FreeSong Suite, peers into the NYC-based vocalist’s challenging and rewarding world of captivating vocal work and stirring spontaneity,” explains PopMatters.com’s Andrew Zender, “further augmenting [her] status as a musician and composer who is rewriting the rules of vocal jazz.”

“Each piece on The FreeSong Suite gradually unfolds, emerging from a tapestry of improvisation to reveal precisely executed transitions, grooves and ensemble passages,” writes AllAboutJazz-New York‘s Wilbur MacKenzie. “Victor scats, vocalizes, chips, mumbles and sings bluesy chromatics or angular displays of dexterity, delivering the unexpected with beauty, depth and innovation.”

The Jazz Session‘s Jason Crane adds, “Vocalist Fay Victor will amaze you. Her voice is strong and expressive, and her musical conception is unlike anything I’ve heard recently. Or maybe ever. From free improv to the blues to alt-rock and back again, The FreeSong Suite is easily one of my top 10 records of 2009.”

Learn more at http://fayvictor.wordpress.com

Fay Victor’s The FreeSong Suite Released Today

September 22, 2009

Today is the official street date for The Fay Victor Ensemble‘s latest release, The FreeSong Suite (Greene Avenue Music).

This is New York-based vocalist/composer Fay Victor‘s sixth recording as a leader and her second with this longstanding group, which features guitarist Anders Nilsson, bassist Ken Filiano and drummer Michael “TA” Thompson.

The FreeSong Suite documents Ms. Victor’s new stream of consciousness approach to creative vocal music, which accentuates spontaneity and improvisation by removing traditional boundaries between individual songs and genres.

It features three long-form pieces made up of smaller compositions that flow in and out of each other as a running dialog.

CD release performances are set for October 1st in New York at Roulette and October 4th at The Rotunda in Philadelphia.

Ms. Victor, who co-curates the weekly Evolving Voice Vocal Series at New York’s The Local 269 in conjunction with Rise Up Creative Music & Arts (RUCMA), will also be performing throughout the fall with projects such as Fay Victor’s Jazz Vault, The Exposed Blues Duo and Twisted Standards and Free Explorations with Hilliard Greene, Dom Minasi and special guest Oleg Kireyev.

Learn more at http://fayvictor.wordpress.com

Mary Halvorson Quintet In Philly Tonight

September 11, 2009
Photo by Peter Gannushkin

Photo by Peter Gannushkin

Tonight, guitarist/composer Mary Halvorson and her newest group, the Mary Halvorson Quintet, will open Ars Nova Workshop‘s 10th anniversary season with a performance at the International House in Philadelphia.

The line-up for this concert will feature Jonathan Finlayson (trumpet), Jon Irabagon (alto saxophone), Trevor Dunn (bass) and Tomas Fujiwara (drums).

This will be one of only three performances this fall, with varying personnel due to scheduling conflicts, before the group goes into the studio to record the follow-up to Ms. Halvorson’s widely acclaimed debut, Dragon’s Head (Firehouse 12 Records).

She will also be performing this month with Matthew Welch’s Blarvuster on September 17th and 18th at The Kitchen in New York and with Ches Smith and These Arches on September 23rd at Barbès in Brooklyn.

BBC Reviews Darcy James Argue’s Infernal Machines

June 5, 2009

John Eyles reviews Darcy James Argue’s debut release, Infernal Machines (New Amsterdam Records), in a June 2nd post in the Music section of the BBC Web site.

Infernal Machines ably demonstrates what all the fuss has been about,” he writes. “Secret Society achieves a nearly perfect creative synthesis between tradition and innovation, without obvious tensions. The band displays many of the attractions of steam-age big-bands: tight ensemble playing, memorable themes, imaginative arrangements, and fine soloists. Darcy James Argue has created a big band for the twenty-first century that builds on the strengths of the past while using the genre to produce dynamic contemporary music.”

Catch the New York-based band, which just returned from its first European tour, tonight at the International House in Philadelphia as part of the Ars Nova Workshop series.