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Recapping Opening Night of The October Revolution

Posted October 6th, 2017

Last night, The October Revolution kicked off in revelatory fashion. The festival, organized by Ars Nova Workshop and co-presented by FringeArts, runs through the weekend and is named in tribute to a revolutionary 1964 DIY jazz festival of the same name, curated and produced by the late legend Bill Dixon. With a lineup featuring some of the most thoughtful, adventurous music inventors and performers of our time, from across a diverse range of genres that span jazz, free improvisation, and contemporary classical and radiate outward, it’s a new music festival of a caliber rarely seen in our city, one where the act of “listening”—not for anything specific, but rather the experience of the act—is paramount.

Opening the festival was Karuna, the duo of longtime friends and collaborators Hamid Drake and Adam Rudolph, here made a trio with the addition of master multi-instrumentalist and Rudolph collaborator Ralph Miles Jones. It’s a shame that there are no official recordings of this unit because their set was utterly engrossing from beginning to end, moving fluidly through musical styles and instrumentation, and, in a way, exemplifying the festival’s emphasis on listening.

Drake and Rudolph are two of the most innovative, influential and creative percussionists of the last century and their friendship goes all the way back to a chance encounter at a downtown Chicago drum shop when the pair was just fourteen. From there they’d both go on to collaborate with a veritable who’s who of mid-century jazz legends, including Don Cherry who they both toured with for some time. In 1977 the pair joined Gambian musician and composer Foday Musa Suso to form the Mandingo Griot Society, a unit that explored and fused West African and American musical idioms, and one that is credited as an early “world music” innovator. While that’s a pretty loaded terms these days, back then the idea of melding non-Western musical instrumentation and idioms into Western styles had yet to be so rampantly, clumsily trodden. Rudolph in particular helped pioneer this kind of experimentation, and the arsenal of instruments he had at his disposal last night was exemplary of the breadth of his musical fluency. The same was true for Jones—a composer, educator, ethnomusicologist, and multi-diasporic aerophonist—who had an array of wind instruments from a variety of musical traditions at his side that he’d pick and choose from throughout the evening.

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