KUHF's Eric Ladau previews a new contemporary dance-jazz collaboration:
Dancer and choreographer Michele Brangwen is a true believer. She fervently believes in the power of movement to express new ideas. In fact, the goal of her Michele Brangwen Dance Ensemble is to commission new music for all of her choreography and to "incorporate musicians into the visual imagery. Sharing the stage and the focus, the dancers and musicians break the boundaries of traditional ensemble interaction." Now celebrating its 12th year of collaborative performance, the Michele Brangwen Dance Ensemble has commissioned 18 new ballet scores, with no sign of slowing down any time soon.
KATSU will be performed this Sunday, April 3, at 6 and 8pm at FotoFest Headquarters, 1113 Vine Street near downtown Houston. KATSU (the Zen word for "roar") is one in a series of works created by Michele in conjunction with the current FotoFest exhibit, Nowhere Near Here: New Photographic Work by Texas Artists. In keeping with Michele's usual inclusive and innovative style, KATSU will incorporate dancers, musicians, a roving DRU camera and the delightfully funky and old world structural properties of FotoFest's Headquarters (built in 1913 and converted into a hauntingly beautiful space).
As has been her practice in recent years, Michele's musical partners for KATSU are four breathtakingly brilliant musicians billing themselves as Tim Hagans Subversive Jazz.
A native of Ohio, Tim Hagans is one of the most exciting and innovative post-bop trumpet players around today. As a young man, he paid his dues playing in the Big Bands of Stan Kenton, Woody Herman and Thad Jones/Mel Lewis, among others. He established himself in Sweden as a swinging, high-energy trumpeter as well as an adventurous composer, and for several years he was the Music Director of the Norbotten Big Band (the jazz ensemble for the Swedish Radio Service). He simultaneously taught at several prestigious music schools around the U.S. (including the Berkeley College of Music in Boston) and established a career as a club and session musician in New York City. Tim was nominated for a 2011 Grammy Award for "Best Jazz Instrumental Composition" for his tune BOX OF CANNOLI from the CD, THE AVATAR SESSIONS - THE MUSIC OF TIM HAGANS.
When Tim first arrived in Houston several years ago, I remember thinking, "This has GOT to be a good development for jazz in this city!" So far, my prediction (hope) has proven to be correct. Whether playing at Cezanne, Barnevelder, Dean's or other performance venues, Tim never fails to blow everyone away with his incredible chops, originality, musical generosity and ability to move outside while still swinging.
Frequently appearing with Tim are "The Subversives," three outstanding and versatile local musician/composers: Double-bassist Thomas Helton, Tenor & Soprano Saxophonist Seth Paynter and Drummer Richard Cholakian.
"Fearless" is the word that I think best describes this quartet's approach to new music. They skillfully move from the Art Blakey/Horace Silver early-bop styles through sounds reminiscent of Miles, Coltrane, Dolphy, Albert Ayler and on up to the Avant-Garde Stratosphere. Watching them play together, as they bounce ideas and themes off each other, takes us on a boundary-challenging journey. Early on, I decided to quit trying to figure out where they were going and just enjoy the ride -- it is exhilarating and enlightening to say the least.
Each performance this Sunday, April 3, will be divided into two parts.
The first will be a performance of the new ballet, KATSU, a largely improvised work for dancers, musicians and portable camera. Musical conception will be provided by Thomas Helton, and lighting designer, photographer and filmmaker Jeremy Choate assumes his new role as participant as well as documentarian.
The second portion of each program will feature Tim Hagans Subversive Jazz, with new compositions by Tim Hagans, Thomas Helton and Seth Paynter. Be prepared to vacate your musical comfort zone for a fascinating and Promethean experience. I look forward to seeing you there.