Serving the San Francisco Bay Area New Music Community

Wed, Feb 17 2010 8:00 PM

21 Grand
416 25th St @Broadway Near 19th Street BART Oakland

$20 general/$15 students & seniors

GROSSE ABFAHRT, the Bay Area's acclaimed international large improvising ensemble, celebrates the release of its third CD – VANITY, on Emanem – featuring Birgit Ulher, trumpeter from Germany, and Kyle Bruckmann, oboist from Mars; these in addition to regulars John Shiurba, Matt Ingalls, Gino Robair, Tim Perkis, and leader Tom Djll.

Grosse Abfahrt is a project designed to explore a number of problems in freely improvised music. The first and most obvious of these is the problem of ensemble size, which we tackle head-on: GA ensembles are usually of eight to ten players. This range seems to settle in a locale where there is a strong opportunity for individual sound-agents to emerge and make a statement against the ensemble backdrop, and also for the entire ensemble to cohere into long-form structures that transcend the productions of conventional improvised-music sociality (another problem we address). How these ensembles are collected takes up another issue: that of the conflict between fluency and comfort among improvising compadres. Fluency between players’ languages and approaches is desirable, of course; however, it can lead to complacency. The flip side is that constant challenges and/or deliberate upsets in a musical performance may come off as chaotic, incoherent, or just simple bloody-mindedness. Grosse Abfahrt takes on these issues through the dynamic of musical sociality; that is, how the group is composed, rather than how the music is (pre-)composed.

Grosse Abfahrt is made up of a core group of five players which does not vary. These people are all very familiar with each other’s strengths, preferences, and foibles, yet they do not play as a quintet (well, on one occasion we did, for about 20 mins.). To this core are brought musicians who have not played with any of the core members. Often, these outsiders come from far away, and are playing as duos or trios already, so they arrive with some comfort and fluency in their own musical relationship. How these two dynamics come together to create music, with practically no introduction (much less, rehearsal), is our practice.

This iteration of the Abfahrt breaks three of these cardinal rules; however, we expect that fact to lead to ever more stimulating results. Birgit has toured and recorded with Gino, and probably played with all the other GA regulars at one time or another. Kyle, Gino, and John are 3/5ths of PINK MOUNTAIN, and have thus also toured and recorded their brand of blender-projectile rock music. Thus, with seven on stage, we'll miss the minimum requirements for chairs, but with these seven, it's more like fifteen.

Oh, and spectators should bring extra money to buy CDs.

Cost: $20/15
Audio samples in which musicians at this event play:
Videos featuring musicians playing at this event
Gino Robair and John Butcher, 2008
The premiere, at the 2013 Outsound New Music Summit, of Wrack ...Awaits Silent Tristero's Empire (made possible by the Chamber Music America New Jazz Works commissioning program).
Tender Buttons at Second Act, SF, 2016; live video processing by Bill Thibault