Saturday, 14 October, 2023
Partnership with New Music Circle brings legendary musician to SLU.
Roscoe Mitchell / Damon Smith / Weasel Walter / Sandy Ewen
Saturday, October 14, 8 PM
Xavier Hall, Main Stage Theatre
On Saturday, Oct. 14, legendary saxophonist and composer Roscoe Mitchell will perform in the Xavier Hall Mainstage Theatre. The Penguin Guide to Jazz describes Mitchell as one of the key figures in avant-garde jazz who has been at the forefront of modern music for over 50 years. Mitchell’s early career as a musician began in his hometown of Chicago, where he was a founding member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and the Creative Arts Collective (CAC). From 2007 until his retirement in 2019, Mitchell was on the music faculty at Mills College in Oakland, CA.
Mitchell will perform in a quartet with electric guitarist Sandy Ewen (Brooklyn, NY), double bassist Damon Smith (St. Louis), and drummer Weasel Walter (Chicago). Damon Smith says working with Roscoe Mitchell “is a chance to work with someone who not only is an innovator of this music but [who has] never stopped working and thinking about music. Roscoe is someone who had more advanced ideas in the 1960s than most musicians have today.”
The Department of Fine and Performing Arts is partnering with New Music Circle (NMC) to bring Roscoe Mitchell to campus. NMC is a local non-profit music presenting organization currently in its 65th season. The musical focus of the organization is on avant-garde and experimental genres. Each year, NMC curates eight to ten concerts at various venues in St. Louis City and County. NMC board of directors vice-president Alex Cunningham, points out that “Roscoe Mitchell is one of the most prolific and important composers of the American avant-garde. His work spans six decades and multiple genres and features collaborations with artists in jazz, electronic, and contemporary classical music.” When asked about the significance of presenting Mitchell in concert, Cunningham says, “For New Music Circle, Roscoe Mitchell could not be a more fitting selection to celebrate its 65th season, as Mitchell’s work in the Art Ensemble of Chicago and the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians helped define ‘new music’ in the U.S.”
Tickets: $20 for regular admission, $10 for students and struggling music supporters. Students with a SLU ID are admitted FREE!
Tickets are available at the door or through the New Music Circle website: newmusiccircle.org/tickets
Master saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell (born in Chicago in 1940) is one of the great innovators in creative music of the post-Coltrane, post-Ayler era. He has, for over 40 years, been a restless explorer of new forms, ideas, and concepts. In 1967, he founded the Art Ensemble of Chicago (originally the Roscoe Mitchell Art Ensemble). Its motto -- “Great Black Music, Ancient to the Future.”
Roscoe Mitchell began his distinguished career in the spirited 1960s in Chicago. In Mitchell’s own opinion, his work is a product of his heritage in the fertile art communities of the AACM (Association for Advancement of Creative Musicians) and The Art Ensemble of Chicago. Both organizations spawned large networks of musicians and inspired radical approaches to performance and musical thought, thus informing his own practice for over five decades. Primarily known for his saxophone playing, Mitchell’s multi-instrumental palette also includes various flutes, woodwinds, and a broad range of percussion. Mitchell’s monumental 1966 album, Sound, introduced new ways of freely improvising and composing and has long been cited as an essential building block of the “free-jazz” vernacular. Now, at the age of 82, Mitchell has recorded works on over 83 albums and has written over 250 compositions.
Damon Smith is a bassist, improviser, and teacher currently residing in St. Louis. A student of Lisle Ellis, he is the proprietor of the Balance Point Acoustics label, which he founded in 2001 and which is now quickly closing in on 60 releases. Active since the early nineties, Damon has been a part of several free improvisation scenes across the United States, including Oakland (1993-2010), Houston (2010-2016), Boston (2016-2019), and now in St. Louis (2019-present). His bass playing contains echoes of the gritty experimentalism of the 70’s German free improvising tradition but with a strong American jazz impetus that propels the improvisations in a very distinct and rhythmic way.
Damon Smith studied double bass with Lisle Ellis and has had lessons with Bertram Turezky, Joëlle Leandré, John Lindberg, Mark Dresser, and others. Damon’s explorations into the sonic palette of the double bass have resulted in a personal, flexible improvisational language based on the American jazz avant-garde movement and European non-idiomatic free improvisation. Visual art, film, and dance heavily influence his music, as evidenced by his CAMH performance of Ben Patterson’s Variations for Double Bass, collaborations with director Werner Herzog on soundtracks for Grizzly Man and Encounters at the End of the World, and an early performance with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company.
Damon has collaborated with a wide range of musicians, including Cecil Taylor, Marshall Allen (of Sun Ra’s Arkestra), Henry Kaiser, Keith Rowe, Jaap Blonk, Roscoe Mitchell, Weasel Walter, Michael Pisaro, Wadada Leo Smith, Weasel Walter, Marco Eneidi, Wolfgang Fuchs, Peter Brötzmann and Peter Kowald. After many years in the San Francisco Bay Area and six great years in Houston, Texas, working regularly with Alvin Fielder, Sandy Ewen, Thomas Helton, David Dove & Chris Cogburn. Damon moved to the Boston area in the fall of 2016 and began working with Jeb Bishop, Pandelis Karayorgis, Joe McPhee Ra-Kalam Bob Moses, and many others. Damon has run Balance Point Acoustics record label since 2001, releasing music focusing on transatlantic collaborations between US and European musicians.
Sandy Ewen is a guitarist, visual artist, and architect who has recently relocated to NYC from Houston, TX.
Ewen’s audio practice focuses on extended guitar techniques, improvisation, graphic scores, and interdisciplinary collaborations. Her unique approach to guitar incorporates a wide array of implements: Railroad spikes, sidewalk chalk, threaded bolts, steel wool, and other items become an arsenal of abstraction, and Ewen has worked extensively with filmmakers, dancers, poets, and musicians to create films, audio recording, sound interventions and performance art.
Ewen’s musical collaborations include the trio Etched in the Eye, the duo with Tom Carter called Spiderwebs, the trio Garden Medium, and ongoing collaborations with percussionist Weasel Walter and bassist Damon Smith. For nearly ten years, Ewen has been the leader of an all-female large ensemble. Her ensembles conceptualize and perform sound and performance art, utilizing graphic, text-based scores and improvisational constraints. The ensemble performed with an amplified bathtub at Diverse Works in 2016 and performed a suite of installation-specific compositions for Francis Alÿs’ Fabiola Project at the Menil.
Sandy has spent much of 2017 touring, performing solo sets and collaborating with Steve Jansen (tapes and electronics) and Maria Chavez (turntables) throughout Europe. In years past, Ewen has performed alongside Roscoe Mitchell, Keith Rowe, Lydia Lunch and many others, and has performed and recorded with Jaap Blonk, Henry Kaiser and more. In 2014 she performed at San Francisco’s 13th Annual Outsound New Music Summit, and has made several appearances at Austin’s annual No Idea Festival.
Weasel Walter (first name, last name) is a multi-instrumentalist, composer and improviser best known for leading the seminal punk-jazz/no-wave/brutal-prog band The Flying Luttenbachers on 16 full-length releases from 1992 to present. Seamlessly uniting the intensity and abstraction of improvised music with the nihilist aesthetics and black humor of extreme rock forms, Walter’s prolific work embodies violent momentum, idiomatic unpredictability and rapid articulation. A steadfastly independent artist for over 30 years, Walter has embodied the Do-It-Yourself ethos on every possible level, self-documenting a wide array of concepts involving an international network of uncompromising artists from many diverse disciplines. Walter is committed to creating music in idioms that are least in vogue at any given point, in order to find artistic truth outside of trends and status quo.
During ’90s, Mr. Walter was a catalyst in the Chicago music underground, spearheading a new wave of improvised music activity with peers like Kevin Drumm, Ken Vandermark and Jim O’Rourke and playing in experimental rock bands centered around the Skin Graft record label such as the Flying Luttenbachers, Lake Of Dracula, and Bobby Conn. Relocating from Chicago to Oakland in 2003, Walter continued down these streams, performing and recording with musicians like Evan Parker, Roscoe Mitchell, Marshall Allen, John Butcher, Henry Kaiser, William Winant, Sandy Ewen, Peter Evans, Damon Smith, Vinny Golia, and Mary Halvorson as well as playing with bands like XBXRX, Burmese, Lair of the Minotaur, and Erase Errata. Moving to New York in 2009, he performed with Elliott Sharp, Thurston Moore, Darius Jones, Ava Mendoza, Alex Ward, Marc Edwards, Steve Swell, Eugene Chadbourne, Zeena Parkins, Tim Dahl, Forbes Graham, Steve Beresford, Mick Barr, Jaap Blonk, and Maria Faust, in addition to co-leading the bands Cellular Chaos and Behold The Arctopus.
After a decade-long hiatus,The Flying Luttenbachers reformed in 2017. Walter tours internationally as the guitar player of Lydia Lunch Retrovirus since 2012. Permanently returning to Chicago in 2021, Walter has forged new musical relationships with local musicians like Adam Shead and Jason Stein, started a new lineup of The Flying Luttenbachers, continued working with Cellular Chaos and performs with the Jon Irabagon Quintet. He appears on more than 215 commercially released recordings.