Tag Archives: Ken Thomson

Asphalt Orchestra plays the Pixies: Surfer Rosa — FREE this Sunday

Asphalt Orchestra performing on the Lincoln Center Plaza. (Photo © 2010, Steven P. Marsh)

Asphalt Orchestra performing on the Lincoln Center Plaza. (Photo © 2010, Steven P. Marsh)

Avant-garde marching band will open for a Kronos Quartet ‘Kronos at 4o’ show

Asphalt Orchestra hits Lincoln Center Out of Doors this Sunday, July 28 with a brand-new project: a cover of the fan-favorite Pixies album Surfer Rosa.

The avant-garde marching band, a cocreation of LCOOD and Bang on a Can, is well known for its inventive reinvention of pop songs mixed with compositions written specifically for the costumed clan.

Asphalt Orchestra co-leader Ken Thomson describes the evening this way:

We are covering the classic Pixies record Surfer Rosa.
45 minutes of new music, Asphalt-style, choreographed and on stage.
All arranged by us in super-cool arrangements that use the original as a canvas for truly new versions of these tunes.

The free show starts at 6 p.m. with a set of Asphalt classics (Bjork, Zappa, Bregovic) on the plaza.

At 6:30, the music moves to the Damrosch Park Bandshell where Jacob Garchik’s “atheist gospel trombone project” The Heavens will be performed.

Asphalt plays next and then the evening’s headliner, Kronos Quartet, takes over.
Every second of music is free, with no ticket required and nobody hassling you for a  “donation” at the gate. Lincoln Center Out of Doors is one of those rare New York City institutions that truly is free — even free of guilt.

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Bangin’ it up at the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival

To call Mark Stewart a guitarist would be a disservice. The multi-talented redhead leads participants at MASS MoCA in making some noise with some of his homemade tubes during the 2010 Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival. (Photo © 2010, Steven P. Marsh)

It’s a disservice to call Mark Stewart a guitarist. He leads a group at MASS MoCA in making some noise with some of his homemade tubes during the 2010 Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival. (Photo © 2010, Steven P. Marsh)

18 days of fantastic summer music in the Berkshires

Today’s subject: MASS MoCA.

I’ve written a lot lately about the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, especially in the last month or two because of Wilco’s splendid Solid Sound Festival, held on the museum campus in North Adams, Mass., in late June.

When Wilco announced the inaugural Solid Sound back in 2010, I pretty much knew it would be great because I had already seen MASS MoCA host many, many editions of the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival — colloquially known at Banglewood.

If you’ve been a regular reader of Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone?, you already know something about the Bang on a Can program. This summer’s program is the 12th annual festival on the beautiful industrial MASS MoCA grounds.

But maybe you’re not a musician, or at least not one who wants to participate in the festival. How does this matter to you?

Rain on the MASS MoCA campus. (Photo © 2011, Steven P. Marsh)

Rain on the MASS MoCA campus. (Photo © 2011, Steven P. Marsh)

That’s easy. Festival participants do their learning in public, putting on recitals six days a week and participating in a public Marathon concert on the final day. There’s also a performance of Bang on a Can co-founder Julia Wolfe‘s Steel Hammer, a full-length piece that weaves together the many variations of the John Henry folk legend.

So there’s plenty of professional-quality entertainment  for people who are just interested in listening and looking at some modern art. (Click through to the jump for schedule and ticketing information.)

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Ken Thomson joins Bang on a Can All-Stars

When Evan Ziporyn recently left the Bang on a Can All-Stars, it seemed to us that there was inly one player who immediately came to mind as a replacement: Ken Thomson.

We met him when he was working for Bang on a Can’s Cantaloupe record label. But we quickly discovered what a fantastic, versatile wind player and composer he is.

You might know him as the peripatetic sax-playing leader of Gutbucket, or a leader of the Bang-Lincoln Center Out of Doors marching band, Asphalt Orchestra.

No matter how you know him, you know he’s up to the challenge of filling Evan’s shoes and taking the All-Stars to the next level.

Congratulations to Ken. Well done.

Here’s the press release:

Bang on a Can All-Stars Welcome Ken Thomson

We are thrilled to welcome high voltage clarinetist Ken Thomson to the Bang on a Can All-Stars! This past year, during our national search, we played with stunning clarinetists from all over the country. We were honored to share the stage with so many great performers. After a search far and wide, in the end we came back home to one of our own. Ken has been a part of the Bang on a Can family for many years. As a founding member of Asphalt Orchestra (our rad street band) and as faculty at the Bang on a Can Summer Festival at MASS MoCA, Ken has graced us with his dynamic and physical performances.

He has already jumped right in with a European tour taking place right now through Belgium, Sweden, the UK, and Iceland, to be followed by his first home-town performance as an official All-Stars at the Bang on a Can Marathon on Sunday June 16.

Welcome Ken!

New Music Bake Sale: Music, Conversation, Beer and, yes, actual baked goods!

Arturo en el Barco's Bake Sale table featured cupcakes and particularly tasty flan de queso. (Photos copyright 2010, Steven P. Marsh)

The 2nd Annual New Music Bake Sale took over the decrepitly beautiful Irondale Center’s space in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, on Saturday, Sept. 25 for more than six hours.

The concept was pretty simple: Bring together a bunch of people who make new music — performers, producers, record companies and the like — in a place where they can make music, talk about music, drink beer and sell sweet and savory baked goods to raise money for their efforts.

Kathleen Supové at her Bake Sale table.

We don’t know how successful the financial part of the evening was, but the place was constantly full of people and activity throughout the event. We sampled the food, beer and music and found it excellent — especially the Sixpoint Sweet Action!

Many of our favorite New Music folks were there throughout the evening, including, but hardly limited to, Todd Reynolds, Matt Marks, Mellissa Hughes, Courtney Orlando, Ken Thomson, Jessica Schmitz, Ted Hearne, David T. Little, Steven Swartz, Glenn Cornett, Franz Nicolay, Caleb Burhans, Kathleen Supové and Oscar Bettison.

Todd Reynolds and Ken Thomson perform Ken's "Storm Drain."

We can hardly wait for next year’s event.

But enough words. Let’s get to the images. Click through to the jump for more photos. Continue reading

The other side of sax

Euphonique Saxophone Quartet performs at NYC's Church of the Epiphany on March 21: Michael Bomwell, soprano, Loren Stillman. alto, Ken Thomson, baritone, and Justin Flynn, tenor. (Copyright 2010, Steven P. Marsh)

Euponique Saxophone Quartet provided some great entertainment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side on Sunday. They played a lively program of classical transcriptions mixed with new pieces, showcasing the versatility of a family of instruments that many casual listeners associate primarily with jazz and popular music.

Euphonique is the brainchild of Michael Bomwell, a versatile player (playing the Kenny G-associated soprano sax in Euphonique) who has one foot in the traditional world of saxophone, given his involvement with the Motor City Horns and experience with Clarence Clemons. The quartet’s baritone player, Ken Thomson, is the amazing, energetic saxophonist/composer from Brooklyn who plays in Gutbucket, Alarm Will S0und and the Asphalt Orchestra (and more) and teaches at the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival. To more Brooklyn-based saxophonists/composers Loren Stillman, on alto, and Justin Flynn, on tenor, round out the quartet.

Sunday’s program honored J.S.  Bach’s birthday this month, kicking off with an arrangement of Bach’s Sinfonia to Cantata 29, arranged by Larry J. Long, the organist at The Church of the Epiphany, which hosted the concert. Long joined the quartet on this opening number and returned to the console later in the program to play the world premiere of  Epiphany, written for the occasion by Darin Lewis.) The group also performed Bach’s Prelude and Fugue (BWV 857) from The Well-Tempered Clavier and Aus Liebe will mein Heiland sterben, followed by contemporary composer Alexander Hamlin‘s piece, Dance #244449, inspired by the Bach aria.

The ensemble also honored the tradition of American saxophone music, performing “Quartette (Allegro de Concert)” by Caryl Florio, which was premiered by the New York Saxophone Quartet in 1879 and is billed as the first original work for saxophone quartet by an American composer.

Euphonique also dipped into the string repertoire with a version of Four, for Tango, originally written for Kronos Quartet by the Argentine Tango composer and bandoneón player Astor Piazaolla. The saxophones brought to the fore interesting textures not apparent in the string version.

Asphalt comes indoors

Asphalt Orchestra debuted at last summer's Lincoln Center Out of Doors Festival. (Photos copyright 2009, Steven P. Marsh)

Asphalt Orchestra, my very favorite avant-garde marching band — okay, I admit, it’s the only avant-garde marching band I know — high-steps it indoors tonight at Lincoln Center for a free show.

“We’re playing everything we’ve ever played — plus two new arrangements,” promises Asphalt saxophonist Ken Thomson.That means music by Frank Zappa, Meshuggah, Bjork, Tom Ze, Thomas Mapfumo, Stew and Heidi Rodewald, Goran Bregovic, Tyondai Braxton (of Battles), Charles Mingus and Conlon Nancarrow. Whew!

This is the only show the band — created by Bang on a Can for last summer’s the Lincoln Center Out of Doors Festiva — will be doing in NYC until the summer. And, while Asphalt is probably best seen and heard outdoors, marching up and down bleachers and wandering around the Lincoln Center campus, it’s a big plus that tonight’s show is indoors!

The show is scheduled to begin at 8:30 tonight in David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center, on Broadway between West 62nd and West 63rd streets, just east of the Plaza in the former Harmony Atrium space. It’s a perfect gateway to the arts center, with visitor information on all Lincoln Center tenants, a ticket office offering day-of-performance discounts, a performance space, a restaurant, free WiFi and restrooms.

Arrive early to get a good seat, as it’s first-come, first-served. For my part, I’m thinking about standing, just to remind me of my first experiences with Asphalt.

Asphalt Orchestra playing the world premiere performance of Stew and Heidi Rodewald's "Carlton."