Ned Rothenberg: Group Improvisation and Tonality

Wednesday / October 21, 2009 / 1:15 p.m.
Oliver Colvin Recital Hall
1140 Boylston Street
United States

Ned Rothenberg composes and performs on saxophones, clarinets, flute, and shakuhachi (an end blown Japanese bamboo flute). He has been internationally acclaimed for his solo music which he has presented for the past 30 years in hundreds of concerts throughout North and South America, Europe, and Japan. He has led the ensembles Double Band, Power Lines, and Sync (his most recent assemblage with Jerome Harris, acoustic guitar and acoustic bass guitar, and Samir Chaterjee, tabla) and was a founding member of the cooperative group New Winds. He has worked on other projects with Paul Dresher, Yuji Takahashi, Sainkho Namtchylak, Masahiko Sato, Elliott Sharp, Samm Bennett, John Zorn, Katsuya Yokoyama, Evan Parker, and Marc Ribot. He's lived and worked in New York City since 1978.

Rothenberg's musical interests are numerous and his work varies widely in its sonic, emotive, and stylistic profiles. A strong underlying element of his instrumental voice is the extension of the woodwind language to incorporate polyphony and accurate microtonal organization through the manipulation of multiphonics, circular breathing, and overtone control, not only using his horns in their standard melodic role but also as rhythmic and harmonic engines in both solo and ensemble contexts. 

Rothenberg's frequent international travels have included a six-month residency in Japan during which he performed his music and studied shakuhachi with two of the foremost masters of the instrument, Goro Yamaguchi and Katsuya Yokoyama. In the summer of '89 he toured the (then) Soviet Union with Tom Cora (cello), Peter Hollinger (drums), and Elliott Sharp (guitars). In October '92 he returned to Russia and the Baltics in duo with the Tuvan vocalist Sainkho Namtchylak. In January 2002 he traveled to South Korea for the first time to work with saxophonist Kang Tae Hwan and percussionist Park Ji-Chun. These are just a few examples: international touring continues each year playing festivals, theatres and clubs as a leader or collaborator.

Rothenberg has recently formed Animul Records, its initial release was Intervals, a two-CD set of solo music for alto saxophone, bass clarinet, clarinet, and shakuhachi. This was followed by the debut CD R.U.B. with percussionist/DJ Samm Bennett and guitarist Kazuhisa Uchihashi. Its entitled, strangely enough, Are You Be. Next came Sync's second CD, Harbinger. Animul's most recent release is The Fell Clutch, a jam band for big-eared listeners withTony Buck, drums, Stomu Takeishi, fretless bass, Rothenberg and sometime special guest, Dave Tronzo, on electric slide guitar. Just out (July, 2007) is a live duo recording with Rothenberg and Evan Parker. 

Rothenberg has 2 recent releases on John Zorn's Tzadik labelInner Diaspora features Sync along with two preeminent improvising string virtuosi, Mark Feldman and Erik Friedlander. Through the music and in his liner notes Rothenberg responds to the complexities of his Jewish heritage. The Lumina Recordings, is a retrospective reissue of Rothenberg's solo recordings from 1981-85 with vastly improved sound and detailed documentation. In addition, selected recordings include: Ghost Stories; Port of EntryThe Crux; Parting, Overlays and Real and Imagined Time; Amulet; Monkey Puzzle; PotionDigging it Harder From Afar; The Cliff and Traction; Opposites AttractTools of the Trade. His work as a sideperson can be heard on labels such as Tzadik, Deutsche Grammophon, Zomba, Nonesuch, A&M, ECM, BMG, Axiom, and Virgin with leaders including John Zorn, Bobby Previte, Steve Nieve, Marc Ribot, Sainkho, Marisa Monte, So La Liu, and Fusanosuke Kondo.

Born in 1956 in Boston, Rothenberg graduated from Oberlin College and studied at Oberlin Conservatory, Berklee College of Music, privately with Les Scott (saxophone and clarinet), and George Coleman (jazz improvisation). However, his trademark solo technique is self-taught. He has received grants and commissions from the New York Foundation for the Arts, New York State Arts Council, Cary Trust, Lila Wallace Foundation, Chamber Music America, Asian Cultural Council, Roulette, Jerome Foundation, Meet the Composer, Japan Society, and ASCAP.