Hi folks! Here’s a press release about the world premiere of my new band on 9/22. Hope you can be there! –Ian
(Tickets available here. )
As a jazz musician and composer, Ian Carey usually viewed string instruments as distant cousins to his musical world, something he deeply enjoyed listening to but didn’t expect to have many opportunities to interact with one-on-one. But a chance musical encounter planted a seed that blossomed into a vivid new musical terrain: his 7-piece chamber-jazz ensemble Wood/Metal/Plastic, which makes its world premiere performance at The Sound Room in Oakland on September 22.
“For years I’ve played with Circus Bella, a great local circus troupe which has a live band,” led by San Francisco accordionist/composer Rob Reich. “Our long-term saxophonist left the group several years ago, and Rob decided to fill the spot with the great violinist Alisa Rose, so I spent the summer listening and soaking up what the instrument was capable of.”
Carey, who at the time was just finishing up several years straight of writing, performing, and recording the epic hourlong suite and album Interview Music (“[an] ambitious compositional vision” –Andrew Gilbert, San Jose Mercury News) with his long-term collaborators the Ian Carey Quintet+1, was looking for a musical change of pace and a new challenge.
He put together a new quartet, the loose and adventurous IJKL, featuring Quintet+1 holdovers Jon Arkin on drums (whose credits range from Lee Konitz to Ben Goldberg to the Afrobeat ensemble Albino!) and saxophonist Kasey Knudsen (who has played with Tune-Yards, Marcus Shelby, and the Holly Martins), and adding Bay Area creative music icon Lisa Mezzacappa on bass (who leads her own Bait & Switch and Avant Noir ensembles and has performed and collaborated with an encyclopedic array of notables across the creative music world); the new group focused on the freer side of jazz, performing new compositions by Carey at Studio Grand and the Make Out Room’s creative music series. “It was an exciting change of pace, jumping from the heavily planned-out world of Interview Music into this unpredictable group based on interaction and never playing something the same way twice.”
When a potential composition grant opportunity arose, “I wondered what it would be like to take our little free-ish quartet and stick it in the middle of a chamber ensemble with strings,” Carey says. He reached out to Rose (whose talents range from high classical to backcountry fiddle) and fellow violinist Mia Bella D’Augelli (who has performed with the traditional string quartet the Town Quartet as well as contemporary composers like Roscoe Mitchell and George Lewis), as well as cellist Jessica Ivry (who performed for a decade with Rose in the Real Vocal String Quartet and is a composer in her own right), and Wood/Metal/Plastic was born.
To prepare for the project, Carey took a deep dive into studying stringed instruments and how to write for them, at one point even renting a cello and spending several weeks practicing the basics to help wrap his mind around how it worked. “I was super-excited when I began to get callouses on my fingers,” Carey says, “but then I suddenly remembered how much time I had left to actually write the music and got back to composing quick.”
The result is a vivid musical palette ranging from lush chorales, to dense contrapuntal thickets, to wild cacaphonies and back again. Carey’s compositions incorporate influences as diverse as 20th-century masters Villa-Lobos and Ravel, chamber jazz pioneers Gil Evans, Jimmy Giuffre, and Charles Mingus, and free jazz adventurers Ornette Coleman and Steve Lacy.
How to bridge the gaps between these diverse spheres of influence? “As much as I love straightahead jazz, and completely written-out chamber music, and free improvisation,” Carey says, “part of my reason for doing this was that I knew I couldn’t resist writing tricky and beautiful things for so many instruments, and by putting together a group like this, with players this good, I wouldn’t have to choose.”
Ian Carey’s Wood/Metal/Plastic is made possible through the Musical Grant Program, which is administered by the San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music, and supported by the Heller Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation, the San Francisco Foundation and San Francisco Grants for the Arts.