Tag Archives: TCO Profile

TCO Profile: Kamala Sankaram

Kamala Sankaram’s voice (and accordion!) is one you won’t forget.  And, surely, you’ve heard her before.  As a performer, Kamala has collaborated with and premiered pieces by the Philip Glass Ensemble, the Wooster Group, eighth blackbird, Phil Kline, Fred Ho and many others.  Her compositions have been featured as part of the Bang on a Can Summer Festival, the Santa Fe New Music Festival, the Lucerne Festival, the Music With a View Festival at the Flea Theater,  American Opera Projects’ series “Opera Grows in Brooklyn” and in the article “More Song, Less Art(ifice): The New Breed of Art Song” in New Music Box magazine.  And, for the animation fans out there, she’s voiced many a character on the Cartoon Network and Comedy Central.  Kamala sings the part of Helena in Trillium E and has always brought a truly joyful spirit to her work in the Tri-Centric Orchestra.  Read on about her latest project, “Miranda,” opening on January 12th in New York.

Kamala Sankaram

When did you start playing?
I started playing piano when I was six.  I was very serious at that time, playing in competitions and so on, but I stopped playing piano when I was 12 because I saw the high school show choir!  Mind you, this was in the early ‘90s and I lived in a very small town, so the show choir seemed very glamorous.  They got to wear spangly, sequined outfits and tons of makeup.  I joined, started singing and that was it.  I didn’t really start studying classical voice until I got to college.  I was introduced to Anthony Braxton’s music in college, as well.

What current projects/ensembles are you involved in?
I’ve been working on an opera (well, opera-ish-type-thing) for the past three years, and it’s finally opening on January 12th at HERE Arts Center. The opera is titled “Miranda,” and it’s a steampunk murder mystery.  Other than that, I sing, compose and play accordion for Bombay Rickey, a Bollywood/spaghetti western/ Yma Sumac band.  I sing and play accordion with Taylor Ho Bynum in Positive Catastrophe.  I’m working on another opera with Susan Yankowitz called “The Thumbprint of Mukhtar Mai.”  That opera will consist of a mix of Hindustani and Western instruments with many different vocal styles ranging from Bel Canto to Bulgarian.

What recent releases or upcoming events do you have on the horizon?
I’m really excited for Miranda!  As I mentioned, it’s a steampunk murder mystery opera where the audience must vote and convict the killer at the end.  Six instrumentalists (including myself!) walk the audience through the final day of Miranda’s life.  The show is scored for violin (Rima Fand), cello (Pat Muchmore), electric guitar (Drew Fleming), high reeds (Ed RosenBerg) and low reeds (Jeff Hudgins).  These people are awesome – they act, sing and dance all while playing their instruments! The show runs January 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 19, 20, and 21st at 9 pm.  On the 17th, we’ll have a talkback with the audience entitled “When Pink Floyd meets Puccini: Indie Classical Music and Opera” which will be a really great discussion about a new generation of opera composers who aren’t afraid to throw in a little rock.

What are you currently listening to?
I’m listening to a lot of Bollywood music from the ‘60s. I just picked up a really great complication called “The Bollywood Funk Experience.”  I think RD Burman is my hero!

How has working with Anthony Braxton shaped your musical experience?
Working with Anthony has been a joy.  He is genuinely one of the kindest people I’ve ever met, in addition to just being amazing!  One of the biggest things I’ve gained from working with Anthony is a new appreciation for rhythm and an awareness of the constraint of meter. When we speak, our sentences naturally change in tempo and contour along with what we’re saying, so it makes sense that vocal music should do the same thing – but I don’t know of anyone else who is approaching vocal music this way.

What’s your favorite food?
Mexican!  Anything Mexican!  Especially guacamole… I could eat a whole bowl of it by myself!

Visit Kamala Sankaram on the web:


TCO Profile: Dan Blacksberg

Trombonist Dan Blacksberg strives to expand the range and role of trombone in improvised music.  This Philadelphia native also happens to be highly sought-after in the world of klezmer, leading and co-leading several groups that have earned titles such as “the world’s greatest Hasidic hardcore band” and “klezmer power-trio” (that group, Leviticus, includes TCO’s own Tyshawn Sorey).  Read on to learn about the many contexts in which Dan works as a musician and about the current commissioning project for his group Archer Spade.

When did you start playing?
After some abandoned piano lessons as a young, young kid and a very bad attempt at French horn, I eventually settled on trombone at age 10. I played in every school ensemble I could: concert band, orchestra and the jazz band, where our band director (the same guy for all these groups) made us learn everything by ear. As opposed to playing any kind of music we were “supposed” to learn, he would have us play whatever music he felt like, whether it was Stevie Wonder, the Yellowjackets, Brazilian pop music or the steel drums he found in the other music teacher’s closet. I think without meaning to, he really taught me to follow my musical path, wherever it takes me.

Dan Blacksberg

What current projects/ensembles are you involved in?
I’m really excited about a wide range of projects that I’m either leading or co-leading. The main groups are Archer Spade, the chamber duo I have with electric guitarist Nick Millevoi; Superlith, an improvised noise duo with Julius Masri on circuit-bent keyboards; and Electric Simcha, a Hasidic punk band with Nick and Julius (who in this band plays drums), as well as Travis Woodson on bass. I’m also in a collective improv group called Psychotic Quartet that only gets to play together once in a while because the violinist lives in Sweden. In the klezmer world, I’m mostly involved in the international klezmer/Roma group The Other Europeans and I co-lead the klezmer/free jazz power trio Leviticus with clarinetist Michael Winograd and drummer Tyshawn Sorey

What recent releases or upcoming events do you have on the horizon?
Archer Spade recently started a Kickstarter project to raise money to commission pieces by three composers: David Soldier, Johnny Deblase and Gene Coleman (see Archer Spade’s website for info). This is a big step forward for us as an ensemble and we’re reasonably scared and psyched. Superlith has a finished recording that will hopefully come out soon, and Electric Simcha has almost finished its first full-length release.

What are you currently listening to?
I recently went through a big phase of listening to slow, doomy bands like Earth and Bohren and der Club of Gore. Now, I’m listening to the space opera Sirius by Stockhausen, Music in 12 Parts by Phillip Glass, Live at the Half Note by Art Farmer, Plectrist by Billy Bauer, Orkhiste by Radu Malfatti and a wonderful bootleg solo concert by George Lewis from 1978. 

How has working with Anthony Braxton shaped your musical experience?
I think the biggest thing I’ve been able to take from Anthony’s music is that you should always strive to make your musical world large and open enough to hold all the ideas and loves that you have. Even before I got to work with him, I was already a huge fan of his music, so it’s been a real pleasure to get the chance to get more into his world. I’m constantly inspired by the fact that beyond the humongous body or work, the great compositions and the brilliant playing, Anthony is able to merge the conceptual and the personal in his music. I’m constantly inspired by his sense of humor and play, both as a person and as a musician. The way he makes space for the personal voice of every performer who he works with creates a very safe space to make music, where we all feel comfortable to explore and let the unexpected surprises be joyful things. That’s something I’ll always try to emulate.

What’s your favorite food?
You know, for providing a the whole range of high and low brow, complicated and simple, traditional and avant-garde, and – most importantly – the worst tasting to the best, I’ll have to go with pizza. Though if you’re ever in Philadelphia, I highly recommend a stop at one of the many Capogiros in town for the best gelato anywhere.

Dan Blacksberg on the web:
Archer Spade: http://archerspade.blogspot.com
Electric Simcha: http://electricsimcha.blogspot.com
The Other Europeans: http://www.oher-europeans-band.eu
Psychotic Quartet: http://soundcloud.com/dan-blacksberg

TCO Profile: Gareth Flowers

Trumpeter Gareth Flowers seems to perceive no bounds to his creativity.  With years of intense study under his belt, stints with orchestras from here to Seoul, and a deep interest in electroacoustic music, Gareth is at home with just about any artist or project in need of his skills.  If you’re in NYC, see Gareth present his Acousmatic project at The Tank on November 17 (keep reading for more info).

How did improvisation become part of your musical experience?
I became really aware of improvisation for the first time  when I moved to New York in 2000 and began listening to pretty mainstream jazz such as the Mingus Big Band, or Dave Douglas‘ many ensembles.  But I guess improvisation wasn’t really part of my own musical experience until I became aware of my peers such as Nate Wooley and Peter Evans.  Hearing the way that Nate and Peter approached improvsation really opened doors in my mind.

Gareth Flowers

What composers/musicians most influence your work?
From a strictly musical perspective: Ligeti, Kurtag and Webern.  From a sonic perspective: Flying Lotus for his sampling artistry and deft production work, and Noisia for their detailed, overloud productions.

What current projects/ensembles are you involved in?
 I released a solo recording called Acousmatic in June I really enjoy playing solo (though I rarely have the opportunity).  For this project, I layer and resample myself until it sounds really dense and confusing.  I also co-lead a production/live duo called Batteries Duo with Josh Frank, a fellow trumpeter and producer of quirky music.  Frank and I recently completed a remix of some chamber music by Lisa Bielewa, completely re-contextualizing her work.  I also play regularly with, and am a member of, the International Contemporary Ensemble.

What recent releases or upcoming events do you have on the horizon?
I am playing a solo Acousmatic set at The Tank on November 17.  But first, on November 13, I am playing Copland’s Quiet City at Copland House in Westchester.  This in itself isn’t all that remarkable, except that the restored, chamber version for saxophone, clarinet, trumpet and piano that we will perform that evening is wildly different from the score that most people are familiar with.  Also on the 13th, the guitarist/composer Ben Frost is playing at the New York Public Library.  I organized a brass sextet for that show, and I’m really looking forward to hearing how the music comes together.

What are you currently listening to?
Tokimonsta, Jeff Mills, early Chicago house, Dorian Concept, Daedelus, Big Boi – nothing too cerebral.

How has working with Anthony Braxton shaped your musical experience?
Well, I think that his music works on such a deep conceptual level that hearing it has really made me understand the importance of concept prior to writing music, or prior to improvisation.

What impact has the Tri-Centric Orchestra had on your concept of the orchestra as an entity?
It has certainly expanded my mind – I see more possibilities for the ensemble than I could hear before.

What’s your favorite food?
Too many… maybe a hamburger, or a sausage… Pumking by Southern Tier Brewing Company for the fall…

Gareth Flowers on the web:

TCO Profile: Carl Testa

After a very busy October, we’re back on the blog.  Energies, Ideas, Intuitions: The Tri-Centric Music of Anthony Braxton was an awesome experience for musicians and audience alike – see for yourself on the TCF Facebook page.  I’m very pleased to share a new interview with bassist Carl Testa.  Carl was featured in The New York Times last month for his work producing The Uncertainty Music Series in New Haven CT, which features quite a few folks from Tri-Centric Orchestra community.  I encourage you to visit that series if you can; and if you’re not on the East Coast, have a listen to one of the many albums on Carl’s website – he’s working hard to document his music, collaborate with others and find new ways support his creative community.  Pretty impressive!

When did you start playing?
I started playing in 7th or 8th grade; I guess I was 13 or so.   I started playing on the electric bass because I found one in my attic.  It was my dad’s and it was a very nice one.  A 1968 Fender P-Bass.  I still have it and play it.

Carl Testa / photo by Jason Guthartz

How did improvisation become part of your musical experience?
Improvisation has sort of always been there, in a way.  I would pick up an instrument and start improvising, just trying to figure things out.  Once I became more interested in music, my dad (a sociology professor) would go down to the basement and play The Doors’ Light My Fire on the keyboard and improvise into the solo section.  I was fascinated by how he could elaborate on the melody and come up with all of these new combinations in the improvisation.  Soon afterwards my dad showed me the connection between the solo section in Light My Fire and John Coltrane’s version of My Favorite Things.  That set me on the path of exploring improvisation more deeply as it related to jazz.

What composers/musicians most influence your work?
I would say that John Coltrane’s music certainly started to push me in the direction of taking music very seriously.  Music didn’t become the thing for me until I was 17 years old.  Mwata Bowden at the University of Chicago had organized a conference called Trading Fours. There was a performance by the University of Chicago Jazz X-Tet with Bowden conducting, featuring Tatsu AokiDouglas Ewart and George Lewis. They performed pieces by Wadada Leo Smith, Mwata and Douglas. I was blown away, to say the least. I knew that I wanted to be involved in that music. So, obviously the AACM became a huge influence. When I began thinking about colleges, Mwata suggested I check out Wesleyan University because Anthony Braxton was there. It just so happened that my dad went to Wesleyan and was already pushing me in that direction.

Today, I am most influenced by my peers and collaborators when making music. Other key influences include John Coltrane, Conlon Nancarrow, Anthony Braxton, Erik SatieAutechre, Arcangelo Corelli, Eric Dolphy and the AACM in general.

What current projects and ensembles are you involved in?
In addition to the Anthony Braxton Septet and 12+(1,2,3)tet, I perform/collaborate with a number of artists. Collaboration has become very important to me in the past couple of years. I collaborate with my wife, vocalist Anne Rhodes, in the duo Bruxism. I work with choreographer Rachel Bernsen on her pieces and in my piece Waver. I also play in duos and various groups with the composers Adam Matlock, Nathan Bontrager, Brian Parks, Christopher Riggs and Lou Guarino. I also perform quite a bit on solo electronics with laptop. I am currently working on pieces for solo bass and granular synthesis that I hope to start touring with next year.

What recent releases or upcoming events events do you have on the horizon?
A new EP of duos with guitarist Christopher Riggs is now available to download at my website. This EP is a collection of 3 improvisations recorded in April of this year. I am particularly happy with this EP because it incorporates Chris’s noisy, rhythmic and textural playing with some of my more lyrical, harmonic and timbral playing.  On November 13th I will perform some of my solo music for bass and granular synthesis in Brooklyn at the Willow Place Auditorium.

My big project for the fall includes a performance of my piece Spectra for voice, vibraphone, cello, electronics and lighting. Spectra is a theater piece that incorporates the use of sets, electronic and acoustic music and dynamic lighting that is composed as part of the musical score. The ensemble for this performance will include Anne Rhodes, vibraphonist Bill Solomon and cellist Nathan Bontrager. The performance takes place Saturday December 3rd as part of the Take Your Time series at Rachel Bernsen’s The BIG ROOM.

What are you currently listening to?
At the moment, definitely the new “Trillium E“, Jeremiah Cymerman’s Under a Blue Grey Sky, Oren Ambarchi, The Twin Peaks soundtrack and New Order.

How has working with Anthony Braxton shaped your musical experience?
How hasn’t it shaped my musical experience? I was fortunate to be exposed to his music relatively early on, at 17 years old or so. I bought the album “Three Compositions of New Jazz” but I didn’t necessarily understand it. What that album did was pique my curiosity. I began reading a lot about Braxton’s music, and by the time I got to Wesleyan and had a chance to play in his ensemble class, I possessed some idea for what his music was, but I had no idea how expansive it was. Anthony doesn’t flat-out reject anything. He has taught me that everything has to be acknowledged and dealt with on its own terms. That has been a really important lesson for me. It means that any kind of music can be relevant to one’s experience, and that if something doesn’t click right away, that just means that you have to give it more time, or come back to it later. Even if you don’t incorporate that new idea into your work, you may come to understand it better, and that alone is fine. Anthony has taught me that you have to be open to an idea. That openness and willingness to try anything in pursuit of making music has been most inspiring to me. My favorite quote from Anthony is probably when he said that “the challenge of creativity . . . is to move towards the greatest thought you can think of.”

What impact has the Tri-Centric Orchestra had on your concept of the orchestra as an entity?
Even in its infancy, the Tri-Centric Orchestra has shown that an orchestra can be made up of strong individuals with their own identities and still come together to produce a collective vision. There are numerous orchestral entities that have demonstrated this in the past, but I feel that the Tri-Centric Orchestra (with its combination of dynamic individuals and strong leadership) is in a good position to be a force in the musical world because Anthony has the insight and generosity to not only make the orchestra about his music but also about the music of its members. Opportunities to produce large works that might not have been possible in the past will start to open up in the future. I find that to be very exciting.

What’s your favorite food?
Hmm, probably french fries. Yeah.

TCO Profile: Jen Shyu

Jen Shyu is always on the move: leading her own projects, lending her voice to others’, performing in inter/cross-disciplinary contexts, engaging in research abroad.  Ben Ratliff of The New York Times writes, “Instead of thinking about [Jen] categorically, you can focus on how beautifully and generously she uses sound.”  Read her biography and you’ll quickly realize that she is a force to be reckoned with.  Steve Coleman, David Binney and Taylor Ho Bynum are frequent collaborators, and on Thursday, Jen heads out on the road with bassist Mark Dresser to celebrate the release of their duo CD, “Synastry,” available now on Pi Recordings.  I recommend catching one of their performances this month, as Jen will soon depart for Solo, Indonesia, where she will spend the next year studying sindhenan, the traditional singing of Javanese gamelan music, on a Fulbright Scholarship.

What releases or upcoming events do you have on the horizon?
Bassist Mark Dresser and I are thrilled to release “Synastry,” a duo album for voice and bass, culminating in our New York City CD release concert at the Jazz Gallery Friday, September 16, 9pm. Leading up to this concert are CD release concerts September 8 in Los Angeles (Blue Whale), September 10 in Buffalo (Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center), September 11 in Accord, NY (Nancy Ostrovsky‘s home), September 13 in New Haven (The Big Room), September 14 in Philadelphia (Ars Nova Workshop), and September 15 in Baltimore (Windup Space). I then leave September 23 for Indonesia on a Fulbright research scholarship, so the Jazz Gallery concert will be a farewell party as well.  Our collaboration makes Mark the first bassist and myself the first female and first vocalist to record on Pi Recordings as leaders, so we are excited.

Jen Shyu / photo by Miranda Lichtenstein

How has working with Anthony Braxton shaped your musical experience?
Mark has worked with Anthony Braxton extensively, and my recent experience with Anthony’s music has had a deep impact on how I think about improvisation and composition.  His concepts, energy, true love and passion that he infuses into his music and music making process have been completely inspiring; he as a mentor is so encouraging and empowering. Anthony has pushed me to become more articulate about my work and to challenge my own notions of music making in this universe.

What impact has the Tri-Centric Orchestra had on your concept of the orchestra as an entity?
The Tri-Centric Orchestra experience has been very powerful – the first impression of having Anthony direct us was realizing how precise the music is, yet how much one’s own intent, energy and personality is as important or almost more important – that one’s vibe and vibration is what carries the music and delivers it to the people.  The precision is only a given, the first step.  It is this perfect marriage that makes the music so powerful, challenging and a joy to make.

What are you currently listening to?
I was recently turned onto the Norwegian Modern psyche/rock trio VIRUS – love it!

What’s your favorite food?
It’s a competition between Samoas (yes, the Girl Scout cookie) and my mom’s sweet tarot root soup….

Visit Jen Shyu on the web:
Official Website
Jen Shyu discography on Bandcamp
Review of “Synastry” on All About Jazz

TCO Profile: Mark Taylor

There aren’t many French horn players who, to my knowledge at least, have attracted as much attention in the improvised music world as Mark Taylor  – Max Roach has called him “a virtuoso instrumentalist,” and Time Out New York has urged its readers to “add [his] name to the list of the chosen few.”  Mark just released a new album, “At What Age,” which was recorded in New York a few years ago but is only now being released thanks to the generosity of his fans.  About the new music, he writes, “This music is about stretching and breathing, overstepping boundaries and things not quite seen.”  I encourage you to check it out!

When did you start playing?
I started playing music at age 6, singing in a boys’ choir and learning the piano. I joined the school band on clarinet at about age 10, switched to bass clarinet shortly after that, and took up the French horn at 13.

Mark Taylor

How did improvisation become part of your musical experience?
During my teen years, I became a big fan of CTI Records. They had wonderful albums by Grover Washington, Jr.,  Ronnie and Hubert Laws and many other pioneers of what eventually became known as “smooth jazz.” Back then this music was new and interesting, at least to me. I’ve always been interested in composing and arranging and was quickly drawn to the work of Bob James, who wrote many of the arrangements on those CTI albums. It was quite common to have very large orchestras on those records (and on pop records, too) and Bob James would do “jazzed up” versions of familiar classical pieces for his own projects. However, I found myself asking why it was never one of the French horn players who stepped up to solo when the chart opened up?

The more questions I asked, the more people pointed me to players like John Clark, Tom Varner, Vincent Chancey and, finally, Julius Watkins. Now, Julius played with just about everybody at one point or another, so checking him out threw me right into the “jazz tradition” and I was lucky enough to have some jazz-obsessed friends who were my guides through a lot of that great music. I didn’t realize it until much later, but after years of playing only European orchestral and chamber music it was actually a huge event in my life to discover all of this amazing music created primarily by people who looked like me!

Which composers/musicians most influence your work?
Well, in addition to the horn players I mentioned before, I’d include Dennis Brain, Barry Tuckwell and Hermann Baumann. Outside of hornists, the biggest influences – players and composers – would be Clark Terry, Kenny Wheeler, Dave Holland, Miles Davis, Mozart (there’s a certain architectural elegance to his writing that I love), JJ Johnson — the list goes on and on. I do have to put Henry Threadgill and Max Roach in their own category as far as influences go because I learned SO much from the time I spent playing with them (and in Max’s case, just from knowing him for so long).

What current projects/ensembles are you involved in?

"At What Age" by Mark Taylor

I just released my third CD “At What Age” on ARC Records and am looking to take that project out on the road. I’ve also been co-leading a new quartet with tenor saxophonist/composer Jessica Jones. In fact, we just returned from a short West Coast tour that was centered around some workshops and a presentation I did at the International Horn Society’s Annual Horn Symposium in San Francisco, CA. We also performed in Los Angeles and in Berkeley. There’s a very new “chamber/jazz/improv” group tentatively called “Horns with Strings” that’s just starting to get off the ground, which includes Jessica Jones and Tony Jones on tenor saxes, Charlie Burnham on violin and myself on French horn. Then there’s also Positive Catastrophe with the Tri-Centric Orchestra’s own Taylor Ho Bynum (I love that band!).

What events do you have on the horizon?
I’ll be spending October at an artist colony in Florida – the Atlantic Center for the Arts. Roscoe Mitchell is the composing mentor and I’ll be developing some new works for solo horn and horn and computer using generative software and techniques. I’ve wanted to try some solo concerts for a while now. This is all very new to me and I’m looking forward to having some concentrated time to work on it.

What are you currently listening to?
I came home from the Symposium with a nice little stack of CDs to check out, including Tom Varner’s “Heaven and Hell,” James MacDonald’s “French Horn sans Frontieres” and “Unveil” from the Crepuscule Trio. I’m already pretty deep into Chris Dingman’s “Waking Dreams” and Ambrose Akinmusire’s “When The Heart Emerges Glistening.”

How has working with Anthony Braxton shaped your musical experience?
It has been truly eye-opening to integrate the skills necessary for orchestral/classical/new music AND jazz/improvised music in one project. My favorite aspect of working with Anthony Braxton, however, is the sense of joy and fun he brings to his music. These are all things that I want to incorporate in my work going forward.

What impact has the Trillium-Tri-Centric Orchestra had on your concept of the orchestra as an entity?
Well, I still think the orchestra is about as nimble as an ocean liner, but THIS orchestra shows how deep and multi-faceted such a beast can be!

What’s your favorite food?
Wow! That’s tough. I’d have to say hamburgers (ask anyone who knows me!). BUT my standards for the quality and origins of the meat (and bun… And everything else on it) have been rising steadily for the last couple of years. I’m good with junk, but less and less satisfied lately….

Watch Mark Taylor perform “At What Age” with Tomas Fujiwara, Keith Witty and Chris Dingman

TCO Profile: Chris Dingman

Vibraphonist Chris Dingman arrived in New York City in 2007. In a short period of time he has earned praise from peers and press alike – The New York Times calls him a “dazzling” soloist and composer with a “fondness for airtight logic and burnished lyricism.”  Having studied formally at both Wesleyan University and the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, Chris’ musical education and experiences range far and wide, and that eclecticism is reflected in the community of musicians he collaborates with today.

Chris’ debut album as a leader, “Waking Dreams,” comes out this month.  Here are the dates to remember:

June 18, 2011:  “Waking Dreams” Album Release Party at The Jazz Gallery, New York, NY
June 21, 2011:  “Waking Dreams” officially released on Between Worlds Music

Listen to a sneak preview of “Waking Dreams” here and preorder the album here.

Chris Dingman / photo by Adriana Leopetrone

When did you start playing?
I started playing piano and drums when I was 9 and 12, respectively, then gradually switched over to vibraphone and mallet percussion full-time by the age of 20.

How did improvisation become part of your musical experience?
Drums and percussion are improvisatory by nature, so I began at an early age.  Composition and  improvisation with tones (vibraphone, marimba, piano) began in high school.  Studying with Jay Hoggard and Anthony Braxton at Wesleyan University and collaborating with other students there opened up my mind to entirely new ways to approach music and improvisation.

Which composers/musicians most influence your work?
It’s hard to write only a short list.  I’ve been influenced by a wide variety of experiences with people at particular places and times in my life.  Studies and performances with people like Pheeroan AkLaff, Mr. Braxton, Mr. Hoggard, Terence Blanchard, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter were highly influential.  But working with musicians closer to my age has been just as formative for me – Steve Lehman, Gerald Clayton, Jen Shyu, Ambrose Akinmusire, Noah Baerman and others.  And, of 
course, listening… I couldn’t list everyone who influences me without taking up too much space, but specific influences for my new album also include Woody Shaw, Bobby Hutcherson, Debussy, Toumani Diabate, Radiohead, Bach, Elliott Smith, Steve Reich, Aphex Twin… and so on…

"Waking Dreams" by Chris Dingman

What current projects/ensembles are you involved in?
My project Waking Dreams, Steve Lehman’s Octet, Jen Shyu’s Raging Waters Red Sands, Harris Eisenstadt‘s Canada Day, Sean Moran‘s Small Elephant, Bryan and the Aardvarks, two different collaborative projects with drummer/ngoni player Tim Keiper (band names soon to come), and a few other projects are currently germinating.

What are you currently listening to?
A bunch of albums that friends have put out recently!  Finally getting a chance to catch up, and I am enjoying the music immensely:
Fabian Almazan‘s “Personalities”
Tomas Fujiwara and the Hook Up’s “Actionspeak”
Gerald Clayton’s “Bond”
Ambrose Akinmusire’s “When the Heart Emerges Glistening”
Mark Taylor‘s “At What Age”
Eivind Opsvick‘s “Overseas III” 

How has working with Anthony Braxton shaped your musical experience?
Mr. Braxton creates this feeling that anything is possible, and puts forward a positive and creative energy that is so inspiring and infectious.  I always want to create new music when I’m around him – especially music that knows no bounds of genre or style.

What’s your favorite food?
Chips and salsa!

Visit Chris Dingman on the web: