Two Nights of Friends Old and New

The Royal Room has two special shows this April, featuring some of the finest, yet not so well known, improvisers coming in from New York and LA, many of which have an extensive history with composer and keyboardist Wayne Horvitz. On April 4th reed player Doug Wieselman joins Horvitz and local artists Steve Moore and Eric Eagle to perform the music of Robin Holcomb. On April 19th saxophonist Dave Sewelson, clarinetist Peter Kuhn, bassist Scott Walton and legendary drummer Alex Cline join Horvitz for a night of improvised music, drawing from their past collaboration and rich history. 

Wayne Horvitz gives us the scoop on who these musicians are, where they’ve come from and what we can expect from these two performances.

RR: On both the April 4th and April 19th you’re playing with musicians with you have an extensive history with, can you tell us a bit about your past with them?

WH: So Dave Sewelson, Peter Kuhn, Doug Wieselman and I all met essentially at the same time when I was going to the University of Santa Cruz around 1973 or 1974. Dave didn’t actually attend the university, he was living in Oakland at the time, but I met him through my older brother Bill (who was playing music in the bay area) and Lesli Dalaba (a trumpeter and improviser). All of us subsequently moved to New York around the same time and continued to work together there. I met Doug in the practice rooms at the university. Peter Kuhn introduced himself at a concert of mine…Peter, come to think of it, wasn’t going to the university either but was living in Santa Cruz. Dave was playing bass at the time, Peter was playing clarinet and saxophone but he is best known as a clarinetist.

I have very different relationships with each of them. Doug Wieselman has been a musical

Doug Wieselman
Doug Wieselman

partner of mine from that time to the present, particularly from the 80’s to the early 2000’s . He was featured in my band The President, he was a member of the NY Composer’s Orchestra, played on all of Robin Holcomb’s records, and various gigs, I could go on and on. Doug has played with (and some still plays with) Laurie Anderson, Anthony Coleman, Bill Frisell, Lou Reed, John Lurie and the Lounge Lizards and Steven Bernstein’s Millennial Territory Orchestra and many many more.

Dave Sewelson and I kept playing together in New York (we actually moved over there

Dave Sewelson
Dave Sewelson

together) and mainly kept on the free improvised scene…in the beginning we had a band called White Noise. He switched from bass to alto saxophone, then he switched to baritone, and he was an old soul even when he was young, and he’s still an old soul (if you come to the gig you’ll see he looks like a Rabbi). I think he’s just one of the most underrated reed players of all time, some just don’t really get his playing but I think it’s just perfect. Most people would know his sound from the microscopic septet (who play the opening music for Terry Gross’s Fresh Air).

Peter Kuhn is mostly a free player. He introduced me to Phillip Wilson, William Parker and Butch Morris. When we moved to New York he was the guy who just had the nerve to  go up and talk to everybody, so I really owe him a lot for introducing me to a lot of people. Peter quit playing music for many, many years and I’m really glad to hear that he’s doing it again. We did some great records for Black Saint with William Parker and Philip Wilson (original drummer from The Art Ensemble of Chicago).

RR: What will you be doing on April 4th for Robin Holcomb’s music?

WH: Well Doug is in town doing a show at The Chapel for his own solo record that recently came out…it’s great because he is always doing so many projects but rarely puts out anything of his own and it has been getting great reviews, not just from jazz journalists but everyone. I just thought that since Doug and I have played so much of Robin’s music

Robin Holcomb - "Larks, They Crazy"
Robin Holcomb – “Larks, They Crazy”

we would put together some local musicians to do it, like Steve Moore and Eric Eagle who will be joining us. I was trying to figure out what we would play since Robin won’t be there and it dawned on me to just do her instrumental music; she put out a great album called Larks, They Crazy, which was with Marty Ehrlich and Doug and Bobby Previte, and then there’s new tunes that she has we’ll put together, maybe even do a vocal tune without the vocals.

RR: What do you think of term “experimental music”? Is this a fair way to describe many of the collaborations that have taken place with these musicians?

WH: Yeah, absolutely, then I also think it’s probably not a description of some of the other music. Talking about some of the musicians on the 19th, Alex Cline is a legendary

Alex Cline
Alex Cline

drummer who made a really interesting choice, like his brother Nels Cline, to stay in LA, but a lot of people don’t know what a fertile fimprovised music scene it has been. Alex has played with Julia Hephil, Bill Frisell, Bobby Bradford, Buddy Collette, Mark Dresser, Marty Ehrlich, Vinny Golia, Henry Grimes, Myra Melford, Elliott Sharp, Wadada Leo Smith, Richard Grossman, and others. Just so many people from the improvised music scene.


RR: What is it about gathering of musicians that makes these shows special for you?

WH: Well it’s obviously special because they’re old friends of mine but…well, Seattle’s a really interesting town because it’s so insular: there’s a scene around The Royal Room, a scene for The Chapel, a scene for The Racer Sessions, but I’m surprised at the musicians that people here don’t know about. For example, I go to Vancouver and everyone has a much broader perspective on improvised music and really knowing the history: who was in New York in the 80’s, who was in Europe in the 80’s, who was there in the 90’s who’s doing things recently, ect. Maybe it’s partly due because it’s more of an international city, or because of their jazz festival, but these are important improvisers that just don’t get spoken of enough. I would say that Peter and Dave are a little off the radar…then Doug is working 365 nights a year with all sorts of people. Doug, for example, works with Eyvind Kang a lot, who people know here. Doing Robin’s music always brilliant, and on the 19th, Alex is one the premier improvising drummers on the planet, and getting together with these other friends at the same time is really a great pleasure.

RR: What can we expect to hear on 19th?

WH: You will hear some completely improvised music, and we will probably bring in a few pieces…but it’s hard say, you just have to come and see!

Friday April 4th 6pm: Doug Weiselman & Friends Play the music of Robin Holcomb 

Saturday April 19th 6pm:“Dependent Origination”: Cline/Sewelson/Kuhn/Horvitz/Walton 

No cover for either shows, the musicians are compensated by your donations. The Royal Room is all ages until 10pm.

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