Event Calendar

Sat, Feb 2, 2019

Black-and-white photo of a man playing an electric guitar

Jazz Concert: Michael Musillami Trio + 2

Free of charge and open to the public, the Amherst College Department of Music presents a special jazz concert by the Michael Musillami Trio +2, featuring Musillami (guitar, compositions), Joe Fonda (bass), George Schuller (drums), Kirk Knuffke (cornet) and Jason Robinson (saxophones, alto flute) at 7 p.m. in Room 3 of Arms Music Center. The group will perform new original music from their 2018 release Life Anthem (Playscape), as well as new music for their forthcoming 2019 release Little Ruby Steps.

"Four stars."
--Downbeat Magazine

“[O]ne of the most stimulating contemporary sets I’ve heard in a long time.”
--Nick Jones, Jazz Journal magazine

“Michael Musillami's music is a treasure, and we are fortunate that he came through his recent crisis unscathed.”
--Tim Niland, Jazz and Blues blog

“It's one of the year's best recordings.”
--Jerome Wilson, All About Jazz

About Life Anthem: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAM_tBL4Vkg

Michael Musillami's "compositions develop in leisurely style from quiet simplicity to intricate complexity," writes Jack Massarik in Jazzwise, "and the ensemble playing is civilized, sophisticated and clean." The Boston Phoenix's Jon Garelick adds, "Musillami sounds familiar—this is swinging jazz guitar, after all—but not quite like anyone else." Born and raised in California, Musillami studied with renowned guitarist Joe Diorio before moving to the east coast in the early 1980s, working primarily in organ trios led by Richard "Groove" Holmes and Bobby Buster, among others. In addition to paying his dues by sharing the stage with Junior Cook, Dewey Redman and Curtis Fuller, Musillami became part of the circle of musicians connected to the Hillside Club in Waterbury, Conn., throughout the 1980s.

Over his 40-year career, Musillami has led a variety of ensembles, releasing 19 CDs and touring throughout North America, Canada and Europe. Along with his longstanding flagship trio with bassist Joe Fonda and drummer George Schuller, he has earned critical notice as the leader of groups ranging from duo to octet, featuring such prominent collaborators as Mark Feldman, Cameron Brown, Drew Gress, Michael Sarin and Matt Wilson. In 1999, Musillami founded Playscape Recordings to give himself more control over his recording career and support other musicians. Built around a cadre of frequent collaborators, the label has garnered extensive critical praise and a catalog of more than 70 diverse releases. "Like Blue Note or CTI in their prime," writes Signal to Noise reviewer John Chacona, "Michael Musillami's Playscape label has a signature sound." When not working with his own bands or managing his record label, Musillami also writes for and directs the 28-piece jazz ensemble Right Brain Logic at The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Conn. Learn more at www.michaelmusillami.com and www.playscape-recordings.com.

Michael Musillami Trio

"Working on an almost telepathic level," writes Troy Collins, "they have developed an innate familiarity with each other that enables them to second guess abrupt tempo changes and harmonic detours with split-second timing." "Musillami's trio, his alliance with his longtime friends and collaborators, bassist Joe Fonda and drummer George Schuller, is a superb, finely tuned unit, empathetic, swinging and dramatically expressive of emotions sweeping from joy to sadness," says Owen McNally of the Hartford Courant in his recent feature article. "More impressive than longevity, however, is the trio's remarkably tight, cohesive unity. Nurtured by Musillami's celebratory music, the band functions as a musical family, a democratic clan in which everyone expresses himself." Critics have called the group's music "truly original" (Michael G. Nastos, AllMusic.com), "challenging and adventurous" (Bill Beuttler, Boston Globe), "scintillating and provocative" (Bill Milkowski, The Absolute Sound) and "honest, frequently surprising and consistently exciting" (Ron Wynn, JazzTimes). "Working on an almost telepathic level," adds Cadence reviewer Troy Collins, "they have developed an innate familiarity with each other that enables them to second guess abrupt tempo changes and harmonic detours with split second timing. Although the trio certainly doesn't need any help navigating Musillami's compelling tunes, they are occasionally joined by a few guest soloists, always to remarkable effect."

Joe Fonda is a composer, bassist, recording artist, interdisciplinary performer, producer and educator. An accomplished international jazz artist, Fonda has performed with his own ensembles throughout the United States, Canada , Europe and Asia. He has collaborated and performed with such artists as Anthony Braxton, Archie Shepp, Ken McIntyre, Lou Donaldson, Bill and Kenny Barron, Leo Smith, Perry Robinson, Dave Douglas, Curtis Fuller, Bill Dixon, Han Bennink, Bobby Naughton, Xu Fengia, Randy Weston, Gebhard Ullmann, Carla Bley, Carlo Zingaro, Barry Altschul and Billy Bang.

A native of New York City, drummer and composer George Schuller moved to Boston in 1967, where he was raised and educated, and later received a bachelor's degree in jazz performance at the New England Conservatory of Music in 1982. For the next 12 years, Schuller was a fixture on the Boston area jazz scene, performing with Herb Pomeroy, Jaki Byard, Jerry Bergonzi, George Garzone, Mick Goodrick, John Lockwood, Ran Blake, Lisa Thorson, Billy Pierce, Bruce Gertz, Mili Bermejo, John LaPorta, Dominique Eade and Hal Crook. Schuller presently resides in Brooklyn and freelances in the New York City area, performing with Ballin' The Jack, Michael Musillami, Burton Greene, Armen Donelian, Morena/Fonda Trio, Seunghee Han, Whirrr! (Music of Jimmy Giuffre), Russ Johnson's Out To Lunch (Music of Eric Dolphy), Yard Byard (Music of Jaki Byard) and Conference Call, in addition to leading his own groups Circle Wide and George Schuller Trio.

Cornetist and composer Kirk Knuffke is the winner of Downbeat Magazine's "Rising Star" critics poll for 2015. A recipient of the Jerome Foundation composers grant, Kirk has released 15 recordings as a leader or co-leader. "One of modern jazz's most skilled navigators of the divide between inside and outside, freedom and swing," he has "full command of his most demanding instrument" – All About Jazz. Kirk placed in the top five in the world in the El Intruso critics poll and was one of six nominees for Trumpeter of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association. Knuffke has been based in New York City since 2005. Shortly after his arrival, Knuffke began playing with Butch Morris. Their friendship resulted in four recordings and several European tours. Kirk joined the celebrated Matt Wilson Quartet in 2009, recording "Gathering Call" (Palmetto) featuring John Medeski and touring each year. 2016 brought Matt Wilson's "Beginning of a memory" Palmetto, which received five stars in Downbeat. Michael Formanek's "The Distance" ECM was also awarded 5 stars this year. Knuffke also plays in "Sifter" with Mary Halvorson and Wilson, Ideal Bread, Allison Miller's "Boom Tic Boom," Todd Sickafoose's "Tiny Resistors" and groups led by Ray Anderson, Uri Caine, Mark Helias, Bill Goodwin, Karl Berger and Ted Brown, to name a few. "Arm and Hands," a recent release, garnered praise from every major jazz publication. The Following CDs Little Cross (Steeplechase Records) and Lamplighter (Fresh Sound Records) have also received much praise. Kirk has had feature articles in Downbeat Magazine, Jazz Times, Germany's Sonic and Denmark's JazzSpecial, among others.

The music of American saxophonist and scholar Jason Robinson ("rugged and scintillating," New York Times) thrives in the fertile overlaps between improvisation and composition, acoustic music and electronics, tradition and experimentalism. Initially a devotee of post-1960s jazz and creative music, Robinson is celebrated for bringing together various historical directions in jazz-- bebop, post-bop, the avant-garde --with an improvisatory and compositional sensibility drawn from and extending the languages of John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and Lester Young. His musical interests, however, span far and wide. He is a critically acclaimed distinctive voice in a new generation of creative musicians in equal dialogue with jazz, popular music, experimental music and electronic music. Robinson's primary group is his New York-based Janus Ensemble, which ranges in size from a quintet with reedist Marty Ehrlich, guitarist Liberty Ellman, bassist Drew Gress and drummer George Schuller, to the full nine-piece version of the group with the addition of reedist JD Parran, trombonist and tubist Bill Lowe, tubist Marcus Rojas, and drummer Ches Smith. The group's latest release is Tiresian Symmetry (Cuneiform, 2012).

Sun, Feb 10, 2019

Image of members of Mnozil Brass dressed as old-fashioned circus performers

M@A Chamber Series presents Mnozil Brass: "Cirque"

This septet from Vienna is probably the strangest brass ensemble you will ever hear. With a musical virtuosity mixed with their own special kind of comedy, they really have to be seen to be believed.

Tickets go on sale two weeks before each performance. Evening box office opens one hour prior to the concert. Free Amherst student rush tickets are available on the night of the performance.

Ticket website: https://amherst.universitytickets.com

Chamber Series:
General public: $28
Senior citizens (65+) and Amherst College employees: $22
Students, with valid ID: $12
Amherst student rush tickets on the night of the performance: FREE

Tickets Required

Fri, Feb 15, 2019

Music Department Tea Time

Music Department Tea Time

Come take a break from your busy week and enjoy tea, coffee, snacks and good company in the Arms Green Room. The music department's tea times are casual get-togethers where you hang out and chat with other musical folks from around campus. Everyone is welcome — students, faculty, staff and visitors. No affiliation with the department is required!

This event follows the "Workshop for Non-Majors and Majors: Research in Music" hosted by Faculty in Music.

Thu, Feb 21, 2019

A picture of Nate Chinen

Change of the Guard, a talk by jazz critic Nate Chinen

4:00 pm - 5:30 pm Frost Library, Center for Humanistic Inquiry

The story of jazz has often been upheld in terms of cultural triumph, as a transcendent response to African-American struggle. Jazz is also presented as a story of succession, a chain of creative genius passing from one ‘Great Man’ to the next. These are persuasive frameworks that define the art form by a canon and a fixed set of values, inscribing a kind of perimeter. In this multimedia presentation, which draws from the first chapter of Playing Changes: Jazz For the New Century (Pantheon, 2018), Chinen will address the rise of a conservation agenda in the jazz culture of the 1970s and ‘80s, and the stubbornly powerful trope of a jazz messiah, which now exists in a different form.

Nate Chinen was born in Honolulu, to a musical family: he grew up around the local Musicians Union, as his parents were popular nightclub entertainers. He began writing about Jazz in 1996 for the Philadelphia City Paper, and has now authored content for several national music publications including DownBeat, Blender and Vibe. Chinen spent about twelve years working as a jazz and pop critic for the New York Times, and wrote monthly columns for JazzTimes. He is a ten-time winner of the Helen Dance-Robert Palmer Award for Excellence in Writing, presented by the Jazz Journalists Association. The same organization presented him with its award for Best Book About Jazz, for his work on Myself Among Others, the autobiography of impresario George Wein. Chinen is currently working as Director of Editorial content at WBGO, while still closely engaging with programs like Jazz Night in America, The Checkout, and a range of jazz programming on NPR.

This event is co-sponsored by the Music Department, the Corliss Lamont Lectureship for a Peaceful World, and the Georges Lurcy Lecture Series at Amherst. This event is free and open to the public. For more Music Department events, see our department calendar at https://www.amherst.edu/academiclife/departments/music/events

Contact information: Prof. Jason Robinson.
Photo by Michael Lionstar.

Fri, Feb 22, 2019

Nicole Mitchell

M@A Parallels Series presents: Nicole Mitchell, “Mandorla Awakening II”

With her Black Earth Ensemble, Mitchell uses science fiction to address the question, “What would a world look like that is truly egalitarian, with advanced technology that is in tune with nature?”

Tickets required, available at amherst.universitytickets.com or please call the Concert Office at 413-542-2195.

Single ticket prices: General Public: $18, Senior Citizens (65+) and Amherst College Employees: $12, Students, with valid ID: $10, FREE AC student rush one hour before each concert.

Recorded in May 2015 at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, Mandorla features Mitchell's Black Earth Ensemble with new collaborators Tatsu Aoki (bass, shamisen, taiko) and Kojiro Umezaki (shakuhachi). Also in the mix is Chicago artist, scholar and poet Avery R. Young, who brings the composers’ lyrics to life with visceral humanity; and longtime collaborators Tomeka Reid (cello, banjo), Alex Wing (electric guitar, out, theremin), Renee Baker (violin), and Jovia Armstrong (percussion).

Mandorla Awakening II explores what Mitchell describes as a “collision of duality,” urban vs. country, hegemonic vs. vulnerable, acoustic vs. electric, with the dialogue of contrasting musical languages: Japanese, African American gospel, R&B, jazz. The work chronicles the journey of a couple as they find themselves navigating between two civilizations: the World Union, a crumbling society rampant with disease and inequality, and Mandorla, a utopia where spirituality, technology, and nature coexist harmoniously. Mandorla Awakening was included among the top ten jazz albums for 2017 by The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, NPR and Wire (UK).

Nicole M. Mitchell is an award-winning creative flutist, composer, bandleader and educator. She is perhaps best known for her work as a flutist, having developed a unique improvisational language and having repeated been named “Top Flutist of the Year” by Downbeat magazine critics poll and the Jazz Journalists Association (2010–17). Mitchell initially emerged from Chicago’s innovative music scene in the late ’90s, and her music celebrates contemporary African-American culture.

“One of the most exciting jazz soloists and composers in the world” –Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader

Tickets Required

Sat, Mar 2, 2019

Amherst College Symphony Orchestra: ¡Viva Argentina!

The Amherst Symphony Orchestra closes its survey of music of Spain and Latin America with three works from Argentina on Saturday, March 2 at 8 p.m. in Buckley Recital Hall, Amherst College. Tickets are available on the day of the concert beginning at 7 p.m. in the lobby of Arms Music Center. For more information, please call 413-542-2195, email concerts@amherst.edu or visit www.amherstsymphonyorchestra.com.

Argentina is home to one of the world's great opera houses, the Teatró Colon in Buenos Aires. Musical narratives of gauchos and the pampas emerged early in the 20th century, and indigenous Indian, mestizo, creole and dance music associated with Carnival found expression in Argentine concert music.  

Estanciones Porteña (Four Seasons) of Buenos Aires (1965-1970) by Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992), a set of four seductive and beguiling tangos, opens the program. Conceived in response to Vivaldi's Le quattro stagioni (Four Seasons), they were composed for a wide variety of instruments, including bandéon, but are most commonly performed today in a virtuosic arrangement for strings and violin soloist by the Russian composer Leonid Desnyatnikov (1955- ). 

After intermission, the ASO performs another contemporary masterpiece, Three Songs for Soprano & Orchestra (2001) by the Argentine-born Osvaldo Golijov (1960- ). Inspired by poems of Sally Potter, Rosalia di Castro and Emily Dickinson, Three Songs demonstrate Golijov's expert and deeply moving mastery of text setting. The concert closes with a brief suite from the ballet Estancia (1941) by Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983), which evokes the life of Argentine ranchers in four short segments: Land Workers, Wheat Dance, Cattlemen, & Malambo.

For information on ticketing and directions to the concert, see https://www.amherstsymphonyorchestra.com/musicians

Tickets may be purchased only at the door. Prices are $10 for the general public; $5 for senior citizens, students with ID and children under 12, and are free to Amherst and all Five College students with ID.

Tickets Required

Fri, Apr 5, 2019

Music Department Tea Time

Music Department Tea Time

Come take a break from your busy week and enjoy tea, coffee, snacks and good company in the Arms Green Room. The music department's tea times are casual get-togethers where you hang out and chat with other musical folks from around campus. Everyone is welcome — students, faculty, staff and visitors. No affiliation with the department is required!

This event follows the "Workshop for Non-Majors and Majors: Improvisation" hosted by Wayne Smith.

Ongoing Events

Study at the Mead, students studying in galleries

Study at the Mead

Throughout reading period and finals week, the Mead will offer lots of activities to help you de-stress with art. Join us for bottomless coffee, massages and more! We also have comfortable chairs, plenty of outlets and great lighting to provide an inspirational place for you to study. The Mead is open until midnight on school nights (but closed on Mondays).