Composer/Multi-Reedist Mike McGinnis
Shows Breadth of Talents With Two New Releases
Pays Homage to Third Stream Innovator/Mentor Bill Smith,
While Offering It’s Own Take on Swinging Big Band Music
The Ängsudden Song Cycle
Was Inspired By The Poetry and Paintings of MukHa
Both Albums To Be Released October 8, 2013
Whether swinging in the straightahead tradition, improvising on the furthest edge of the avant-garde, or navigating the rigorous turns of a contemporary classical composition, woodwind player and composer Mike McGinnis brings the same deep commitment and personal vision to every musical situation. His wide-ranging imagination comes stunningly to the fore on his two new releases, the first solely under his own name in more than a decade.
Both CDs feature extended compositions showcasing McGinnis’ skills as both composer and improviser. Road*Trip (RKM Music) comprises two concertos for his clarinet and a nine-piece ensemble; and The Ängsudden Song Cycle (482 Music) is an evocative tone poem depicting a sonic landscape that bridges a Swedish archipelago and the woods of McGinnis’ native Maine. The stylistic influences range from Benny Goodman-style ballroom swing to Steve Lacy-esque iconoclasm, shifting effortlessly from ebullient jazz modernism to stark European experimentalism.
Click to Watch a Video Preview of Mike McGinnis Road*Trip
That open-minded and determinedly individual approach has led to Michael McGinnis performing and recording with great artists in a wide array of styles and genres. As a clarinetist and saxophonist, he has worked with jazz innovators like Anthony Braxton, Alice and Ravi Coltrane, Steve Coleman, and Lonnie Plaxico; Parliament Funkadelic keyboardist Bernie Worrell; indie rock mainstays Yo La Tengo; the Afro-Baroque bandStew & The Negro Problem, authors of the Tony-winning musicalPassing Strange; as soloist for the Tony-winning Broadway hit Fela!; and as a member of the eclectic, tongue-in-cheek pop tribute band Loser’s Lounge. His debut CD, Tangents, was released by Ravi Coltrane’s RKM Music label in 2000, and he co-leads the bands The Four Bags and DDYGG.
Road*Trip was born when David Garland, host of WNYC’s Spinning on Air, introduced McGinnis to the music of Bill Smith, a third stream pioneer who studied with Darius Milhaud and worked regularly with Dave Brubeck. McGinnis sought out a recording of Smith’s 1957 Concerto for Clarinet and Jazz Combo and immediately recognized a mentor and kindred spirit.
“I loved the fact that he was exploring everything within the ‘50s jazz language,” McGinnis says. “I see him as someone who explores the full potential of whatever it is that he’s doing. He’s not just a jackof-all-trades musician, but someone who learned and explored all these different languages in a real way and who’s not able to fit into one mold. I really connected with him.”
McGinnis determined to record the concerto himself and worked closely with the 86-year-old composer to master the piece, discovering an intricate structure even at its most improvisatory. “There are points where you’re soloing that have very specific parameters,” McGinnis explains. “If you just blow over it openly, it doesn’t really work. There’s a certain way that you have to solo that propels the different sections and gives it a momentum. It made me think about improvising in a more compositional way.”
With that inspiration in mind, and encouraged by Smith to attempt his own concerto, McGinnis composed Road*Trip as a complement to his newfound mentor’s magnum opus. The piece was envisioned as a journey for McGinnis and some of his most inventive musician friends, an excursion through different aural environments in which each of the soloists would take their turn at the wheel.
The first movement, “The Rising,” is both an embarkation point and a song of renewal that grew out of the composer experimenting and “messing with” the chord progression of Thelonious Monk’s “Off Minor.” The second, “Settle,” was created during a particularly turbulent period in McGinnis’ life, when he would console himself by playing standard ballads at the piano. The final movement, “Up & Out,” takes its title from the classic film “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” as the eccentric candy tycoon’s Great Glass Elevator bursts through the ceiling of his factory and into the sky.
McGinnis’ collaborators on Road*Trip include many longtime playing companions: Jeff Hermanson on trumpet, Matt Blostein on alto sax,Justin Mullens on French horn, Peter Hess on tenor sax, Barry Saunderson baritone sax, Brian Drye on trombone, Jacob Sacks on piano, Dan Fabricatore on bass and Vinnie Sperrazza on drums. Not coincidentally, McGinnis, Hermanson, Drye, Fabricatore and Sperrazza form the core band for Stew & The Negro Problem.
Photo Credit: Michael Weintrob
The Ängsudden Song Cycle is a very different but equally multi-hued piece, which was inspired by the paintings and poems of McGinnis’ longtime friend, the Filippino-American visual artist MuKha. “I always call her my artistic life jacket,” McGinnis says. “When I first moved to New York in 1997 and was freaked out by everything, she would turn me on to great books and great art, things that kept me going and inspired me.”
The inspiration this time is MuKha’s own work, in which she used the disappearing written language of a small tribe in the Philippines to write a series of poems about the Swedish archipelago Ängsudden, which she then turned into paintings. “When I saw them,” McGinnis recalls, “the poems and paintings made me hear some kind of music that I never heard before. I’m always into things that push me beyond my comfort zone, and this inspired music that I had never even thought about trying to write.”
The imagery also connected McGinnis to memories of his childhood home in Maine, where he became intimately familiar with the strange silence of the forest and the crunch of snow or twigs underfoot. He translated those emotions into the brilliant colors and imaginary landscapes of his song cycle.
Taken together, these two discs evidence the breathtaking range of McGinnis’ compositional and interpretive voice, along with the skilled playing of a number of his most gifted peers, including Jacob Sacks, Vinnie Sperrazza, Sara Schoenbeck, Sean Moran, Jason Kao Hwang, Kyoko Kitamura, Brian Drye, and Harris Eisenstadt. With these releases, McGinnis stakes his place in a strong tradition of anti-traditionalists.
Release Date: October 8, 2013
Oct. 13 - Brooklyn, NY - Roulette - The Angsudden Song Cycle
Road*Trip Release Gigs – TBA