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Concert: Michael and Peter Formanek Duo / More Than A Drum

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Saturday November 16 * 8pm * $10 * TICKETS

Michael and Peter Formanek Duo - Michael and Peter have been making music and improvising together for more than 20 years. In 2019 they will bring the duo on tour for the first time, starting this Fall in the eastern and mid-western United States. Michael Formanek plays the double bass and has been part of the New York jazz and improvised music scene for many years. Peter Formanek is a multi instrumentalist playing all of the saxophones, clarinets, and flute, and has lived in the Detroit Area since graduating from the University of Michigan in 2017. The duo will perform music composed by each member, as well as improvised pieces and the occasional standard tune.

More Than A Drum, a DC based, multi-genre music collective, brings heat and light to the personal and political through poetry, song, dance, and all manner of creative instrumentation. Abasi Johnson (founder): percussion and horn; Dine Watson: words; Wallace Edwards: guitar and percussion, and Kathy English Holt: vocals, dance and percussion.

Michael Formanek’s music is always “graceful in its subversions, often even sumptuous,” as The New York Times has aptly noted. Whether it’s for a small band or a large ensemble, the American bassist-composer creates modern jazz that is earthy yet atmospheric, always alive with dark-hued melody and bone-deep rhythms, rich in dynamic possibility and the sound of surprise. Even with decades of experience to his credit – he got his start as a Bay Area teenager playing with the likes of Joe Henderson and Tony Williams – Formanek has made some of his keenest creative leaps in recent years, documented on a sequence of justly lauded recordings. He managed an amazing hat trick with three consecutive ECM albums scoring rare five-star reviews in DownBeat. These included two discs – Small Places (2012) and The Rub and Spare Change

(2010) – featuring a powerhouse quartet with saxophonist Tim Berne, pianist Craig Taborn and drummer Gerald Cleaver; the third was a magnificent record – The Distance (2016) – that showcased his compositions for an all-star big band, playfully dubbed Ensemble Kolossus. Formanek’s first album for the Intakt label, Time Like This (2018), saw him leading his new Elusion Quartet with saxophonist Tony Malaby, pianist Kris Davis and drummer/vibraphonist Ches Smith to “soul-stirring” effect, according to All About Jazz. Formanek’s latest release – due from Intakt in October 2019 – is Even Better, which presents for the first time his Very Practical Trio, featuring the altoist Berne and guitar luminary Mary Halvorson.

Along with his activities as a leader, Formanek has always been an in-demand collaborator, esteemed as an improviser and composer by a wide range of musicians across multiple generations. Born in San Francisco in 1958, Formanek has performed in myriad contexts since he was a precocious member of the Tony Williams Lifetime at just 18 years old. In addition to working early on with such figures as Joe Henderson, Eddie Henderson and Dave Liebman, the bassist went on to perform with masters from Gerry Mulligan and Stan Getz to Freddie Hubbard and Fred Hersch, his activities only broadening once he moved to New York City in 1978. Among his peers, Formanek has worked with Tim Berne as a kindred spirit over several decades, including making a duo album with the saxophonist (Ornery People) and performing extensively in Berne’s iconic Bloodcount band in the ’90s. The bassist also released a solo LP – Am I Bothering You? – via Berne’s Screwgun label in 1998. A close ally of a younger generation is the pace-setting Mary Halvorson. Thumbscrew, a collaborative trio featuring Formanek and the guitarist alongside drummer Tomas Fujiwara, has released four lauded albums via Cuneiform, including companion discs of originals (Ours) and covers (Theirs), issued in 2018. Formanek’s early albums as a leader included a string of releases for Enja from 1990 to 1996: the quintet LPs Wide Open Spaces (with violinist Mark Feldman, saxophonist Greg Osby, guitarist Wayne Krantz, drummer Jeff Hirschfield) and Extended Animation (with Berne, Feldman, Krantz, Hirschfield), as well as the septet discs Low Profile (with Berne, trumpeter Dave Douglas, reedist Marty Ehrlich, trombonist Frank Lacy, pianist Salvatore Bonafede, drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith) and Nature of the Beast (Douglas, Berne, Malaby, Speed, trombonist Steve Swell, drummer Jim Black). As a sideman, Formanek has recorded with a who’s who in jazz and beyond: Fred Hersch, Uri Caine, Dave Burrell, Jane Ira Bloom, Gary Thomas, Jack Walrath, Joe Maneri, Harold Danko, Lee Konitz, Freddie Redd, Art Pepper, Chet Baker and even Elvis Costello, along with appearing on albums led by such frequent partners as Berne, Ehrlich, Halvorson, Fujiwara, Malaby, trumpeter Dave Ballou, saxophonist Ellery Eskelin, drummer Devin Gray and pianist Angelica Sanchez.

Formanek has long been a devoted educator. From 2001 to 2018, he taught jazz bass and jazz history at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where he also directed the Peabody Jazz Orchestra. He continues to teach regularly at the School for Improvisational Music in New York City, along with conducting workshops and masterclasses internationally.

Peter Formanek is an improvising multi-woodwind performer, composer, educator, and a lifelong student of music. Hailing from Baltimore, he recently graduated from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Still, he's been studying music with a Ph.D.-level teacher his whole life: his father, Michael Formanek. His recent senior recital at Kerrytown Concert House drew a wide audience, but also proved he's a "musician's musician" with a number of projects featuring established Detroit area heroes Tim Flood, Andrew Bishop, and Piotr Michalowski, as well as up-and-coming musical collaborators Cory Tripathy, Tristan Cappel, Christopher Tabaczynski, Ben Willis, Jon Taylor, Kenji Lee, and more.

Flyer by Erin Williams

Earlier Event: November 16
Concert: Itasca / Marian McLaughlin
Later Event: November 17
Workshop: The Grain of the Voice