The Jazz Gallery is proud to present saxophonist/composer John Ellis and librettist/playwright Andy Bragen's work Mobro. The 90-minute through-composed piece, for nine musicians and five singers, was created at the Gallery in April 2011. Mobro was inspired by the intriguing 1987 journey of a garbage barge of the same name that became a national news headline, sparking intense interest in, and action on, a multitude of environmental issues. Ellis and Bragen composed, workshopped, rehearsed and performed Mobro at the Jazz Gallery in April 2011 (to sold out audiences), making use of the space on a prolonged basis, not only for the performance, but also as an integral part of their creative process. The work was commissioned by The Jazz Gallery as part of its 2011 Residency Commissioning Series, which was supported by grants from the Jerome Foundation and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. It was developed with additional support from The Playwrights' Center, Minneapolis, MN in partnership with the Network for Ensemble Theaters.
This epic work will enjoy a second staging at The Jazz Gallery over four nights, Wednesday through Saturday, December 7-10. Mobro marks Ellis and Bragen's third collaboration (the others being Dreamscapes and The Ice Siren, commissioned by the Gallery in 2007 and 2008, respectively). The Jazz Gallery first presented Mobro in workshop format in April 2011. The concert premiere in December is the next step in this collaboration between the non-profit venue and the artists. The Jazz Gallery will continue working with Ellis and Bragen to develop the piece, and to support its future life, both at the Jazz Gallery, and in collaboration with other venues in New York City and elsewhere.
More on Mobro: The Mobro 4000 was carrying the trash no one wanted, refuse from an overflowing city that sailed the seas for five months and 6,000 miles. Denied port repeatedly, the barge's contents were viewed as hazardous and infectious. This Flying Dutchman" of garbage barges returned home close to twenty five years ago, but the questions it raises about what we consume, what we waste, and what we reject are still urgent and relevant. The odyssey of our trash may also serve as a metaphorical microcosm for western society, with a particular focus on those that we expel or deny.
Ellis and Bragen use as a thematic launching point the journey of the infamous New York garbage barge which hauled over 3,000 tons of trash from Islip, New York to North Carolina in March 1987, then down to New Orleans, Mexico, Belize and ultimately back to Brooklyn where the trash was finally incinerated and hauled back, as ash, to where it started: Islip. This new work is a narrative chamber piece with song, jazz compositions and jazz improvisation. The musical ensemble consists of nine musicians and five singers. The piece also features sound design by Roberto Carlos Lange.
Bragen explains further: There is a strong story behind this piece: the journey of the Mobro 4000. We've taken the real story, and re-imagined it as a kind of ODYSSEY type voyage, far out into the world, and ultimately back home, to be burned. We gave the trash a voice, and in a way, the trash stands in for all that we throw away and reject, all that we look past. The piece has a great emotional scope, and there's something about a long sea journey that allowed us to find the epic nature of it all."
Ellis adds: I think it has the potential to resonate on a lot of different levels, including a global warming/consciousness of waste level. It's a pretty intense rejection story, but it also has some comic relief. It really does feel like an amazingly satisfying ride."