Billy Bang Quintet with Frank Lowe in Grand Rapids


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Jazz violinist Billy Bang leads his quintet with saxophonist Frank Lowe in performance Monday, April 28, at 8 p.m. in the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts ( www.uica.org ) 41 Sheldon Blvd., Grand Rapids, MI. Tickets are $12 to the public and available by calling (616) 459-5994, ext. 11. Hear the bands only Michigan appearance during this midwest swing.

Here is the lineup for the Billy Bang Quintet Featuring Frank Lowe:

Billy Bang - violin
Frank Lowe - tenor
Andrew Bemkey - piano
Todd Nicholson - bass
Tatsuya Nakatani - drums

Here are bios:

Although he plays an instrument that's more closely identified with uptown concert halls than downtown jazz clubs, there's no mistaking the primary source of Billy Bang's musical inspiration. While his violin technique is extensive and his familiarity with contemporary classical forms apparent, Bang's rough-edged, sometimes almost guttural tone, his old-fashioned sense of swing, and his lexicon of vocalic expressive devices define him as a jazz musician. Bang improvises lines that might have been lifted straight from a George Crumb composition, yet he invests them with an emotionalism and spontaneity that is unique to jazz. Whether in the abstract (as a solo violinist, elaborating on skeletal melodic material) or as part of a greater whole (with Sun Ra's Arkestra, for example), a Bang performance is always awash with surprise. Bang was born in Alabama as Billy Walker, but as an infant moved with his mother to Harlem. Bang was a small youngster, so when he evinced an interest in music as a junior-high student, he was given a violin. About this time he began being called “Billy Bang" after a cartoon character. Prompted by a fascination with Afro-Cuban rhythms, he switched to percussion in the early '60s. As a hardship student at a Massachusetts prep school, Bang played drums with his fellow-student, the folk-singer Arlo Guthrie. Bang was drafted into the service and was sent to Vietnam. He became radicalized upon returning to the US, and worked in the anti-war movement. Bang began playing music again in the late '60s. Bang was inspired by the free jazz of the mid '60s, especially the music of John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman. The influence of germinal free jazz violinist Leroy Jenkins (and Coleman's violin work) led Bang back to his original instrument. Bang studied with Jenkins and involved himself with the burgeoning New York free jazz scene. He collaborated with saxophonists Sam Rivers and Frank Lowe, and performed often in the downtown lofts that often housed the avant-garde music of the day. Bang formed his own group--The Survival Ensemble--in the early '70s. In 1977, Bang co-founded (with bassist John Lindberg and guitarist James Emery) the String Trio of New York. It was for his work with the latter group that Bang became best known (he left the band in 1986). He also played with bassist Bill Laswell's Material and drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson's Decoding Society, and led his own groups. In the mid '80s, Bang played briefly with a funk band called Forbidden Planet. He also collaborated on various projects with pianist Marilyn Crispell, trumpeter Don Cherry, and guitarist James “Blood" Ulmer. In the '90s Bang fronted his own ensembles and occasionally led ad hoc groups on record dates. A 1992 session with Sun Ra (on what was possibly Ra's last recording), bassist John Ore, and drummer Andrew Cyrille produced Tribute to Stuff Smith (Soul Note). Bang recorded Spirits Gathering--with a band that included the drummer Dennis Charles--for the CIMP label in 1996. The next year he made his most straight-ahead jazz album, Bang On!, for Justin Time. That same year he recorded Commandment (for the sculpture of Alain Kirili) an album of solo violin, for Alan Schneider's NoMore label. ~ Chris Kelsey, All Music Guide

Veteran avant-garde tenor saxophonist Frank Lowe has evolved over the years from an unrestrained, free-blowing energy player into a versatile, multi-hued improviser who has nonetheless remained underground for most of his career. Born in Memphis in 1943, Lowe began playing tenor at age 12, studied at the San Francisco Conservatory, and moved to New York in the mid-'60s at the height of the New Thing. He gigged with Sun Ra from 1966-1968, and recorded in the early '70s with Alice Coltrane, Noah Howard, and drummer Rashied Ali (the two made a duet album, Duo Exchange, in 1973). As a leader, Lowe debuted in 1973 with the classic ESP-label blowout Black Beings, which also featured Joseph Jarman; the follow-up Fresh appeared on Arista/Freedom. During this period, Lowe played with Don Cherry, appearing on landmark world-fusion efforts like Relativity Suite and Brown Rice. Soon after recording The Flam for Black Saint in 1975, Lowe moved to Paris for about a year, and would return to Europe frequently. Lowe's recordings began to grow more eclectic in the late '70s and early '80s: Don't Punk Out was a duo with guitarist Eugene Chadbourne; Lowe and Behold featured an 11-piece orchestra; and Skizoke was a surprisingly subtle, straight-ahead outing. Lowe also began a long association with violinist Billy Bang in the late '70s, frequently collaborating in the Jazz Doctors. In 1991 Lowe recorded Inappropriate Choices with a four-reed ensemble dubbed the Saxemple. The group soon expanded to six reeds and was renamed SaxEmble for its eponymous 1995 debut album. Meanwhile, Lowe recorded some immensely rewarding albums for CIMP, including 1995's Bodies and Soul and 1997's Vision Blue; he also recorded with Joe McPhee in 1996 and recorded Soul Folks and One For Jazz (with Billy Bang) on No More Records in the late 90s. Lowe appeared on Billy Bangs latest recording, the Vietnam: The Aftermath Steve Huey

Andrew Bemkey was born in 1974 in Libertyville, a little town outside of Chicago, and grew up in Indiana. After finishing high school, he moved to New York City and was fortunate to be schooled and inspired by three great musical mentors: Jaki Byard, Makanda Ken McIntyre, and Reggie Workman. During this time Andrew also began his own band, KinShip, which he maintained for three years, composing original music for the group, playing piano, keyboards, wooden flutes, and small percussion instruments, and sometimes singing. Meanwhile, master musicians such as Rashied Ali, Andrew Cyrille, Lawrence Butch Morris, and William Parker were calling on Andrew Bemkey to play in their bands. Mr. Cyrille, Ori Kaplan, and Mr. Workman first brought Andrew into annual Vision Festivals, while in the year 2OOO, as the youngest of some 5O bandleaders, Andrew brought in his KinShip trio ~ and brought down the house. In the Vision Festival ofO1, Andrew was again heard in Rashied Alis group with Frank Lowe and others, and in O2 Andrew was proud to play piano in Roy Campbell, Jr.s large~ensemble salute to Buhaina (Art Blakey).

Andrew Bemkeys original music was featured in an off~Broadway play, and later he was heard in the stage band of William Parkers Dancin at the Belltown Rack at Theatre for the New City. He has toured with drummer Susie Ibarra, playing duets at HotHouse in Chicago; his travels with alto saxophonist Ori Kaplans groups led to Rome (the Villa Cellimontana Festival), Finland (Tampere Jazz Happening), and Paris (more intimate settings); and Andrew played in a Lawrence Butch Morris ensemble in Lisbon (Jazz em Agosto Festival) as well as several more here in New York.

In many settings to date, Andrews bandmates have included, among others: Tom Abbs, Rashied Ali, Newman Taylor Baker, Billy Bang, Andrew Barker, Louie Belogenis, Dean Bowman, Roy Campbell, Jr. (currently Andrews most important musical alliance), Daniel Carter, Ellen Christi, Andrew Cyrille, Susie Ibarra, Jackon Krall, Frank Lowe, Gamiel Lyons, Sabir Mateen, Lawrence Butch Morris, Brandon Ross, Chris Sullivan, Chad Taylor, Michael Thompson, Charles Tolliver, and Henry Warner.

Born in 1972 in San Francisco, Todd Nicholson has been living and performing in New York for the past five years. He has been leading his own groups, the Otic Band, and Lemon Law Arbitration, for the past two years. These groups focus on his compositions and collective improvisations, and they have performed on a semiresidential basis at CBGBs Lounge. He has also performed under the leadership of Billy Bang, William Parker, Butch Morris, and Ras Moshe, among others. Recorded appearances include The Jump Arts Orchestra Conducted By Butch Morris, and Schematic by Ras Moshes Music Now Society, both of which appear on the Jump Arts record label. He has studied bass with William Parker, Peter Kowald and Sirone. He has performed in a variety of situations with Billy Bang, Frank Lowe, Cooper-Moore, William Parker, Roy Campbell, Assif Tsahar, Daniel Carter, Mat Maneri, Lou Grassi, Jackson Krall, Michael Wimberly, poet Bob Holman, and dancer Maria Mitchell, among others.

Tatsuya Nakatani was born in Kobe, Japan in 1970. Improvisor, Percussionist, Sound artist . Plays Drum set, Drum set based Orchestra kit, Bowed Gong, Singing Bowls and Various sticks to create his traditional way of own contemporary Improvised music. He resides in South Bronx, New York where he rents a basement loft space and dispatches this creative music to the world. He started playing drums when he was fifteen and at the same time started to play various clubs in Japan. He studied music with Yasuhiro Yoshigaki (drummer from Altered states, Ground zero) in Japan when he was eighteen and moved to US in 1995. He has been collaborating with various musicians around the world, has recorded fourteen albums and twelve self-released cassette/CD-Rs since 1998. The most recent album is a collaboration with European bass player Peter Kowald, entitled 13 Definitions of Truth (Quakebasket, January 2003). He provides sounds, sound design for independent movies, television and multimedia as well as collaborations with musicians, dancers and artists. Past collaborations include:Sabir Mateen, Xu Feng Xia, Kazuhisa Uchihashi, Ken Vandermark, Billy Bang, Assif Tsahar, Le Quan Ninh, Michel Doneda, Gunda Gottschalk, Mat Maneri, William Parker, Cooper Moore, nmperign, Miya Masaoka, Jim Baker, Tatsu Aoki, Kenta Nagai, Jane Wang and Peter Kowald. Dance/movement with Zack Fuller, Anika Kristensen, Claire Barratt , Masashi Harada and many creative artists.

Dont miss the only Michigan appearance by this provocative jazz ensemble in the intimate (160 seat) UICA theater. This performance will be recorded for future broadcast by Blue Lake Public Radio, WBLV FM 90.3 Muskegon and the Lakeshore, WBLU FM 88.9, Grand Rapids.

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