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Improv Notes: September 2011

Improv Notes: September 2011

IMprov Notes:
News of the Moment
 September 2011

Guelph comes alive at the
2011 Guelph Jazz Festival

Above is a picture of the Mash Potato Mashers, a unique 8 piece parade style band from Ottawa and mobile dance party, whom could be found invigorating the Nuit Blanche crowds at various outdoor locations around downtown Guelph.

It was the type of atmosphere—populated by a unified community of creative listeners and musicians engaged in dialogue with one another— that lead many attendees to passionately tell Ajay Heble (Artistic Director of the Guelph Jazz Festival and ICASP Project Director) that the “city came alive like never before."

It truly was an another exciting festival & colloquium with something for everyone:

From a stimulating colloquium which included
electrifying workshops, fusing painting, poetry, jazz, and plastic intervention

(Alain Debex, Jazzmoart, Nicolas Caloia, Jean Derome, Isaiah Ceccarelli, and Guillaume Dostaler)

to sonic and scopic multimedia exchanges

(Paul Watkins and Nick Loess)

to fusions of poetry and music

(Kevin McNeilly reading from his new book of poetry, Embouchure, with an improvised musical accompaniment by Eric Lewis on trumpet)

                 and, of course, the music.

Christine Duncan and the Element Choir
celebrate the human voice

The Stretch Orchestra dazzle audiences with a wide gamut of musical styles

On Saturday the Wyndham Street Tent
was jam-packed for free communal shows.

Including Jane Bunnett
        with the KidsAbility Youth Ensemble

later the crowd grooved with
Shane Phillip's soul-infused tribute to the late Gil-Scott-Heron

There was also captivating River Run shows,
such as Australia's The Necks, who provided audiences with a unique tapestry of sound

to the
coalescing jazz, funk, and Hip Hop rhythms of The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble

Like last year, Nuit Blanche was jam packed with excitment.

       from art installations in garages

to early morning installation/performances

("Pulses" by Jesse Stewart)

culminating with an amazing early (6:15am) solo bass performance by acclaimed bass player and improviser William Parker.

It seems appropriate that a rainbow should shine over Guelph following Parker's performance.

(7:15am outside the MacDonald Stewart Art Centre)

Missed the fun? Make sure you catch next year's festivities!

All photos by Paul Watkins

This Month's Featured Artist:
Stretch Orchestra

Stretch Orchestra (Ontario)
(Formerly Tallboys)

Introduced by musical colleagues from Canada and the United States, multi-instrumentalist Kevin Breit, cellist Matt Brubeck, and percussionist Jesse Stewart began performing together in 2005. In addition to being one of the tallest musical groups in Canada (average height = 6'5"), they are also one of the most eclectic and musically well-travelled. In performance, they routinely traverse a wide gamut of musical styles-from jazz to rock to folk-often within a single tune. This eclecticism is reflected in the diverse musical backgrounds of each member of the group:

Kevin Breit has performed on 13 Grammy Award-winning recordings and multiple Juno winners. In 2004, Kevin was honoured with a ‘Musician of the Year' Award from the Toronto Musician's Association. With the Sisters Euclid, he has recorded six CDs, receiving a Juno Award for Run Neil Run.

Matt Brubeck is a composer/performer specializing in improvisation on the cello. Classically trained with a Master's in cello performance from Yale University, Matt is at ease in multiple genres and has taken his cello improvisation skills into diverse musical territories including work with the Dixie Chicks, Sheryl Crow, Tom Waits, Sarah McLachlan, Natalie MacMaster, Tracy Chapman, and his father, jazz legend Dave Brubeck.

Jesse Stewart
is an award-winning percussionist, composer, improviser, and instrument builder. He has performed with many internationally acclaimed musicians including George Lewis, Roswell Rudd, Bill Dixon, William Parker, Evan Parker, Joe McPhee, Pauline Oliveros, Michael Snow, David Mott, and many others. He also leads his own group and performs regularly as a soloist at festivals across the country and internationally.

Together, they form one of the most musically adventurous and exciting trios on the scene today.

Le Caribou Sonore Presents/Présente: Workshop with Joëlle Léandre/un atelier avec Joëlle Léandre
A project that explores, produces and disseminates creative music from "between-the-cracks." In other words, we focus on musics that occupy the peripheries of established musical cultures. As part of this project, we'll be launching a website and podcast over the next several weeks, as well as producing our first event, an improvisation workshop with French double bassist Joëlle Léandre.

The workshop takes place from October 7-10, 2011, at Sala Rossa and McGill University. This workshop is open to any interested musicians (up to 12 musicians will be accepted) that are born on or after January 1, 1976. Experience in contemporary improvisation is preferred, but not required.

For questions, please email:

Thinking Spaces:
The Improvisation Reading Group

Friday September 23rd | Guelph, ON

Please join us for this year's first session of Thinking Spaces: The Improvisation Reading Group and Speaker Series on Friday, September 23rd 4-6 pm in MacKinnon Room 132, University of Guelph. The reading group is open to all - community members, students, and faculty.

Dr. Michael MacDonald will present a public talk, entitled: "Decentralized Dance Party Manifesto: Boomboxes, Anarchy, and the Commons."

In early 2011, Vancouver, Canada’s Decentralized Dance Party (DDP) released The Party Manifesto. A double play on the word party , the manifesto was a call to social movement , in keeping with Foucault’s assertion of the biopolitical age as a collapse of social and political life. The DDP remixes urban dance music with the politics of the urban commons releasing a dance floor manifesto aimed at bringing freedom and health back to the body, physically and politically.

What is at stake when the biopolitical power of the human commons is liberated through dance from private ownership? What would an anarchist dance party look like and how does the state relate to this “unlawful” community expression? The DDP are not simply asking these question, they are taking the negotiations of the commons into the streets, wrapping it up in a costume, organizing it with the deep pulse of a DJ, a decentralized sound system, and testing the limits of the commons. This is party praxis!: the meeting of anarchist theory with the urban dance party.

Please spread the word to your peers, students, fellow artists, and friends.

Quote of the Month:

...partly because I know that’s the only way that we could solve a creative problem [using improvisation with children ranging in abilities] and what doesn’t work is trying to impose a template on the students who are not able to respond to that template.

Pauline Oliveros (Research Collaborator, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) on working with Abilities First, Inc..

Improv Notes was initially distributed in 2008 as a quarterly newsletter. The ICASP team is happy to announce that the newsletter is back in action and will be distributed once a month. If you have anything improvisation related that you would like to have included in the newsletter, please send an email to:


The international Improvisation, Community, and Social Practice research project explores musical improvisation as a model for social change. The project plays a leading role in defining a new field of interdisciplinary research to shape political, cultural, and ethical dialogue and action.

As a form of musical practice, improvisation embodies real-time creative decision-making, risk-taking, and collaboration. Improvisation must be considered not simply as a musical form, but as a complex social phenomenon that mediates transcultural inter-artistic exchanges that produce new conceptions of identity, community, history, and the body. This project focuses primarily on jazz and creative improvised music. The dominant theoretical issues emerging from this music have vital social implications.
Check out our diverse research collection.

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Listening itself, an improvisative act engaged in by everyone, announces a practice of active engagement with the world, where we sift, interpret, store and forget, in parallel with action and fundamentally articulated with it ("Mobilitas Animi" 113).

– George E. Lewis