Orchestrating improvisation

My new CityArts column is about the wave of conducted orchestral improvisation currently sweeping New York City  — with Karl Berger’s Stone Workshop Orchestra and Lawrence Douglas “Butch” Morris’s Lucky Cheng Orchestra wrapping up their lengthy Monday night runs, Elliott Sharp reconvening Carbon at Roulette, Greg Tate’s Burnt Sugar: The Arkestra Chamber at Tammany Hall in a benefit for the Jazz Foundation of America, Adam Rudolph’s Organic Orchestra also in the mix and “soundpainter” Walter Thompson in discussion with aforementioned Dr. Morris at Columbia U’s Center for Jazz Studies (that’s tonight, November 30), leading students from Columbia U Jazz Ensembles at Miller Theater Dec. 4.

Conducting improvisation of individuals constituting large ensembles might be likened to herding cats or directing crowd scenes or arriving at consensus in the General Assembly or processing activities through chaos theory or refereeing games or . . . I don’t know, but it looks like fun and can sound spellbinding. Better witnessed live than heard on recording, usually — you want to see what’s happening. At least I do. Lots of opportunities to do that, immediately.


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