On Monday, April 21, Ars Nova Workshop presents Ken Vandermark's Made to Break at the Barnes Foundation, kicking off our New Paths Festival. We asked Barnes Foundation director of education Blake Bradford - who we'll present in conversation with Vandermark at 7pm, just before the performance - to share some of his thoughts in preparation of Vandermark's first performance in Philadelphia in five years:

I think my first encounter with  Ken Vandermark was seeing him as part of Peter Brötzmann’s Chicago Tentet in the late 90s. With these improvised music big bands, my process was usually to see the large ensemble live, and then take in other projects and recordings from individual members.

I quickly realized that this approach wouldn’t work with Ken. By the turn of the century, he had appeared on a bunch of records, as both a leader and a contributor. How many is a bunch? Go ahead, pull him up on Amazon or Discogs or whatever music portal you prefer. You’ll see how prolific and varied his career has been. How could I take it all in? I learned to stop worrying about record collecting and committed to open my ears to whatever was available.

Seeing Ken perform and listening to his records, I began to see his connectedness in the midst of all the variety as his hallmark. It made me think about the way composure and composition come from the same place. What I imagined I heard was Ken, within ensembles of different size, shape, and style, transmitting his certainty of the music’s cohesion and underlying logic.

In preparation for this project, I shared that the thing people find most striking about the Barnes Foundation are the Wall Ensembles. Albert Barnes created deliberate combinations of what might be considered incongruous objects—eastern and western, sacred and secular, fine art and craft. All that stuff! Barnes’s arrangement of paintings, furniture, metalwork, and more were meant to bring these elements into active dialogues. With that sentiment in mind and a belief in forging new connections, I’m looking forward to hearing the conversations inspired by Ken’s time at the Barnes Foundation.

Blake Bradford serves as the Barnes Foundation’s Bernard C. Watson Director of Education. He has been on the Foundation’s staff since 2009, conducting programs that engage the Barnes’s full range of audiences and leading dedicated initiatives for adult learners, families, K-12 students, and pre-school aged children.

Ars Nova Workshop is pleased to announce the New Paths Festival for April and May 2014. With New Paths, ANW looks to the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson for inspiration: “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail.”

New Paths is a citywide festival conceptually connecting some of the most innovative artists in the world to a variety of historic and peculiar Philadelphia spaces. The work of these artists is inherently adventurous, but New Paths aims to deepen artists’ engagement with their performance space as well as with our city’s history, cultures and people, making these events uniquely Philadelphian.

Participating artists and venues include:

KEN VANDERMARK’S MADE TO BREAK
// BARNES FOUNDATION

MILFORD GRAVES
// BARTRAM’S GARDEN

WILLIAM PARKER-MUHAMMAD ALI-MARSHALL ALLEN
WILLIAM PARKER-MUHAMMAD ALI-DAVE BURRELL
WILLIAM PARKER-MUHAMMAD ALI-ODEAN POPE
WILLIAM PARKER-MUHAMMAD ALI-BOBBY ZANKEL

// FIRST UNITARIAN CHURCH

MATS GUSTAFSSON’S SWEDISH AZZ
// AMERICAN SWEDISH HISTORICAL MUSEUM

ST. FRANCIS DUO (Steve Noble + Stephen O'Malley)
// ST. FRANCIS DE SALES

PETER BRÖTZMANN
// GERMAN SOCIETY’S HORNER MEMORIAL LIBRARY

And more!

More details here. Individual event tickets will go on sale this week, but we’re releasing a limited number of festival passes at a 20% discount. To purchase a festival pass click here.

New Paths Festival has been supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

The second installment of our "Still The New Thing" blog post series, where we've asked curator Bobby Zankel about some of his favorite Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman and Sun Ra recordings, brings us to 1965 with Ornette Coleman's Chappaqua Suite. Divided into four parts, this recording was originally commissioned as a soundtrack for the film "Chappaqua" by Conrad Rocks. However, the music was not used for fear of it "overpowering the imagery" of the film, and Columbia Records instead issued it as a double LP. This was the first studio recording with Coleman's trio featuring David Izenzon on bass and Charles Moffett on drums. It was also Ornette's first recording with a full orchestra, arranged and conducted by Joseph Tekula. Tenor Saxophonist Pharaoh Sanders makes an appearance on the fourth movement of the suite. Although the album quickly went out of print, this under-appreciated recording stands as testament to Coleman's skill as a composer and savvy with orchestral writing.

We sat down with Philadelphia saxophonist-composer and “Still The New Thing” curator Bobby Zankel and asked him about some of his favorite recordings and performances from Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman and Sun Ra. Our first post in this series – just in time for tonight’s Celebrating Cecil event – takes us back to May 22, 1973 when Mr. Taylor performed at Koseinenkin Dai-Hall in Tokyo with drummer Andrew Cyrille and the late great alto saxophonist Jimmy Lyons. The event was recorded and released on the Japanese label Trio Records as a double LP called Akisakila – Cecil Taylor Unit In Japan.

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Ars Nova Workshop is a Philadelphia nonprofit jazz and experimental music presenting organization.  As a facilitator between artists and their audiences, Ars Nova Workshop works to inform, inspire and challenge listeners in order to elevate the role of jazz, improvisation and experimental music in contemporary culture.

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Music is the Healing Force of the Universe

"When there is chaos, which is now, only a relatively few people can listen to the music that tells of what will be. You see, everyone is screaming 'Freedom' now, but mentally, most are under a great strain." 
-Albert Ayler