June festival w. Miranda Cuckson, Mark Turner, Taka Kigawa, Timo Andres, Sam Newsome, Sylvie Courvoisier, Momenta Quartet, Judith Berkson, Marta Sánchez, Aaron Diehl, Scott Wollschleger, Han Chen, Robert Cuckson

Sono Fest! at Soapbox Gallery curated by Ethan Iverson

June 6 -18

Individual concerts $25. [Tickets]

Tues 6 Ethan Iverson duo with Miranda Cuckson
Wed 7 Ethan Iverson duo with Mark Turner
Thurs 8 Miranda Cuckson
Fri 9 Taka Kigawa
Sat 10 Timo Andres
Sun 11 Sam Newsome + Sylvie Courvoisier
Mon 12 Momenta Quartet plays Alvin Singleton and Meredith Monk
Tues 13 Judith Berkson
Wed 14 Marta Sánchez
Thurs 15 Aaron Diehl
Fri 16  Scott Wollschlager
Sat 17 Han Chen
Sun 18 Robert Cuckson first set, Ethan Iverson second set

Notes from the curator: 

There are two hour-long concerts every night at 7:30 and 9, more like jazz practice than classical convention. We expect to turn the room over (there are only 60 seats) so most of those who are performing formally notated works will probably play the same program twice (a comparatively rare opportunity to enjoy such a liberating sequence).

Tuesday, June 6 Ethan Iverson duo with Miranda Cuckson showcases my admiration of formal composition in the American grain. Our repertoire includes mid-century violin sonatas by Louise Talma and George Walker, alongside an Elegy by another particular favorite, Peter Lieberson. To round out the program, I’ll also play my recent Piano Sonata, which I have recorded for my next Blue Note release. (More on Miranda below, she appears four times in the festival.)

Ethan Iverson duo with Mark Turner rides again in the first post-pandemic gig of this configuration, which toured dozens of venues in both America and Europe and recorded Temporary Kings for ECM. Mark is the most influential tenor saxophonist of his generation. 

Miranda Cuckson delivers the most challenging music in a forthright and engaging manner. If I had an unlimited budget and resources I’d present the New York City premiere of the violin concerto Georg Friedrich Haas wrote for her; as it stands, I will enjoy her sublime solo sets. When she plays microtonal pieces by Xenakis, Sciarrino, and other high modernists, one can hear Miranda sing the blues.

Taka Kigawa is famous for legendary programs of contemporary music in unlikely spaces. A few months ago, I was on assignment in somewhat random circumstances and suddenly realized Taka Kigawa was sitting right in front of me. For much of this list I am calling in favors…but in this case I now owe Mr. Kigawa one. He will perform the complete set of Pascal Dusapin’s stunning piano etudes.

10 Timo Andres fits the bill: he’s a true composer-pianist of the old school, a proper virtuoso and a major voice in composition. To my delight, Timo has offered to play his program of Joplin Rags and Chopin Mazurkas. I have also insisted that he include a few of his own remarkable rhythmic and poetic piano pieces, which someday will be thought of as classic Americana.

11 Sam Newsome is a regular collaborator of mine in the score to Pepperland for the Mark Morris Dance Group, which we have performed together over 60 times. Hidden in plain sight, Sam is one of the freshest musical minds in New York. He mastered straight-ahead jazz, playing solid tenor for Terence Blanchard in the ‘90s, before changing to soprano and adopting a decidedly avant-garde approach, incorporating extended techniques and developing a language for solo saxophone. At Soapbox, Sam will play solo and duo with innovative pianist, improviser, and composer Sylvie Courvoisier. 

12 The Momenta Quartet (Emilie-Anne Gendron, Alex Shiozaki, Stephanie Griffin, Michael Haas) has recently released a wonderful recording of Alvin Singleton quartets. I have interviewed Singleton and regard him as one of the true living masters, with the four string quartets being a major contribution to this hallowed form. Momenta will play Singleton’s quartets no. 2 “Secret Desire to Be Black” and no. 4 “Hallelujah Anyhow” at Soapbox, alongside Meredith Monk’s lovely “String Songs.” 

13 Judith Berkson: singer, pianist, composer, cantor. My first exposure to Judith was at a rare NYC concert by the late Joe Maneri, an epic event that lives in my mind as one of the finest avant-garde jazz gigs I’ve ever seen. Judith has diverse capabilities. She creates electronic re-toolings of Robert Schumann; her solo ECM album Oylam is hypnotic; when she unleashes her full cantorial vocal style, the hair on the back of my neck stands up.

14 Marta Sánchez has a bright future. I have written liner notes for two of her records and dig David Murray’s current quartet with Marta in a heavily-featured role. Her intricate and contrapuntal jazz compositions are in the modern style, but, crucially, they are also informed by the long musical lineage of her native country, Spain.

15 Aaron Diehl has grown into being not just a pianist of the first rank but an ambassador across several disciplines. Aaron swings Gershwin with the symphony, he smartly updates James P. Johnson and John Lewis for the modern taste, he casually deals out correct Bach at a recital, and rages into atonality with Tyshawn Sorey at the club. One of a kind. 

16 Scott Wollschleger possesses an ear for fresh notes, and delivers them in a slow and almost terrifying manner: Morton Feldman meets Thelonious Monk meets H.P. Lovecraft. His pianist is the stellar Karl Larson, who will supply mostly solo Wollschelger for the first set, with Miranda Cuckson joining on viola for one piece. In the second set, Miranda will play a Wollschelger violin premiere; other solo and chamber music will include Miranda, Larson, John Popham and Kevin Sims.

17 Han Chen is a major virtuoso and has carved out a vital place in the NYC sceneWhen Thomas Adès gave a master class at New England Conservatory several years ago, I cancelled my own NEC students in order to go check it out. Chen played Adès’s “Traced Overhead” and the composer told him, “You play it better than me.” The whole Naxos recital of Adès by Chen is simply marvelous. At Soapbox, Chen will play “Traced Overhead” alongside further masterpieces by Berg, Corigliano, and Ravel.

18 (first set) Robert Cuckson is another great NYC composer who lives a bit below the radar. When Miranda told me her dad was really good I demanded aural evidence, and, of course, Miranda was right. His style features long form structures that unfold in an unforced manner, high on lyricism and swept with chromaticism. For Father’s Day, Miranda will join a cast of elite chamber musicians including Haodong Wu, David Ordovsky, and Blair McMillen for a set of flute, violin, viola, and piano music. 

18 (second set) Ethan Iverson To conclude the festival I will play a solo set of surprises, undoubtedly influenced by all the sounds I’ve taken in from the previous two weeks. Dancer Reggie Parker also plans to make an appearance….

Very special thanks to the owner of Soapbox Gallery, Jimmy Greenfield, for hosting these musicians. Jimmy’s Yamaha piano is one of the best-sounding instruments in New York City, capable of producing truly miraculous tones in this unique intimate environment.