The Bridge #2.10 | Chicago & Midwest

Nick Mazzarella —alto saxophone
Céline Rivoal — accordion
Tim Stine — electroacoustic guitar
Katie Ernst — double bass, vocals
Sylvain Lemêtre — arranged percussion set

In anticipation. What is the anticipation, since 2018 that this formation was envisioned? How do you talk about things and unknown music in anticipation? By daring to dream? Of a disconcerting concerto for alto saxophone, accordion, guitar, double bass and percussion? Of all the ensembles to have crossed this transatlantic bridge, this one promises to be one of the most radiant. Rays of black light, and rays of white light, and rays of all shapes in light and shadow. The domain of all five of them: the realm of the possible, that of hallucinatory hallucinations, with a considerable degree of subtlety, color and texture. With the freedom and prolixity one associates with so-called jazz music (but which, exactly?), the intricacy and assurance one associates with so-called contemporary music (but which, exactly?), the clarity and strangeness one associates with so-called traditional music (but which, exactly?), and all of it jumbled together, since we’re also talking about open music.

Let’s listen to a story, a matter of sharing musical histories between two contemporary cultures, as recounted by one of the members of this forthcoming ensemble, Sylvain Lemêtre: “Moving forward and taking sideways steps are two seemingly opposite attitudes, but ultimately necessary to move forward. I’ve always taken the roundabout route, I’ve always liked to thwart frontiers, and it’s necessary for me to be nourished by musical encounters and explorations. Everything is created through movement. And for me, creation is a necessity, requiring me to direct movement in multiple directions, at the risk of sometimes getting lost in it, but doesn’t chance come from this freedom of movement? We could say that the greater the movement, the more fruitful the chance, couldn’t we? 6646 km of distance for me with Chicago, that’s promising! Let’s provoke chance and reap the fruits of its promises: the experience of encounter offered by The Bridge is a real opportunity for us French musicians. And this encounter is perhaps more important than the result of the encounter itself. It was this realization that led me to agree to cross The Bridge. To let myself be taken on board by The Bridge team in order to thwart the supposed boundaries between what improvisation is in Chicago and our more recent French history of improvisation. We’re not the elders of jazz and all the music that stems from it. I often look across the Atlantic. They prepared the ground. And we’ve been cultivating it ever since. We’ve found that legitimacy, and some of us are well and truly emancipated from our contemporary classical music. It’s taken a certain rigor and determination, and we’ve had to resist and fight to create spaces of freedom. Perhaps this is because our music has gradually lost its social function, and is now rarely used for political action?”

April 16, The Promontory. Barely arrived, barely back from blue and green and pink Lake Michigan, Céline Rivoal and Sylvain Lemêtre, with Nick Mazzarella and Tim Stine (but without Katie Ernst held up by rehearsals with Iron & Wine), were hit by a deluge, the blissful electronic deluge of opening act Melon Sprout, the deluge of rain pounding down, drumming on the roof of the hall and competing with the percussionist and all his percussion. Surfaces of the world. Things take their rightful place, just about everywhere, are wound up and unwound like mechanisms. A trailing sky has invited itself into the music, and will never leave.

April 17, Logan Center for the Arts. For the first time in over a decade of climbing to that ninth floor, that ninth heaven, an ensemble from The Bridge (“# 2. 10”) joins forces with the UChicago Jazz Ensemble, now under the direction of Michael Allemana, to offer a multi-part program: a first workshop with a first part of the orchestra behind closed doors; a second workshop with a second part of the orchestra in the presence of a stunned audience (a theory of options, decisions and responsibilities to be taken or left); a short kaleidoscopic concert by the quartet embedded in the orchestra remaining on stage; a collective improvisation with all participants facing each other like the spokes of a wheel. And in the presence of Mwata Bowden, former director of UChicago Jazz Ensemble and former Bridge participant with the Shore to Shore ensemble…

April 18, Doug Fogelson Studio. For the last time in eleven years, we climb to the second floor of this less industrial than industrious building, into Doug Fogelson’s studio and cabinet of curiosities. To think that it’s been over ten years since Waseem Jafar handed over to him the organization of musical contraband evenings for friends and neighbors, the famous f & n… Ten years and more of brotherhood and sisterhood and secret and open society in the greatest bliss despite this cold, cold world. And so poet Carl Watson, brought in by Michael Zerang, opens the evening with a competition: who will write the best poem about the end of the world? Not The Bridge # 2.10, in any case, not yet, especially as Mazzarella, Rivoal, Stine and Lemêtre can now count on Katie Ernst to blur everything together and make it all reappear.

April 19, Constellation. Tonight, they’ll be doing things the other way around, and almost regretting it a little: the usual succession of sequences in duos and trios, with their delicate transitions, the subdivision well understood, well mastered, too well mastered. However, two rare moments will emerge from this long plough, and consecutively. Because Nick Mazzarella and Katie Ernst will have drifted far and wide, until their last breath, Tim Stine, Céline Rivoal and Sylvain Lemêtre will dig the earth and dust of their instruments, down to the silent fossils. What are we ever the cause of?

April 20, Pro Musica. Back to the fierce oppositions that make them so happy, their good graces and disgraces, and a few incrustations. Five musicians, five invaders. The onslaught that evening was constant, torrential and exciting; structural diversity is achieved from within, rather than through an unfolding of successive sequences, like the opening and closing of an accordion or forge bellows. Hephaestus, Goibniu or Ogun. Antigravity triturated by the micro-worlds of each. Infinity is intimate.

April 22 and 23, Experimental Sound Studio (welcomed by the ghost of Lawrence D. Butch Morris in Sandra Binion’s exhibition). Already the last appearance of The Bridge # 2.10 in its entirety in Chicago. The recording session, which takes a long time to set up, is intense and licentious afterwards. Nick Mazzarella’s soprano saxophone gets (nearly) lost in the hall of mirrors of Céline Rivoal’s accordion. Tim Stine’s guitar and Sylvain Lemêtre’s percussion create a carpet of leaves and insects. Katie Ernst is in a cabin of her own, with her double bass and voice, but refurbishes it as a launch pad. Finally, it’s time to hammer out the Sun Ra Riffs that Nick has been working on all night.

April 22, AiRMW Cultural Hub. In the new space of our companions from Asian Improv aRts Midwest (“a non-profit organization building a self-empowered community”), behind or in front of the transplanted door of Fred Anderson’s Velvet Lounge, two duos will shake things up. First Céline Rivoal with Tatsu Aoki on shamisen: skins, scales and bark, the envelopes of inner peace. Then Sylvain Lemêtre with Kioto Aoki on taiko and tsuzumi drums: the beating drum at the heart of the world and the unpredictable flight of butterflies.

April 23, Elastic Arts Foundation – Pleiades Series. Bande à part for Katie Ernst and Céline Rivoal with Caroline Jesalva on violin and voice and Al Kolot on piano. The strings and keyboards of the four musicians orchestrate a chamber music between the skies, between Caroline Jesalva’s soaring and Al Kolot’s cloud trails, and Katie Ernst and Céline Rivoal’s gusts of wind.

April 23, The Hideout. Bande à part for Nick Mazzarella, Tim Stine and Sylvain Lemêtre, with Hunter Diamond on tenor saxophone (just in from New Orleans) and Nicolas Souchal on trumpet and Théo Girard on double bass (just in from Paris). Six tiger sharks twist and turn in the blue and black water of music, in front of a few spectres of the golden age of these high places. Some end up going straight; others evaporate or gasify.

April 24, The Whistler. For the 21st time in its history, The Bridge takes the stage at The Whistler for an evening in two movements. First, a caravan sets off, led by Peter Maunu on violin and guitar, Jeb Bishop on trombone, Nick Macri on double bass and Sylvain Lemêtre on drums. A procession of mirages and turmoil. Second, a carnival procession led by Gerrit Hatcher on tenor saxophone, Keefe Jackson on bass clarinet and tenor saxophone, Nicolas Souchal on trumpet, Théo Girard on double bass and Julian Kirshner on drums. Trumpet calls, emergency sirens and skids. Two steps away from the whirlwind of gentle madness, a couple dance elegantly, then leave without further ado.

April 23, Elastic Arts Foundation – Improvised Music Series. Time does its work, which is also a strange construction, since Von Freeman and Fred Anderson, relayed by Dave Rempis when he was inspired to launch this initiative, now taken up collegially. Collegial the music will be this evening, music and evening opened by the duo of Emily Biesel and Simone Baron, then by that of Paul Giallorenzo and Céline Rivoal. Close up, tightly wound, criss-crossed, to open up imperceptible or almost imperceptible spaces and distances. Then it’s Sylvain Lemêtre’s turn, again with Nicolas Souchal and Théo Girard, and finally with Ollin Yotl on alto saxophone, panpipes and other miscellanea, and Naydja Bruton on drums. The fire breaks out several times, but never spreads, returning wisely or dreamily to its embers.

April 26, Comfort Station. Céline Rivoal and Will Faber (guitar, tenor banjo, lapsteel guitar, shakuhachi flute) meet in the middle of the Logan Square traffic circle, at the crossroads of worlds. Will voluntarily puts sticks in his strings, Céline wanders her hands over every nook and cranny of her accordion. The bellows contort, murmuring and rumbling. The banjo snaps, whispers and thunders. The Comfort Station house is filled with a myriad of strings, buttons, stones and shells.

April 26, Theatre Y. Meanwhile, Marvin (“somebody stole the words of his song”) Tate had concocted a “soul salad”: to get to the cabaret where he and his house band for one night would mix worlds, you had to play mbira that would be remixed in real time – real?, write secret messages that a poet’s ghost would make resonate, bow your head to other specters descending the steps of imaginary staircases, enter an industrial elevator shaft to put a piece of clothing back on the back of a slow-motion dancer, then get to the cabaret. To paradise underground or on Earth. To the restless, serene duo of this tour’s guests, Nicolas Souchal on trumpet and Théo Girard on double bass.

April 27, Bluestem Jazz – Audio for the Arts, Madison. The quintet celebrates its reunion in the pouring rain. The quintet remains, yet the five musicians together are already not the same. Nick has swapped his alto sax for a soprano. There’s some sloppiness, some sparkle and some big brushstrokes. Accordion and saxophone blend into a nostalgic landscape. Percussion and guitar play in dotted lines. Double bass adds a suave aftertaste. At the exit, in the still-wet city, one thing is certain: The Bridge #2.10 has something to say.

April 28, Alternating Currents – Woodland Pattern Book Center, Milwaukee. The quintet transforms the previous day’s tryout in Madison and becomes one (or rather, five) with the reverberations of the book center’s back room, where poets and artists call home. The room is full and carried away by the oceanic explorations and subterranean avalanches of the five musicians. Sweet narcosis.

April 29, University of Iowa School of Music. Final concert for the quintet, the culmination of this Midwest tour. Music as a construction on stilts. Music as the fine weave between porous individualities. Music made of bells, feedback and rumbles. Nick Mazzarella, Céline Rivoal, Tim Stine, Katie Ernst and Sylvain Lemêtre took a few detours, some camaraderie, some slackening and a few skids to write the beginning of a shared story. The end of one adventure, the beginning of another.

And then there were all the encounters on the fringe. Full margin. Full heart. With students from ChiArts (Chicago High School for the Arts), with students from the UChicago Jazz Ensemble under Michael Allemana, with students from Jennifer Iverson’s class at the University of Chicago, with students from Curie Metropolitan High School, and in Will Faber’s class at the School of the Art Institute…

And there were still other encounters, probing the Sun Ra archives at the Experimental Sound Studio, at Al Raby High School with the descendants of Kelan Phil Cohran, in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House or at Magnifico Coffee Roasters (Perpignan’s new train station) for an impromptu lunchtime in the coffee roaster…