It has been about a year since I had to cancel my “Uncomfortable Subjects” premiere – music that had been two + years in the making. This project has been a longer and more arduous journey for me than any past works. My current theory is that the idea for it came from a squashed-down voice inside that was screaming to more honestly face some uncomfortable truths, about myself and the world around me. When I look at it that way, I can make sense of why I got knocked out. I spend a lot of time trying to write words about this time, but it’s hard when you are still in-process and often feel overwhelmed. So instead of writing – I want to talk about it. On Monday May 15 at 7 pm on Zoom (with the support of 4Culture) – I will be doing just that. I hope you can join me.
UPDATE: This is so sad for me to write – but I have made the difficult yet necessary choice to postpone this concert to a date TBD. We had such incredible rehearsals of the music and I was so excited – but at the same time I was battling the worst pain of my life. I have a pinched nerve in my shoulder area which I have tried so hard to fix, but every time I played my trumpet would become agonizingly painful. It has been horrible. I finally had to face the music yesterday and make the heart-breaking decision to postpone. These times are feeling so difficult to create art in, but I am holding onto faith that things will get better. Thank you all for your support.
Featuring: Johnaye Kendrick (voice) • Joshua Kohl (conducting) • Alex Guy & Alina To (violin) • Heather Bentley (viola) • Gretchen Yanover (cello) • Carlos Snaider (guitar/percussion) • Chris Symer (bass) • Chris Credit (tenor saxophone/bass clarinet) • Leanna Keith (flute) • Bhavani Kotha (oboe) • Greg Campbell (percussion/french horn) • Samantha Boshnack (trumpet/compositions) • Natasha Marin & Jane Wong (poets) • Stephen Schildbach (illustrator)
On May 14 at the Chapel Performance Space, Seattle trumpeter/composer/bandleader Samantha Boshnack will premiere a genre-busting song cycle for a new thirteen-member ensemble.
In Uncomfortable Subjects, Boshnack expands her trademark interlocking grooves and instrumental explorations into lyrical and conversational territories. The project was born in February 2020, when Boshnack brought together conceptual artist, writer and community builder Natasha Marin (curator of Black Imagination and the viral online Reparations project) and Pushcart Prize-winning poet Jane Wong (How Not to Be Afraid of Everything; Overpour) together to engage in two- and three-way correspondences about “Uncomfortable Subjects.”
The idea felt vague at first, but the subsequent two years provided many uncomfortable topics to cover – while the premiere date shifted into the future amid covid surges. During that extended time, Boshnack wove the interconnected struggles and upheavals occurring in her own life and all around her into seven new works.
In addition to compositional debuts, the performance will feature live remarks from the poets. Boshnack draws lyrics and written words from Marin and Wong’s excerpted dialogues and poetry, as well as from her own writing. Embracing challenging topics like race, family trauma, climate crisis, fascism, mental illness, covid isolation, and the tensions of making art, Uncomfortable Subjects charts the artists’ journeys to find peace, strength, and encouragement in a shifting landscape. The work conveys complex fluctuations of emotion and offers a vulnerable, compassionate, humorous, cathartic, even joyful look at the uneasy human processes of solitude, reemergence, uncertainty, healing, and change.
The lyrical elements will be performed by Grammy-nominated vocalist Johnaye Kendrick (säje). Conductor Joshua Kohl (cofounder of Degenerate Art Ensemble) will direct a veritable supergroup chamber orchestra composed of some of the most exciting players from Seattle’s jazz, alt-pop, new music and classical projects (including Jim Knapp’s Scrape, Tomo Nakayama, Kin of the Moon, Led To Sea, the Sound Ensemble, and Earthtone Skytone).
SAMANTHA BOSHNACK’s acclaimed previous projects and record releases have assembled a world-ranging cohort of musical collaborators (2016 B’shnorkestra Global Concertos); surfaced historic feminist journalism (2017 Sam Boshnack Quintet Nellie Bly Project); and explored geologic instability (2019 Seismic Belt Live in Santa Monica). Her other musical exploits include chamber orchestra B’shnorkestra (2013 Go To Orange); Sam Boshnack Quintet (2014 Exploding Syndrome); numerous releases with composers’ collective Alchemy Sound Project and postmodern outfit Reptet; and commissions from Northwest Symphony Orchestra, Karin Stevens Dance, Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music, and Mutual Mentorship for Musicians.
I’ve been on a serious composing spree lately. On May 14, at the Chapel Performance Space in Seattle, I’m premiering eight very personal works for a new twelve-member ensemble. “Uncomfortable Subjects” was commissioned before the pandemic, by 4Culture, the Seattle Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture, and Nonsequitur. It’s been postponed, understandably, since September 2020. Working on it lately and realizing how long this music has had to percolate in my brain is fascinating: I’ve never had this much time, time characterized by such broadly interconnected struggles and upheavals, to focus on a body of work. I’m extremely excited to play it with people. I’m coming at this premiere with a new perspective – the perspective of a woman who has wondered when and if she would play her music again, wrestling with fears surrounding the state of music performance (and so many other things) in uncharacteristic isolation. Check out this amazing illustration I commissioned Stephen Schildbach to create for the concert and recording. Much more information is coming on the poets and musicians involved in the project – but I wanted to give you a heads-up to watch this space, because right now this is meaning everything to me.
Internationally recognized composers Sam Boshnack (trumpet, flugelhorn) and Amy Denio (alto sax, clarinet, accordion, voice) join renaissance man Greg Campbell (drums, percussion, gongs, french horn) for a night of spontaneous composition and musical exploration. Working with loose themes, these accomplished beacons in Seattle’s creative music scene will join forces for the first time as a trio.
Whether blasting through the sonic explorations of her alternative chamber orchestra, B’shnorkestra, or leading Seismic Belt or her quintet, SAMANTHA BOSHNACK’s musical voice pulses with vitality. She is part of the acclaimed composers’ collective Alchemy Sound Project. She has toured extensively in the zany, postmodern Reptet. Boshnack is an alumni of the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music (GLFCAM). In 2021, she participated in Mutual Mentorship for Musicians’ (M3) 2nd Cohort (an international network of underrepresented gender identities providing new ways to connect, support and create) for which she premiered a collaboration with Fay Victor. Sam Boshnack Website Video: B’shnorkestra Video: Boshnack & Fay Victor collaboration (2021) AUDIO: Sam Boshnack on Bandcamp AUDIO: Subduction Zone
AMY DENIO (Seattle Jazz Hall of Fame) is an award-winning multi-instrumentalist (guitar, bass, alto sax, clarinet, accordion) singer, commissioned composer, audio engineer, record producer and teacher. She has created over 500 works for film, television, theater and modern dance for the last thirty years, working solo and also in collaboration with artists worldwide. Her audio installations have been featured at the Venice Biennale and Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid She is a versatile composer, working in folk, jazz, pop, rock, metal, and many world music genres ~ Balkan, Latin, and a variety of indigenous styles from obscure corners of this globe. Amy Denio Website AUDIO: Amy Denio on Bandcamp VIDEO: All Together Now VIDEO: Tiptons Sax Quartet & Danijel Zezelj: Raisa
GREG CAMPBELL plays drums, percussion, French horn, and other instruments. He works in the broader jazz and classical traditions, performing with groups ranging from the Seattle Modern Orchestra to Wayne Horvitz’s Electric Circus, and with artists such as steel pan virtuoso Ray Holman, Eyvind Kang, Ali Birra, Vinny Golia, Lori Goldston, Christian Asplund, Nels Cline, and James Falzone. His studies with Asante palmwine guitarist Koo Nimo led him to Ghana in 2017; he has worked with Koo Nimo’s son Yaw Amponsah in the traditional Asante drumming group Anokye Agofomma for more than twenty years. Greg teaches at the Cornish College of the Arts and at Cascadia College.
I was accepted into the 2nd cohort of the Mutual Mentorship for Musicians (a platform created by Jen Shyu and Sara Serpa). In January 2021, I began attending regular meetings with an inspiring group of women from around the world where we talked, listened and created music together. I was paired with the incredible Fay Victor (vocalist/composer in Brooklyn) to collaborate with. Fay and I chose to each write a piece for us to play, that would be presented together. I had a lot of firsts creating this new work – it was the first time collaborating with someone that I didn’t see in-person, my first time writing lyrics and my first time recording at my new home studio set-up. Mariana Merez created a stunning video for the music. I am thrilled to show this work to you all, I really hope you enjoy it!
Alchemy is defined as “a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination” (Oxford English Dictionary). It’s hard to imagine a word that more aptly suits Alchemy Sound Project, a collective in which five esteemed composers and bandleaders — pianist Sumi Tonooka, woodwind players Salim Washington and Erica Lindsay, trumpeter Samantha Boshnack, and bassist David Arend — form a potent ensemble greater than the sum of its parts. A synergy that seems almost supernatural, especially given the far- flung home bases from which these artists converge, is evident throughout Afrika Love, the band’s third album, out May 14, 2021 via Artists Recording Collective.
Alchemy Sound Project formed in 2014, two years after the group’s members met in Los Angeles at the Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute, where, over the course of a week, they learned to utilize Western classical music concepts and orchestration techniques. “We were five friends and colleagues who had all these similar connections,” Tonooka recalls, “and I wanted us to be able to extend what we do together musically, instead of leaning on other projects or other commissions — to set up our own small chamber group to play and record.” What resulted is a diverse, eclectic group that makes powerful, original music meant to blur the boundaries between notated composition and improvisation.
Sessions for Afrika Love took place in January 2018 in Conshohocken, PA. But the album’s title, borrowed from the composition that Washington contributed to the album, reflects the band’s keen awareness that this recording arrives in the wake of one of the most tumultuous years in recent U.S. history — a pivotal period in which race relations and social justice protests have taken center stage.
According to Tonooka, the band found the title “appropriate in terms of what’s happened with the Black Lives Matter movement, and with what the country still has to deal with in terms of conversations about racism and the aftermath of slavery, and the fact that we still haven’t gotten it together to really heal, because no one seems to talk about it in a way that is healing.” Seen in that light, the multi-gendered, multi-racial makeup of Alchemy Sound Project in itself offers an understated, buoyantly positive example of cooperation and mutual regard.
Given that each Alchemy member is so distinguished individually, it’s no surprise that their collective effort shines. Tonooka, who presently makes her home in Philadelphia, was a 2020 Painted Bride Composer Grant recipient, a 2019 Chamber Music America New Jazz Works Grant winner, and a 2018 Philadelphia Jazz Legacy awardee, among other accolades. Seattle resident Boshnack issued a debut album with her band, Seismic Belt, in 2019, and led the group in appearances at Winter Jazzfest, the Festival of New Trumpet Music, and Seattle’s Earshot Jazz Festival.
Arend settled in Los Angeles in 2018, just in time to see local screenings of Changyou’s Journey, a short film for which he served as composer and co-producer. After making his debut as acting principal bassist of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, he completed his first major orchestral score. Lindsay, based in upstate New York, is an artist-in-residence at Bard College, teaching jazz composition and arranging as well as leading a contemporary-music ensemble, and in 2019 she was an artist-in-residence at Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center. Washington, based in Durban, South Africa, leads a busy performance career with several respected groups — the newest, a quartet he leads jointly with piano prodigy Afrika Mkhize, in whose honor Washington penned the album’s title track.
Completing the lineup on Afrika Love are two versatile colleagues, trombonist Michael Ventoso a student of Lindsay’s who plays in both classical and jazz settings, and drummer Chad Taylor, a dynamic solo artist and bandleader, and cofounder of the renowned Chicago Underground Duo.
Experience six world premieres born from the new initiative Mutual Mentorship for Musicians (M³), a revolutionary model of mentorship created in March and launched in June 2020 at the height of the pandemic. Hosted by M³ Editor-in-Chief Jordannah Elizabeth, each premiere will be followed by a Q&A with the audience about its creative process.
Samantha Boshnack (trumpet, flugelhorn) and Chris Credit (tenor & baritone saxophones) have worked together for 13 years. They played together for five years in the modern jazz sextet Reptet, which featured all-original compositions from each member of the band, released two albums and a single, and toured extensively. In 2011, Boshnack started creating her own ensembles featuring her compositions exclusively. Credit is a member of Boshnack’s 14-piece alternative chamber orchestra, B’shnorkestra, which has released two albums and played many NW performances including Earshot Jazz Festival; he also plays in Boshnack’s group Seismic Belt, whose performances include Festival of New Trumpet Music and Winter Jazzfest in NYC.
This duo project draws on their rich musical relationship, exploring compositions and improvisations in an intimate, agile, and unconfined setting. This performance, recorded at the Chapel by Steve Peters, features three previously un-released Boshnack compositions and concludes with a free improvisation.
(00:00) Small Beast (08:55) Little Ball of Energy (17:10) Song for the People’s (22:35) Improvisation
I wrote this piece for Eli Maliwan as part of #GLFCAMGigThruCOVID created by Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music. It’s called Talking with Myself – something perhaps we all have done more since the world shut down. While initially it felt hard to push through all the creative blocks I have felt during this time, I was ultimately really grateful for this challenge – to write a short piece in just two weeks. For more information on this project check out – https://www.glfcam.com/glfcamgigthrucovid19.