Thollem /Michalowski / Alwin Trio
Thursday November 7 @ 8:00 PM
Keyboardist, composer, and improviser Thollem McDonas teams up once again with area improvisers Piotr Michalowski and Abigail Alwin for an evening of spontaneously composed chamber music. The trio has played at KCH before; their initial concert was released on the album Thollem’s Traveling Sessions with Abigail Alwin and Piotr Michalowski on Edgetone Records
Thollem is a pianist, keyboardist, organist, composer, improviser, singer-songwriter, activist, author and teacher. He has spent his life skirting and erasing the edges of boundaries musically, culturally, geographically. His work is ever changing, evolving and responding to the times and his experiences, both as a soloist and in collaboration with hundreds of artists across idioms and disciplines. Though Thollem is widely known as an acoustic piano player, he is also the lead vocalist for the Italian agit-punk band Tsigoti and has recently branched out significantly into the world of electronics through a multitude of projects.
Thollem was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, studying the standard classical piano repertoire, composing and improvising since he was a young child and absorbing the myriad of sounds of his culturally diverse upbringing. After dedicating his 20s and 30s to grassroots political activism, he has refocused his attention these last 18 years on a wide variety of music that incorporate his myriad experiences and curiosities. In this last decade alone, he has played well over 1,000 concerts throughout N. America and Europe as a soloist and in collaboration with hundreds of musicians, dancers, and filmmakers. As leader or co-leader, he has released over 50 albums in that span on 22 different vanguard labels to international critical acclaim. “Thollem is an astounding pianist who understands the huge scope of the instrument” (Terry Riley) and who continues to delve into the furthest reaches and sub-genres of Post- Classical, Free Jazz, Noise, Punk, dance and film. A brief cross section of his many recent collaborators includes William Parker, Pauline Oliveros, Stefano Scodanibbio, Nels Cline, Mike Watt, Rob Mazurek, Martha Colburn and ACVilla. He is the founding director of Estamos Ensemble, a Mexican American cross-border ensemble for musical exchange. Thollem is developing his second feature-length film through an 8-month, 48 state odyssey with his partner, videographer ACVilla: Silver Ochre’s Public Domain. He released six recording last year alone; his forthcoming releases include a trio date on ESP with bass wizard William Parker and master drummer Nels Cline.
Piotr Michalowski began to play clarinet while living in Los Angeles, studying with the late Ira Shulman. After moving to Ann Arbor to teach at UM, he began to play at Washtenaw Community College and then with the II-V-I Orchestra. Fascinated by various woodwinds, he developed skills on most of the clarinets and saxophones, focusing in recent years on bass, contra alto and contrabass clarinets as well as sopranino and soprano saxophones. He has been playing on a regular basis in the Ann Arbor/Detroit area with artists of various generations including dancers and singers in diverse settings, participating in multidisciplinary music presentations, including ancient Near Eastern and modern European poetry in his own translations at venues such as the Detroit Institute of Art and the Kelsey Museum in Ann Arbor.
He has performed in Warsaw, Berkeley, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and elsewhere with musicians such as Jason Kao Hwang, Ken Filiano, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Vinny Golia, Jon Raskin, Gino Robair, Mike Khoury, Steve Swell, Michael A. T. Thomson, James Ilgenfritz, Sara Shoenbeck, Piotr Mełech, or Jerzy Mazzoll. Recent recordings include an appearance on Jason Kao Hwang’s Voice (Innova), on she’s still preying upon his mind (White Rose) by Will Sodeberg, and this year on Live at Edgefest (Different Track Recordings) with multi- instrumentalist Joe McPhee and drummer Andrew Drury, and, Contradictions (Creative Resources), an album of contralto and contrabass clarinet duets with Jason Alder.
Abby Alwin, cellist and improviser, weaves sound inspired from the moment, and generated from the heart. She serves the community in the capacity of a public-school orchestra director, with a 15-year tenure with the Ann Arbor Public Schools. In addition to her classroom teaching, she co-directs the AAPS Comprehensive Outreach Music Program in collaboration with the Community Music School of Ann Arbor, which connects music tutors with disadvantaged students whom would otherwise not have private instruction. Alwin is recipient of the 2013 Yale University Distinguished Music Educator Award, recognizing innovative and exemplary pedagogy amongst the best in the United States. She seized the opportunity in 2013 to spend the summer teaching violin in Kenya and plans for more international music adventures. Most recent performance projects have included performing solo & in collaboration with Detroit composers, improvisors & choreographers, focusing on improvisatory and contemporary idioms as well as the folk traditions of Bulgaria & Greece. Ms. Alwin is currently the assistant conductor of the Dexter (MI) Community Orchestra. She is also an extraordinary jazz improvisor has appeared at KCH many times, often at Edgefest.