Following where music takes them

South African percussionist, American pianist join for night of jazz improvisation at An die Musik

June 28, 2007|By Matt Vensel | Matt Vensel,Sun reporter

Freedom, whether it is musical or political, is something that South African jazz percussionist Louis Moholo-Moholo can appreciate.

Jazz "is free, and freedom makes sense to me ... stretching into areas, giving you the opportunity to explore and develop many different concepts," he said.

Moholo-Moholo, a native of Capetown, was a member of the Blue Notes, a South African multiracial band that was forced out of its country in 1964 by rising racial tensions. The band took up residence in London, where it made an immediate impact on the international creative jazz scene.

In the years that followed, Moholo-Moholo traveled across the globe, collaborating and performing with such musicians as Harry Miller, Cecil Taylor, Irene Schweizer, Keith Tippett and Peter Brotzmann. His exile from South Africa ended in 1993 when his group, Viva La Black, became the first to tour the country in post-Apartheid freedom. In September 2005, he returned to Capetown for good.

Returning to South Africa was "heartbreaking but exciting, too," Moholo-Moholo said. "Returning gave me peace of mind, happiness to be returning home to my roots. However, it is a strange situation, as I am split between my home, my friends and the European music scene, where I spent 35 years of my life."

While Moholo-Moholo's odyssey back to his homeland was difficult, it allowed his musical career to blossom.

"It gave me the opportunity to explore and develop different areas of music, thus developing and expanding my horizons," Moholo-Moholo said.

Baltimore jazz enthusiasts will reap the benefits Saturday night, when Moholo-Moholo and American jazz pianist Marilyn Crispell perform together at An die Musik. The performance is part of the Creative Differences series that features musicians from the creative jazz scene.

Creative jazz is improvised, with no rehearsals or set lists.

"Jazz is a music of exploration and self-expression," Crispell said. "It gives me the freedom of doing it in the moment without a preconceived notion of what's going to happen."

What makes creative jazz special "is the fact that it is totally improvised," Creative Differences producer Bernard Lyons said. "This approach can produce beautiful, surprising music; music that would never have been written. [The audience] can literally expect anything, from lyrical jazz passages to high-energy improvisations, a meeting of African and American musical cultures."

The unique performance will be the first time that Moholo-Moholo and Crispell unite on stage.

"I'm really excited about working with Louis," Crispell said. "I'm honored to be asked to work with him."

Crispell, a Woodstock, N.Y., native, studied classical piano and composition at the New England Conservatory of Music, where, in 2004, she was named one of its 100 most outstanding alumni of the past 100 years. She has performed with numerous musicians and groups throughout her four-decade career, including the Anthony Braxton Quartet, the Reggie Workman Ensemble, the Barry Guy New Orchestra and Quartet Noir.

"Both of them individually are at the top of their games, so when you put them together, that's an amazing thing," producer Lyons said.

There's no way of knowing what will happen when the two sit down to make music together Saturday night - they don't even know - but Moholo-Moholo is anticipating the performance.

Crispell "is an exuberant and exciting musician," Moholo-Moholo said. "I played with her once in a group session a long time ago, and I am looking forward to saying hello again. People will leave the concert whistling the joyful noise."

matt.vensel@baltsun.com

Marilyn Crispell and Louis Moholo-Moholo perform at 8 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Saturday at An die Musik Live, 409 N. Charles St. Tickets are $20 ($18 for seniors and students). For more information, call 410-385-2638 or go to andiemusiklive.com.

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