Jazz on Sunday
Matt Turner

“…Turner dazzles with his own improvisational excursions and displays his expansive cello vocabulary….”

Strings Magazine

Internationally Acclaimed Jazz Cellist

Accompanied by Greg Pagel, piano
and Devin Drobka, drums

Sunday, September 25, 2016, 3:00 PM

Following the performance will be a question and answer session with the musicians.

The Brink Lounge

701 E. Washington Ave. Madison, WI

Matt Turner

About the Musicians

MATT TURNER is widely regarded as one of the world's leading improvising cellists. Equally skilled as a pianist, Turner performs in myriad of styles and has shared the stage with Cape Breton fiddle sensation Natalie MacMaster, avant-garde musicians Marilyn Crispell, Peter Kowald, Pauline Oliveros, Hal Rammel, Guillermo Gregorio, Scott Fields, and John Butcher, country musician Wanda Vick, singer-songwriter LJ Booth, and jazz musician Bobby McFerrin to name a few and has performed in Canada, Europe and Asia. He appears on over 100 recordings on Sketch/Harmonia Mundi, Nato /Hope Street, Ayler, Clean Feed, Illusions, Music and Arts, Accurate, Polyvinyl, Cadence Jazz and others and has recorded with jazz violinist Randy Sabien, goth vocalist/pianist Jo Gabriel, singer-songwriters Mark Croft and Tret Fure, punk artist Kyle Fischer, Kitty Brazelton’s chamber rockestra Dadadah, alt-country band Heller Mason and with the Pointless Orchestra. As a leader, Turner’s recordings appear on Illusions, Stellar, O.O. Discs, Asian Improv, Penumbra, Fever Pitch, Geode, Tautology, and Meniscus Records. Turner is a Yamaha Performing Artist and currently performs and records with Bill Carrothers, Randy Sabien, Hal Rammel, Janet Planet, and Karmadog. Turner teaches in the Jazz & Improvisational Music Department at Lawrence University.

GREG PAGEL has been a professional musician and composer for over 20 years. Having begun playing piano and composing at the age of nine, he went on to receive a Bachelor of Music degree from Lawrence University and a Master of Music Degree from New England Conservatory. In the 1990’s, he was an active performer in the Boston jazz and avant-gardemusic scene, playing in many clubs, coffeehouses, and concert venues. Since 1999, Greg has been played jazz, rock and classical music with many of the finest musicians in the Midwest. Greg has composed and arranged music for several theatrical productions, as well as anoriginal score for the classic silent film Nosferatu. In 2004, Greg’s solo CD, Plastic Machine Music, received a five-star rating from CDBaby.com, the world’s largest online independent music store. Since 2013, Greg has been a staff critic for the American Record Guide, the longest-running classical music magazine in the country.

DEVIN DROBKA, a Native of Milwaukee, has been playing drums for the past 21 years. Devin holds a BFA in Jazz Percussion Performance from the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. While in Boston Devin had the chance to play with Joe Lovano, Greg Osby, Dave Santoro, Ed Tomassi, Steve Slagle, Ken Cervenka, Cecil McBee, and Fred Hersch. After graduating Devin played with world renowned saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi for 3 years. Devin moved to New York City to hone his craft in 2010. While there he had the chance to play with Ben Monder, John McNeil, Jorge Roeder, Dan Blake, Jake Henry, Curtis MacDonald, Kyle Nasser, Joe Martin and Tadataka Unno. Currently Devin is keeping a busy playing/touring/teaching schedule in the Midwest and East Coast.


Interview With Matt Turner

A recent interview with Matt Turner by Toni Jakovec, Madison Music Collective board member follows along with biographies of the featured musicians.

Toni Jakovec: Did you start out as a classical cellist or were you always interested in jazz?

Matt Turner: The answer to both questions is “yes.” I started out as a classical pianist and then a year with the cello, but I was always interested in improvising. Both of my parents were musicians, so all kinds of music was always played at my house.

TJ: Your parents were both musicians. What did they play?

MT: My mother was a pianist and my dad was a saxophonist. My dad was also an orchestra teacher for over 30 years. I was exposed to a very nice mix of different music growing up.

TJ: I see that. How much does classical training influence the theory and execution required for improvisation?

MT: Well, that’s kind of a difficult question to answer. For me I would say, studying both piano and cello in the classical realm was good for my technique. I had a lot of theory training as well, and that was beneficial as well in terms of improvising and playing your instrument. But I’ve noticed several other musicians without that training that play beautifully. I can also argue that classical training can be rather stifling when it comes to improvising. Learning and unlearning and putting it all together.

TJ: That’s very nicely put, thank you. At what point did you become interested in improvisation?

MT: From a very early age, I remember sitting at the piano when I was 3 and four, making things up. I was encouraged, from a very early age, by my parents to improvise. My dad improvised in his orchestra, which was very unusual at that time.

TJ: Aside from your father, where there musicians who influenced you in your early years?

MT: My dad played a lot of John Coltrane, Ellington and Charlie Parker. I would definitely say they influenced my music. In terms of people I actually met, Randy Sabien was a huge influence. I met Randy when he as probably 21. He was a great inspiration for me, as one of the first improvisational string players I met. To actually work with someone like that was terrific.

TJ: I would like to understand the improvisational process a musician goes through to create an avant- garde or free form piece. Do you start out with a concept before you record or perform, or do you just let it fly?

MT: Generally we “just let it fly” as you said. I’d like to point out, however, we don’t just play anything we’d like. There is much listening and modulating together. We are reacting and basically having a conversation between and among the musicians in the group. For example, I’ve been working with Greg Pagel (pianist) for a very long time. He’s an amazing musician and a great listener, and I believe you must be a great listener to improvise well. It’s important to learn when to play and when not to play and what’s appropriate to play. I’m especially excited about this concert because I have never played with Devon Drobka, the drummer. It’s important to find people who are experienced and accomplished improvisers who play many different styles. I don’t know a lot about Devon, but I know that he is very versatile. And with Greg, who has a very strong classical background, we will probably improvise a few pieces and then move into something more bebop. We are always listening to a wide range of music that we can incorporate into a performance easily and readily.

TJ: How free do you feel to challenge your core audience or an audience in general?

MT: I think it’s our responsibility to challenge the audience. Not challenges that become confrontational, such as the “I’m going to show you” position, but more about being true to what we do and offering it in a very sincere way and including the audience. I’m really into breaking down the barrier between audience and performer, and not taking the attitude that you’re going to suffer through this whether you like it or not. I think it’s all about communicating with the audience. It’s always interesting to me when someone from the audience comes up after we have performed an all improvised program and they don’t even know. They will ask, “Who wrote the music?” and I’ll tell them we improvised it, and sometimes they will say, “I can’t believe that. You must have talked about it.” I tell, no, we didn’t talk about it. I’ve been playing with some of these people for 25 years, and although every time we play something, it’s a bit different because it’s always evolving. Challenging the audience is more about opening their eyes to different possibilities.

TJ: I have heard your music described as avant-garde, free form and one writer even called it “new music.” I understand that artists disdain labels, but if I owned a record store, under what category would you be filed?

MT: That’s a good question. Everyone like to categorize. I like it when there is more blurriness. I don’t want to be boxed in anywhere. But to answer the question, you might find my albums in the experimental section in a record store. I also have some straight ahead albums that would be right at home in the jazz section. For this upcoming concert we’ll probably do a mix of experimental and maybe segue into a Horace Silver selection

TJ: So you make these programing decisions on the spot?

MT: Yes.

TJ: You really fly without a net, don’t you?

MT: That’s what makes it exciting. It’s important to be able to risk failure. But, again, it comes down to experience. If you’ve been doing this for a long time you trust everyone you’re playing with to support each other. For lack of a better way to say it, if someone is falling, there is always some there to catch them. Everyone is working together to make it all happen.

TJ: With that philosophy, each musician in the group is eager to encourage the best performance out of each member.

MT: Absolutely. I’m very selective with who I work with. I want people that have experience, otherwise it has no direction.

TJ: I understand that you teach at Lawrence University. What subjects do you teach?

MT: I direct the second jazz ensemble at Lawrence. I also direct the improvisation group, which covers a lot of what we’re talking about right now, such as freely improvised music. I also teach a couple of improvisation courses, mostly for students who have never improvised before. I teach jazz pedagogy; part of the introduction to music Ed class; jazz history and I also have a small studio.

TJ: When do you sleep?

MT: Yeah, it keeps me fairly busy.

TJ: Now a final question. It is not uncommon for cellists to also play the bass. Do you?

MT: Let’s flip that around. There are many jazz bass players who also play the cello. It’s definitely more common for bassists to pick up a cello, than the other way around. But no, I don’t play the bass.

TJ: Thank you very much, Matt. This has been fascinating, I learned a lot and I look forward to your concert at the Brink Lounge, September 25th.

The Brink Lounge