29th Vilnius Jazz Festival. 13-16 October, 2016

Sean Noonan "A Gambler's Hand"

Sean Noonan "A Gambler's Hand" (USA/Poland):

Sean Noonan - dr, composer/storyteller
Adam Roszkowski - vl
Maciej Afanasjew - vl
Magda Małecka - vla
Jan Roszkowski – vlo

Jazz drummer writing for string quartet is a rare phenomenon. Unlike many jazz musicians who use string sections just for colour, Sean Noonan has composed an impressive post-modern jazz suite for amplified string quartet and drum kit/percussion, combining composition with improvisation, fusing the strings and percussion into one organism. Moreover, from the drum set Noonan narrates the surreal tale of a mad gambler who one day finds himself trapped inside a wall.

Based on the drummer’s absurd tale Marta Kopec, a film director, made a silent film A Gambler’s Hand in which Sean Noonan appears in the lead role. Two weeks ago the film was premiered in New York with a live accompaniment of the suite.

This project is Noonan’s first serious work as a composer, writer, storyteller and film artist. A Gambler’s Hand is the radically innovative drummer’s turn from his favourite trash- and punk-jazz projects to a totally new creative realm.

Having graduated from the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Sean Noonan, American drummer, composer and producer of Irish heritage, emerged in the underground music scene of Brooklyn as the flagman of The Hub punk-jazz trio. Later he delved into avant-garde experiments with Brewed by Noon finding inspiration in Afro-Celtic folklore.

Several years ago the drummer started improvising off stories from the drum set, which, according to him, adds expression to the music. Noonan collects diverse texts ranging from Greek Mythology to folklore of various nations, employs them in his compositions. Absurd theatre has become one of his inspiration sources.

Noonan’s projects from punk-jazz, world to Third Stream are documented on 17 albums recorded with American guitarists Marc Ribot and Aram Bajakian, poet and actor Malcolm Mooney, violinists Mat Maneri and Jason Hwang, keyboardist Matthew Bourne, bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma, vocalists Abdoulaye Diabate and Susan McKeown, New York based Momenta Quartet, and other daring improvisers.

Currently, he has been working on his new projects with pianist Alex Marcelo, Noonan’s Bavarian Trio and new group Pavees Dance, which is getting ready for recording of the album and tour in America, Europe and Asia.

The drummer singles out A Gambler’s Hand as his most ambitious project. While working on it he studied classical and contemporary string quartet music, investigated Bela Bartok, Ludwig van Beethoven, Henry Cowel’s output. Noonan admits, that with the help of the string part he wanted to emphasise percussion nuances that are usually heard only by the drummer.

It was not easy to find a string quartet for A Gambler’s Hand. Not only it had to be able to read unusual text, but also improvise in a free style. The Polish Suwalki String Quartet has met the requirements. The Quartet members are string players that feel at home in jazz, and also are composers.

Adam Roszkowski, the first violin, is passionate about jazz and improvised music. He studied violin and composition in the Academy of Music in Białystok and the Royal Conservatory in Brussels. He is also the first violin of the Chamber Orchestra BruSolistes in Brussels, the artistic director of Klasik Mjuzik Festival, the vice president of ART-S.O.S. Foundation, which supports young artists.

Maciej Afanasjew, the second violin, graduated from the Academy of Music in Katowice where he studied jazz violin and composition in the jazz and pop music department. He composes music for big bands and some of his compositions were performed in Carnegie Hall during the New York Wind Band Festival. He is a member and a founder of Maciej Afanasjew Quartet, De Pasion, The Plodders and Kanaanczy Play&Pray.

Magdalena Małecka-Wippich has degrees in viola and literature. She graduated from Fryderyk Chopin Academy of Music and Laboratoarium Dramatu in Warsaw as well as Jagiellonian University in Kraków. She founded the Opium String Quartet, which recorded three albums the first of which was nominated for Fryderyk award. She has performed in Europe, the USA, Canada and China.

Jan Roszkowski, a cellist and composer, regularly performs with his brother Adam, the Quartet’s first violin. Upon graduation from Fryderyk Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw, Jan studied cello, jazz improvisation and composition at the Manhattan School of Music in New York. He is the holder of the Fulbright scholarship.

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