Kenny Wollesen – vibes
As it is not possible to invite Americans to the festival this year due to the pandemic, the presentation of New York music club The Stone, which started in Vilnius Jazz in 2018, will be continued virtually. Frequent guests of this club, K. Wollesen, W. Shore and D. Naujokaitis, members of the group Užupis, invite you to watch a live broadcast of their performance from Shahzad Ismaily’s studio Figure 8 in New York.
In 2017, this original trio of percussionists has appeared at the Peronas Jazz festival in Vilnius. Earlier this year, Naujokaitis, Wollesen and Haffner participated at commemorative events in Vilnius dedicated to Jonas Mekas (1922–2019), the world-famous Lithuanian artist, poet, curator and godfather of the American avant-garde film. They also have given concerts in honour of Mekas in Lithuania in the past.
Mekas was the inspirer of this group, sometimes participating in its programs as a vocalist.
Užupis was formed in 2014 at one of Soho parties and since then has performed in many of New York’s best underground clubs: Nublu, Manhattan Inn, The Stone, Trans-Pecos and others.
The sound of Užupis is unique and fertile and other-worldly, yet at the same time accessible, earthy and fresh. Much like the band’s namesake: the city/state of Užupis in Vilnius.
Before forming this group, Kenny, Will and Dalius spent many years honing their skills together in other bands, including the avant-garde Himalayas and Stone Clouds, the performance happenings of Wollesonic Laboratories, and many of Butch Morris’ ensembles.
We have already heard the percussionist Kenny Wollesen at the first presentation of The Stone in 2018, playing in a trio of pianist Brian Marcela, a rising star of New York’s avant-garde.
Lithuanian avant-garde aficionados know this percussionist quite well. He visited our country a few times in the past – appeared with guitarist Bill Frisell’s group; together with Dalius Naujokaitis and local musicians took part in Fluxus Ministry series in Vilnius and Kaunas.
These meetings resulted in album Rasa Rasa released in 2014 on the famous John Zorn’s Tzadik label. Prior to that, the project was performed at The Stone club and recorded in the studio of its founder, the legendary avant-gardist John Zorn. The album features seven Lithuanian sutartinė singers who flew to New York for that from Lithuania.
Wollesen, who has been active on the New York jazz scene for more than two decades, is called “ubiquitous” by his colleagues. He has played with performers of various genres – from Tom Waits to John Zorn, from David Byrne to Babel Gilbert, and has made hundreds of recordings. He is famous as a master of homemade instruments (Wollesonics).
The percussionist has also recorded with John Scofield, Leni Stern, Norah Jones, Myra Melford, Rufus Wainwright, Steve Beresford, David Byrne, Sylvie Courvoisier and many other coryphées. Major part (around 40 albums) of his huge discography was recorded with John Zorn. Wollesen has often collaborated with Bill Frisell, Basque vocalist Ruper Ordorika, Canadian keyboardist and composer Ellen Reid, American vocalists Jenny Scheinman and Jesse Harris.
In addition, Wollesen works with his own New Klezmer Trio, is a member of Sex Mob and Himalayas. The filmmaker Jonas Mekas has repeatedly taken part in the latter’s projects.
The musician plays the vibraphone in Nels Cline’s LOVERS project, Arto Lindsay’s Noise Quartet, Dave Harrington’s group and Butch Morris’ Nublu Orchestra, has collaborated with large ensembles at The Stone, Nublu and H0L0, and sided in Francis Harris’ albums.
In 2017, Shore released his debut solo album A Hundred Times. He also writes and produces music for NBC, ABC, Discovery Channel, National Geographic, History Channel and other television channels, and has won four ASCAP awards for it.
Dalius Naujokaitis, a drummer of avant-garde experimental music and free jazz, has resided and worked in New York for quarter of a century. However, he often comes back to Lithuania to perform. He started his jazz career here: since 1986 Naujokaitis has worked with Skirmantas Sasnauskas’ jazz ensemble, later joined Juozas Milašius’ Gitarmanija, got fascinated with noise music.
While living in Lithuania he has collaborated with many a Lithuanian jazz master including Vladimir Chekasin, Petras Vyšniauskas, Tomas Kutavičius, Eugenijus Kanevičius as well as with various rock, jazz, punk, pop music groups.
In 1995, he settled in New York and got involved in the Big Apple improvisers community. Acquainted with filmmaker Jonas Mekas, he started giving solo performances in the Anthology Film Archives, together with likeminded colleagues formed Free Music on Second Street group. Dalius’ music can be heard in four films by Mekas.
On the other side of the Atlantic the drummer performed and recorded with a number of improvisers such as Butch Morris, Art Baronas, Aaron Kean, Mike Irwin, Alex Weiss, Rocco John Iacavone, Doug Wieselman, Briggan Krauss, Nick Gianni, as well as Nublu Orchestra, Now We Are Here, Brooklyn Bears, Tiger Lithy, Nick Gianni’s Evolution, Kenny Wollesen’s Wollesonic Laboratories and The Himalayas, collaborated with dance music group Brazilian Girls and many more.
With New Yorker artist Sandra Koponen he had formed Untytė, the group singing Lithuanian sutartinės. Yet another project Rasa Rasa, designed in collaboration with Kenny Wollesen and Jonathon Haffner, united representatives of new improvised music and sutartinės singers from Lithuania. This formation has been documented on Wollesen, Haffner & Naujo: Rasa, Rasa, released on John Zorn’s legendary Tzadik in 2014.
In Lithuania he had formed Naujo Atomic Orchestra, which toured Austria and Croatia, also has collaborated with Traffic Trio, local jazz youth, Kenny Wollesen, Jonathon Haffner, Sean Francis Conway and other New Yorkers.
In addition, the musician has tried his hand in theatre and film. In 1994, together with Juozas Milašius and Vladas Pranulis he staged a theatre production Woman in the Dunes (after Kobo Abe’s novel), and with Vilija Naujokaitienė composed soundtrack for One Love Story (director Julius Žižiliauskas).
In New York, together with Ken Jacobs Naujokaitis mounted a musical film project Lumiere/Naujokaitis/Jacobs: Nervous System Concerts, has collaborated with modern dance company Limbic Six and Tiny Mythic Theatre, directed feature films.
In 2016, for contributions to Lithuanian jazz Naujokaitis was honoured with Vilnius Jazz Award.
Saxophonist Jonathon Haffner regularly collaborates with Wollesen and Naujokaitis, has participated in the recording of Rasa Rasa album, has repeatedly appeared in Lithuania, was a member of Mekas’ group Now We Are Here.
He has played and recorded music with many well-known improvisers, including Morris, Frisell, Jason Moran, Uri Caine, Jim Black, Eddie Henderson, Chris Potter, Brian Blade, Graham Haynes, Elliott Sharp, Art Baronas, David Binney, Medeski, Martin and Wood, Sex Mob and The Nublu Orchestra.
Since 2015, Jonathon has been touring the US and Europe with The Wadada Leo Smith Quartet.
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