April 22, 2017
NYU Washington, DC and CapitalBop presented composer, educator, bassist and band leader Michael Formanek and his Ensemble Kolossus. This 17-person ensemble played compositions of great rhythmic sophistication that unfold in lyrical free expression.
One marker of bassist, composer, band leader, and educator Michael Formanek's creativity and versatility is the range of distinguished musicians of several generations he's worked with.
Formanek is also a composer and leader of various bands. His principal recording and international touring vehicle is his acclaimed quartet with Tim Berne on alto saxophone, Craig Taborn on piano and Gerald Cleaver on drums, which records for ECM; 2010's The Rub and Spare Change and 2012's Small Places both earned coveted five-star raves in Down Beat. Formanek writes, and the quartet plays, compositions of great rhythmic sophistication that unfold in a natural sounding way – challenging music the players make sound like lyrical free expression. His occasional groups include the 18-piece all-star Ensemble Kolossus, roping in many New York improvisers he works with. Ensemble Kolossus recorded their first CD of all Formanek originals for the prestigious ECM label in December of 2014. The CD, The Distance was released in February 2016 and in addition to numerous other accolades also received a five-star review in Downbeat!
Formanek's other recordings as leader include Wide Open Spaces and Extended Animation for quintet and Low Profile and Nature of the Beast for seven players (all on Enja), and the solo album Am I Bothering You? (Screwgun). Mirage (Clean Feed) is by the occasional improvising trio of Formanek, tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelin and pedal steel guitarist Susan Alcorn. Thumbscrew's 2014 debut is on Cuneiform Records. Michael Formanek has also made dozens of recordings as sideman, for among others Dave Ballou, Tim Berne, Jane Ira Bloom, Dave Burrell, Harold Danko, Marty Ehrlich, Tomas Fujiwara, Gary Thomas and Jack Walrath.
As composer of works for ensembles from duo to mixed jazz and classical orchestra, Michael Formanek has received institutional support from Chamber Music America, the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, the Peabody Conservatory, the Maryland State Arts Council and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. As an educator, Formanek teaches bass and other jazz courses, and leads the Jazz Ensemble at Baltimore's Peabody Conservatory.
CapitalBop, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving, promoting and presenting jazz in Washington, D.C. We build audiences in order to build community around this music, because it’s important to the city’s historic identity, but also ever-changing and contemporary. CapitalBop.com is designed to help everyone from newcomers to jazz die-hards find live music that will fit their preferences.
The NYU Washington, DC Salon Series: Conversations with Writers & Artists offers an opportunity for the NYU and Washington, DC community to meet and engage in dialogue with acclaimed writers and artists as they reflect on their craft. This program provides facilitated conversations that aim to illuminate the guests’ creative processes, discuss their current works, and explain the impact of their work on the world around us.
Ensemble Kolossus is:
Loren Stillman, Oscar Noriega, Chris Speed, Brian Settles, Tim Berne - Reeds
Dave Ballou, Ralph Alessi, Shane Endsley, Kirk Knuffke - Trumpets
Alan Ferber, Jacob Garchik, Ben Gerstein, Jeff Nelson - Trombones
Patricia Brennan - Marimba
Mary Halvorson - Guitar
Kris Davis - Piano
Michael Formanek - Bass
Tomas Fujiwara - Drums
Mark Helias - Conductor