Improvisation Summit of Portland Photo Journal

ISP 2016 PJCE Holland Andrews – 3


John Gross Trio

John Gross is one of Portland’s long time improvisers, and his trio consisting of an eight-string guitar and drums demonstrates what is contemporary in jazz composition. Arrangements aren’t immediately understandable, there is nothing linear about it. Gross and his saxophone moods are supported by ever-shifting rhythm and instruments used to their most percussive potential. The guitarist gets alot of bass out of his extra two strings (typical guitars have only six). For their final piece, they crushed jazz and from the aftermath was some kind of rock.

Danielle Ross

She is only one in many stars. As a creative dancer, Ross continues to cause confusion for me, which is a sign of diligence to me. It could also be intentional obfuscation due to constant uncertainty. Ross may be expressing this side of the practice with her paper scribbling and doodles which indicate the thought process of a work. It is just as self-involved as it is exterior, objective. She pauses in thought as if totally alone, she looks at the audience without fear.


Fucking hell man. These guys are ripping it apart. What is it? Cohesive music? Improvisation is sometimes that and sometimes not. Here is a group that works within the incoherent. They are a first-time improvisation, so part of that is the freshness of this collaboration. Mendoza, the guitarist, shines more than she did lastnight, in part because she’s not competing with two other guitars. Electric keyboard and guitar with baritone sax offers great range and texture. Vinny Golia has a way of ripping through everything with his pure, crisp horn. Thollem’s new digital keyboard gives him the option to break out from his chops and enter the atonal wonderland.

Juniana Lanning with (Visual Artist)

Otherworldly tones that I would love to take a nap with. Usually I prefer silence with sleep, but I suppose in this case, I just want to take a nap right in my chair. I like when music does that for me, although it can be hard in the social environment of this festival. Juniana is a recording engineer and experimental musician. Her sounds were collected from field recordings with studio manipulations. With the power of the Ableton Live software, she uses her studio skills for performance. (Visual Artist) offered a very slow, strange dance with this giant rope. Cast against a stark light, her shadow becomes the proverbial dark world. I think this helped me nod off.

Vinny Golia

The seasoned player has a sound that you recognize even when you haven’t heard them, or hadn’t realized you heard them. I’m pretty sure this guy is a master. Right now he’s on bass clarinet. He’s got total control over that reed. Players who can rip through scales and harmonize rarely also manifest the hidden layers of the reed. This dude has it. I can’t believe I’ve never heard him before, or at least as far as I know.

Ava Mendoza with Halfbird

Ava has been, in some ways, the rock star of this year’s festival. She performed every night, but she also just looks really good while playing music that most people consider really bad. Of course, we love it, and now I’m an Ava fan. Her technique is solid. For this set, I felt like she was relaxed, ready to throw down some licks. Halfbird is an aggressive improv group, judging from this set. Alto sax, electric guitar, drums. In the mid-eighties heavily influenced by Ornette Coleman first, then Brotzmann and Sharrock, there was more of this brand of free hard rock-jazz going around. At least that’s what I was reminded of here.

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  1. Kate

    Looking forward to the video footage of Holland Andrews and Chris Johnedis.- the only part of the ISP I caught but I’d like to relive that. Holland has a strong voice even as it quivers, Johnedis on the drums seems to steady and ground the emotion – they make a thoughtful, moving performance.

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