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WENDY LOOMIS: Press

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Wendy Loomis

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                            ACF Delegation to Cuba

Composer and ACF board member Carol Barnett shares her thoughts on visiting Cuba with a delegation of ACF members and friends.

 

It was a marvelously intense trip – an extraordinary opportunity to experience Cuba in greater depth than with the usual tour itinerary. This was an especially congenial group, widely varied in interests, backgrounds, and ages, but all genuinely interested in sharing new experiences.

 

One of the highlights of the trip was a Composers Salon at which Cuban musicians played short works by ACF members Mary Ellen Childs and Peter Flint as well as several works by contemporary Havana composers who were in attendance. And three of our group played their own compositions. Here is the program:

 

Composers Salon

Wednesday 18 December 2013

National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba

 

Tango                                                                                                            Wendy Loomis (ACF)

            (piano solo)                                   

 

Caribbean Studies                                                                                      Roberto Valera

            (piano solo)                       

 

Ten Thirteenths                                                                                            Peter Flint (ACF)

            (tenor saxophone and piano)

 

Estrellas (Stars)                                                                                    José Victor Gavilondo

            (piano solo)

 

Bartokianas #13 & #18                                                                        Juan Piñera

Prokofianas #3 & #14

            (violin and piano)

 

After Dust from DREAM HOUSE                                                           Mary Ellen Childs (ACF)

            (string quartet)

 

Gleaning 8 o’clock and Two at Night from 24 HOURS                      Jaroslaw Golembiowski (ACF)

            (solo piano)

 

Is It Real                                                                                                     Oliver Lake (ACF)

            (alto saxophone improvisation)

 

Concertante                                                                                               Javier Salba

Que Saxy                                                                                                   Guido Lopez Gavilan

            (saxophone quartet)

 

 

I could rhapsodize about our other musical activities: the open rehearsals by the all-women string orchestra Camerata Romeu and the fabulous Danza Contemporanea de Cuba; the fascinating lecture-demonstrations (on the social origins of jazz/fusion in Cuba; the historical origins of son, rumba, danzon, cancion and punto; batá drumming and its relationship to the practice of Santeria); a charming performance of Cuban choral music for young voices by Coro Diminuto; a rumba demonstration in the midst of an open air public art installation by Salvador Gonzalez (murals rivaling Mexico’s best). We were led on a walking tour through Central Havana to visit home shrines dedicated to the practice of Palo del Monte and Santeria, to learn more about the African beliefs that are still inextricably woven throughout Cuban culture and music.  And we took frequent advantage of our passes to the 28thHavana International Jazz Festival.

 

 

I could enthusiastically recount our non-musical activities: walks in Old Havana with its fascinating architecture and artisan shops (think graphic arts co-op, a perfumerie, and textiles shops as well as the usual souvenir opportunities), an exuberantly-guided tour of the Cuban Collection in the National Museum of Fine Arts, a visit to Hemmingway’s country house (providing an opportunity to see a bit of the Cuban countryside). We had dinner at the gallery of internationally celebrated visual artist Kadir Lopez, who has also become a successful entrepreneur – an example of Cuba’s baby steps into private enterprise.

 

 

I could make you salivate by describing our experience of Cuba’s emerging foodie scene – several masterfully-prepared meals in paladars/private home restaurants, another of the tentative experiments in private entrepreneurship.

 

 

But the most important thing was the enthusiastic communication with Cuban artists and people, not just after the scheduled events but at the jazz concerts, on the streets, in the restaurants, everywhere. Jahi Lake was invited to spend a day in a Havana recording studio. Oliver Lake sat in with NG la Banda during the Jazz Festival. Chus Alvarez added his flute to the trio that played for us at lunch one day. And of course, after the Composers Salon we mingled, exchanged scores, CDs and cards, and talked of the possibility of returning for the Havana Contemporary Music Festival in November 2014. As gifts, we brought along copies of a CD of contemporary Cuban art music, produced for this trip from INNOVA files by Philip Blackburn. It included music by Leo Brouwer, Roberto Vizcaino, Orlando Jacinta Garcia, and a new recording of pianist/composer José Echaniz’s 1926 Cuban Rhapsody: a Concert Paraphrase on Ignacio Cervantes’ Potpourri of National Airs

 

It was inspiring to observe how Cuba is dealing with the privations resulting from the continuing embargo.  They are slowly rebuilding the many ruins, reinvesting profits from renovated buildings into more renovation. There is some foreign investment – the Cuban government keeps 51% of the profits – and new structures are going up. They are producing their own delicious organic vegetables. Those show-piece antique cars that appear in many Cuba tourist photos are only part of the story; there are plenty of ancient rattle-traps still being used as taxis – I rode in a 50-year-old Soviet-made Lada that had very little interior and left a trail of noxious exhaust… This is a very interesting time for Cuba – change is definitely in the air.  I hope that when the embargo ends, Cuba will retain its wonderfully multi-sourced culture and not be totally engulfed by MacDonalds arches and Coke cans.

 

I hope we can return for another visit – soon. 

 

Contributed by Carol Barnett

WENDY LOOMIS

"Artistic director, pianist and composer Wendy Loomis paints with a broad palette of jazz, classical, new age, avant garde and world colors, fusing styles ranging from Debussy to Thelonius Monk. Her dynamic performance at the piano throughout 'Later Than You Think' by turns floats through the soundscape, supports the other instrumentalists, vamps under poet Royal's voice, then drives the ensemble with funky rhythms and jabbing, percussive chords."

Kelley Dolan - NoHands Records

PIANO & FRIENDS - CD

"Thanks for your CD...Piano and Friends. Very nice! Especially your solo (thoroughly 20th - 21st Century pieces... ) the ones that "classical types" would appreciate. Survival, M/F1, M/F2, M/F3."

Ricard de la Rosa - Pro Piano

Phoenix Rising

 

Mystic Places – PHOENIX RISING (compositions by Wendy Loomis; arrangements by Monica Williams)

In '09, Phoenix Rising issued Ascension, a New Age/classicalist CD limning the sort of work most deserving of the sobriquet of 'meditation music', an intelligent blend of pastoral music and moody reflection that cajoled the listener into a slower regard for life and its moments. However, not everything in it was in largo mode though each track was well imbued with serious songsmithing and expanded borders. Well, it's now 2014, and, as good as that disc was, this one's even better. In fact, the opening Atlantis is stunning, something Oregon, were that glorious ensemble still existent, would be envious of.

As before, Phoenix Rising is just two women, Wendy Loomis (keyboards, percussion) and Monica Williams (winds), but their attention to craft and dimension fills up every measure of the 14 compositions. They need little else, their partnership more than sufficient. As readers of my work over 30 years will attest, I'm not noted for forbearance when it comes to New Age music, but this duet's materials hark back to the birth of the genre from the cradle of pop rock and serious World traditions. Where Paul Winter left off and eventually became largely schlocky, Williams and Loomis remained behind and stole ever more deeply into the heart and soul of the thinking that made those germinal days so striking and appealing. Ah, but the secret is that they understood and thus injected themselves into the task of keeping such heady rapturous forms of expression alive, transcending time considerations, ignoring the so-called 'eras', making music that never ages a day.

What I'm saying is that this is very rare stuff. It's almost scary how damn good it is. I was genuinely thrilled as thunder pealed in the opening to Piseco, Williams' flute owl-gliding in an arbor as Loomis laid down Native percussives, everything becoming ever more revealing as a second flute, this one played by the 11-year old Native American Taylor Alyssa Lai in breathtakingly beautiful accompaniment, wove itself into the three-dimensional tableau. I've hiked the forest being sketched—Lake Cuyamaca and environs in my case, but it doesn't matter which tract the players had in mind—and the short succinct song captures it to a 'T'.

When I listen to work this stratospheric in elementality, I all of a sudden remember what a damn shame it was when the Windham Hill label shut down and especially when William Ackerman's pristine work ceased. Well, with Mystic Places, that pain is well assuaged.

 

Everything's Coming Up Music at CAE


On May 30 at 7:30 pm at the Shadelands Auditorium, CAE’s Jazz Band and Flock of Flutes (FOF) combine for another exciting evening of music. The Jazz Band will be swinging to the beat of such Big Band favorites as Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman and much more. Meanwhile, the flock will perform “Night on a Bald Mountain” by Mussorgsky, “Barber of Seville” by Rossini, and Korean Folk Songs arranged by Kelly Via. A highlight of the evening will be “Poem for Innocence” by local composer/pianist Wendy Loomis.

“Wendy is known for mixing it up in her compositions, fusing styles that range from Debussy to Thelonious Monk,” says FOF director Monica Williams. Most recently, Wendy’s composition “Egyptian Fantasy” was licensed to documentary director Lillie Paquette for her upcoming film We Are Egypt: The Story Behind the Revolution. As a solo pianist, and with various ensembles, Wendy has performed in London, Los Angeles, Austin, Boston, Pittsfield, Nashville, and throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

“FOF actually commissioned Wendy to write 'Poem for Innocence' for us,” says Monica. “We first performed it in 2005 and look forward to playing it again at our joint concert with the Jazz Band.” The piece utilizes a narrator, the flute choir and an optional percussion part that features an Afro-Cuban rhythm played in contrast with the flutes. “The idea of the piece is that a sense of innocence was present on the days before major disasters,” explains Wendy. “We all remember what we were doing on 9/11, but does anyone remember the day before? While the narrator lists specific dates when major disasters took place, the piece has an optimistic view that the universe, as we know it, will continue.”

Tickets are $10 and can be purchased by calling (925) 943-5846 or online.

ASCENSION - CD

"One of the more interesting releases so far this year, Ascension from Phoenix Rising (pianist Wendy Loomis and flutist Monica Williams) musically interprets the seven charkas using an assortment of acoustic instruments played by both the duo and six different guest artists. Despite this mixed bag approach, the CD's musical theme is manifested by the presence of Loomis (who composed the tracks) and Williams (who arranged them). Other artists on the CD are Jennifer Lim on guzheng, Debra Podjed on tabla, Jessica Styler on hang drum, Suellen Primose on cello, Irina Mikhailova on vocals, and Karen Segal on guitar. You can tell by these diverse global instruments that the album bears some world music influences, but overall this is better described as contemporary acoustic music. Or you could simply say these eight women craft music of warmth and beauty that touches the heart and soul with gentleness and grace. Either way, Ascension is a musical delight to be cherished."  

Bill Binkelman - New Age Retailer

ASCENSION - CD

"The title track for Phoenix Rising's Ascension begins with an emotionally dense composition that plays heavily in a classical style, but does not have any of the stuffiness or must associated with the classical style. Rather, what Phoenix Rising does during this track is weave a rich narrative through the entirety of the track's 7 minute runtime. For the act, there does not need to be anything vocal present; the intrepid and talented arrangements that act as guideposts for listeners here ensure that a vocal side to Phoenix Rising is not needed at this juncture. For individuals that may have been educated on the virtues of vocal music, purchasing a copy of Ascension is vital to increase the appreciation that one can have for music. I know that I am typically not a fan of instrumental music, but what is done with each of the album's seven cuts is glorious, providing the listener with heady music that will require multiple spins before that time when they can truly get everything that the members of Phoenix Rising have included on Ascension. There may only be seven tracks on Ascension, but do not let it seem as if Phoenix Rising is just riding out a few themes. Rather, the extended length of the tracks on Ascension allow Phoenix Rising to essentially expand on different topics and themes to their logical conclusion, rather than being forced to cram in a brief array of thoughts and feelings into a space that is decidedly too short for it. Furthermore, the tracks on Ascension have links between each other, as well to the conception of the album itself. That is to say, the thoughts and emotions touched on during Creation constitute an album-wide phenomenon, which means that for full enjoyment, listeners should secret themselves away to a quiet room and fully enjoy what has been committed to disc by the members of Phoenix Rising. When I am looking for a clean and crisp set of compositions, Ascension will be the first album that I reach for. I eagerly anticipate the band's future recordings, if not only to see the new ground the act will touch upon in the years to come."

NeuFutur Magazine

WHISPERS - CD

"A press release that Delvian Records sent out with 'Whispers' described this 2005 release as "a film score awaiting a film." All too often, labels get so caught up in their own hype that they make statements in press releases that are far removed from reality. But in the case of Whispers, the phrase "a film score awaiting a film" does have some validity; there are times when this 54-minute CD -- like a lot of new age releases -- really does sound like it could be used as a soundtrack for some type of European art film. But 'Whispers' isn't new age in the strict sense; actually, the music that acoustic pianist/composer Wendy Loomis and flutist Monica Williams (who comprise the Bay Area duo Phoenix Rising) provide on this disc is essentially acoustic post-bop jazz that has been influenced by European classical and chamber music as well as some of the more substantial new age recordings. 'Whispers' can, at times, be slightly avant-garde, but for the most part, Loomis and Williams are lyrical and fairly accessible -- and the type of jazz improvisers who have had the greatest influence on this duo are folks like Keith Jarrett and Ahmad Jamal, not radically avant-garde free jazz agitators. Despite being an American duo and having a lot of American influences, Phoenix Rising often projects a European quality; again, it isn't hard to imagine parts of this album being used in an artsy film from Spain, Italy, Belgium, or France. Although a bit uneven, 'Whispers' has more ups than downs and indicates that Phoenix Rising is worth keeping an eye on."

Alex Henderson - All Music Guide

PHOENIX RISING

"I first heard Phoenix Rising at Listen & Be Heard Poetry Cafe last month, and I was impressed. Wendy Loomis is the composer/pianist and Monica Williams plays flute. They are delightful performers and extraordinarily talented. I was instantly and completely enthralled by the mythic quality of their music. Their debut CD, 'Whispers', is inspiring. Though the music transcends classification, you'll find it listed as New Classical/Jazz. It definitely has a classical influence, as I swear I can hear George Gershwin in Wendy's piano playing. But then the haunting melodies of Monica's flutes are reminiscent of Native American spiritual music. Stir that combination with jazz and just a sprinkling of spoken word, and you've got the delicious blend of Whispers cooked up by Phoenix Rising..."

Cyndi Combs - Listen + Be Heard

Copus

COPUS

"From San Francisco group Copus comes one of the most intriguing, challenging and ultimately satisfying albums of the year. The core of the group is composer, musical director, and co-producer Wendy Loomis. Together with poet Royal Kent, they produce music that is part jazz, part classical, cerebral and sexy."

Tom Kidd - Music Connection Magazine

COPUS

"Copus is a musical group with some of the most talented musicians that I have yet come across. The music is a mixture of spoken word, jazz, a touch of blues, and a hint of classical styles. This music is a little difficult to compare to anyone else because I have never really heard anyone like this group. The jazz styles are very complex and the music that is created is absolutely masterful. The musical virtuosity of the members in this group is absolutely amazing. Having this much talent in one band should be a crime. The music develops into a sort of scenic painting in your mind as it is played. The warmth and soul of the musicians is almost seamlessly produced throughout the entire album. This is musicianship and songwriting at its best...I recommend this be one of the first choices for Spoken Word Album of the Year..."

Michael Allison - MusicDish.com

LATER THAN YOU THINK - CD

"I was deeply impressed by the COPUS CD. It is very fine music you have made!"

Christopher deLaurenti - KSER FM Radio Seattle