Bill Kautz - August 31, 2014

It is with great pleasure to have another opportunity to curate at The Racer Sessions! 

This week myself and Chris Icasiano will be performing duets to 5 of my compositions. The duo format has brought in a fresh breath of air to these pieces, some of which have been performed before in a few different ensembles. It’s great to hear them so youthful! 

Playing together just with one person has been one of the most accessible ways that I have grown as a musician. It’s simply not as complicated to get together and jam with one of your friends. There is also an openness and exposure that allows the instruments to resonate and show their characteristics more so than in a larger group, which includes an increased openness for an exchange of ideas and a composition’s development. You learn to fill your sound with less and also get on a stronger frequency with the individual you are playing with. 

The pieces Chris and I will be performing tonight were developed by improvising repetitively on the melodies and trying different ideas. Most of the time I stayed relatively consistent with the melodies as originally designed and Chris would try a number of different ideas with what he was hearing. We’d then conference after each piece and pick out things we liked and other directions we could take. There was a lot of importance given to working together and not one supporting the other. That’s why there are a lot of counter-melodic ideas happening throughout what we do this evening. 

For the session following our bit, I’d encourage smaller ensembles and perhaps instrumentation that is unique together. I’d also like to hear improvisations which develop a main focus, but have varying textures that evolve around the main focus. Bringing new life to a familiar idea.

Thanks and I look forward to seeing you there!

Barra Brown Quintet - August 24, 2014

I created the (BBQ Barra Brown Quintet) a little more than a year ago for two main reasons: to play with this group of musicians as much as possible and record a book of material that didn’t have a home in any of the other projects I playing with and leading (a pop rock band, an indie-folk outfit, and an electronic/experimental jazz trio). We rehearsed several times and recorded our first album live to 2-track in a tango studio very near my house in SE Portand. “Songs for a Young Heart” was released on PJCE Records last August, and the songs and band line up have changed and grown in the year since.

My formal training isn’t in improvised music, however. While studying classical flute in college, I was drumming and writing for the various jazz ensembles at Lewis &Clark.

This group is a vehicle for my compositional vision which takes influence from Debussy and Stravinsky to Radiohead and Brain Blade. I love playing with this group of people, and I write this music specifically with them in mind. I don’t know what we are; a jazz quintet, an instrumental rock band, a creative improvised something or other. We are musicians, and this is the music we play!

For this session we will play a set of newer compositions and invite free improvisation, concept based improvisation, and honest sounds!

Thomas Barber-trumpet
Nicole Glover-tenor
Bill Marsh-Guitar
Arcellus Sykes-bass
Barra Brown-drums/compositions

Phillip Greenlief - August 17, 2014


Racer Sessions extends a warm welcome to saxophonist Phillip Greenlief, in from the Bay Area this Sunday.

Since his emergence on the west coast in the late 1970s, Evander Music founder Phillip Greenlief has achieved international critical acclaim for his recordings and performances with musicians and composers in the post-jazz continuum as well as new music innovators and virtuosic improvisers. His ever-evolving relationship with the saxophone unfolds with an expansive sound vocabulary, a deep regard for melody and form and a rollicking humor and wit that is not dissimilar to the Native American Coyote tales. He is composer in residence with Rough and Tumble and teaches music at San Francisco Waldorf High School and the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts. Mr Greenlief is a recipient of the San Francisco Bay Guardian Goldie Award and served as Composer in Residence at Headlands Center for the Arts in summer 2013.

Grex - August 10, 2014


​Grex is an Oakland, California-based trio composed of me, Karl Evangelista, (guitar/vocals), Rei Scampavia (keys/vocals), and Robert Lopez (drums). In biological terms, a “grex” is an entity composed of several smaller organisms. Grex (the band) was formed as a way to explore the meeting point between popular song and experimental jazz, creating a new music that both epitomizes its influences and moves in fresh directions.

​Most of our work over the past few years has involved developing environments for improvising musicians and musicians more versed in “closed” performance practices (e.g., pre-20th century “classical” repertoire and modern pop music) to fruitfully coexist in. This emphasis may be traced to the genesis of the band; Grex was conceived of as a collaboration between me, a practicing jazz and blues musician, and Scampavia, a formally trained classical pianist. Grex was forced to confront the technical limitations fostered by the “linguistic” disconnect between musicians from different backgrounds; in this case, Scampavia and I had differing performance strategies. Grex found a happy medium wherein each member adopted elements of the other’s style. This band was, and remains, a microcosm of my larger creative inquiry: how can one reconcile disparate elements, and at the same time create a unity that is greater than the sum of its parts?

​For our set at Racer Sessions, we will draw pieces and concepts from our 2014 album Monster Music. Adding drummer Robert Lopez to the project has nudged us in both freer and heavier directions, and his ability to generate connective tissue between textural improvisation and less mobile rhythmic structures has allowed us to engage with both traditional free jazz (we include pieces by Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, and Albert Ayler in our touring repertoire) and characteristics associated with Bay Area noise pop (Deerhoof, Tune-Yards, etc.).

​In terms of categories, I cannot say whether our current music is either jazz or pop, but our pieces are seriously and diligently practiced in a way that is not in and of itself “experimental.” We have tried our best to create music that is both singular and vaguely traditional, so perhaps terms like “post jazz,” “post rock,” or even something so fraught as “postmodern” are appropriate.

The Westerlies - August 3, 2014


At our first rehearsal as an ensemble three years ago, we were faced with the immediate quandary of how to create a written repertoire and improvised language in an all-brass instrumentation. As often happens when limits are put into place, this challenge became the catalyst for inspiration; the experiments and risks we’ve taken in order to solve this fundamental question have opened the door to our questioning of the conventional roles of the trumpet and trombone.

This remains a primary factor in our composition, improvisation, and performance. In this session we will present a brief variety of pieces where we have attempted to reimagine the role of our instruments in order to create a context for other instruments of the same family. Taking this concept a step further we will open up the session per usual, encouraging instrumentations of the same family, i.e. all strings or only saxophones, to create similar limits and discover unknown possibilities.


The Westerlies

Riley Mulherkar - Trumpet

Zubin Hensler - Trumpet

Andy Clausen - Trombone

Willem de Koch - Trombone