SIMF #35 – 2020

The 35th Seattle Improvised Music Festival was organized by Haley Freedlund, Christopher Icasiano, and Steve Peters. It was presented by Nonsequitur, with assistance from 4 Culture and the Raynier Institute & Foundation. Haley Freedlund designed the poster.

The curatorial theme of this year’s festival was cross-generational improvisation, bringing together artists ranging in age from their teens to their 90s. The festival was dedicated to William O. “Bill” Smith, who was intended to play the featured set at the Racer Sessions but sadly passed away before the festival took place.

Originally scheduled to take place in March 2020, posters had already been printed when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and everything went into lockdown. The festival was then postponed until early September, but lockdown was still in effect by then. It seemed like the festival would have to be cancelled entirely.

Then an invitation came to curate one of four programs of performances as part of a collaborative streaming video edition of the annual High Zero Festival in Baltimore. They wanted us to contribute a solo, an ensemble, and an experimental music/video project, to which they would add a solo by a Baltimore artist. We accepted, and decided to also record on video any of the other invited Seattle musicians who still wanted to participate, resulting in an additional program streamed a week later, independently of High Zero. These performances were all recorded on September 24, 2020 at the Royal Room in Seattle by Brad Rouda. We are grateful to him and Wayne Horvitz of the Royal Room for providing a venue and the equipment needed to accomplish this. Unfortunately, the dance/music performance curated by Lorraine Lau had to be cancelled.

Participating artists:

Casey Adams, drums; Marina Albero, piano; Heather Bentley, viola; Thomas Campbell, drums; Laurel Evers, clarinet; Ben Goldberg, clarinet (Oakland); Galin Hebert, drums; Jim Knodle, trumpet; Joe McPhee, tenor sax (Poughkeepsie); Sam Newsome, soprano sax (Brooklyn); Melody Owen, video (Portland/Sydney); Dana Reason, piano (Corvallis); Dick Valentine, woodwinds; Evan Woodle, drums; Tamara Zenobia, voice; Jenny Ziefel, bass clarinet

Invited artists who did not participate:

Elby Brosch, dance; James Falzone, clarinet; Christopher Icasiano, drums; Andrew Jones, bass (Portland); Leanna Keith, flutes; Dave Knott, misc.; Rebekah Ko, percussion; Lorraine Lau, dance; Pete Leinonen, bass; Haruko Crow Nishimura, voice; William O. “Bill” Smith, clarinet; Hendri Walujo, dance; Fox Whitney, dance


The High Zero program was streamed on September 27, 2020 on Twitch. (no video available)

(13:46) Marina Albero, piano

Alison Clendaniel (Baltimore), voice (watch video here)

(14:54 + 6:00) Jim Knodle, trumpet / Casey Adams, drums / Heather Bentley, viola / Evan Woodle, drums / Jenny Ziefel, bass clarinet (watch video here)

Silent Blaze: Dana Reason, piano / Melody Owen, video (watch video here)

The second video program was streamed on October 4, 2020 on the Racer Sessions’ YouTube channel. (watch video here)

Ben Goldberg , clarinet (no audio available; see video)

(9:01 + 10:56) Laurel Evers, clarinet / Galin Hebert, drums

Sam Newsome, extended saxophones (no audio available; see video)

(16:54) Thomas Campbell, drums / Dick Valentine, woodwinds / Tamara Zenobia, voice

Joe McPhee, tenor saxophone (no audio available; see video)