Milwaukee’s Improvised Music Renaissance

Nov. 3, 2016
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Peter Evans and Sam Pluta

To those in the know, Milwaukee has emerged as a serious center for improvised music. Major voices have recently brought their joyful noise to our fair city and the coming weeks hold more soul-stirring, mind-expanding creative music. Those who crave subversive sounds, meditators in search of music and everyday aesthetes should have their datebooks at the ready.

In the past fortnight Riverwest’s Woodland Pattern Books has hosted a reading by author, radio host, teacher, record producer, concert promoter, and gallery owner John Corbett from his new tome “A Listener's Guide to Free Improvisation,” which was tastefully interspersed with musical musings by saxophonist Nick Mazzarella. Woodland Pattern also packed its performance space for a duo of bassist John Lindberg and bona fide legend, Pulitzer Prize nominee Wadada Leo Smith. Such sweet thunder continues at Woodland Pattern on Sunday, November 13, with the seventh installment of The Transatlantic Bridge – an ongoing series that couples French and American musicians.

The Sugar Maple, located in Bay View, is another major venue for Milwaukee’s improvised music renaissance. The atmospheric space recently featured Nohband with David Torn, Tim Berne and Dave King – three heavyweights of experimental jazz. As host of the monthly Options Milwaukee series, the Sugar Maple will be presenting the Sam Pluta (live electronics) and Peter Evans (trumpets) duo on Sunday, November 6, from 7-9 p.m. The duo have collaborated in a number of contexts since 2008, giving Pluta and Evans the opportunity to develop a musical sympathy that lends itself to engaging electro-acoustic explorations.

An overview of improvised music in Milwaukee would not be complete without a hearty “hail!” to the Jazz Estate, which is reopening after a long hibernation. The remodeled venue will be hosting live music every Thursday and Sunday with a well-stocked November calendar and bar.

To stay abreast of Milwaukee’s ample offerings of jazz and improvised music, visit MKE Jazz Vision and sign up for their newsletter.


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