You may or may not have noticed that Big Ears is hosting quite a few artists represented by our friends at ECM Records. Emphasizing improvisation from the outset, ECM and its artists issue immensely vital music, and we are delighted to welcome some of their finest musicians to the festival this year.
The inimitable Carla Bley will deliver two performances at Big Ears: on Thursday night she will perform with the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra at the historic Tennessee Theatre, while her Saturday evening performance with Carla Bley Trios at the Bijou Theatre will include Steve Swallow and Andy Sheppard.
Festivalgoers will have three opportunities to see works by composer and double bassist Gavin Bryars, including a Saturday evening performance with the Gavin Bryars Ensemble, marking the group’s first-ever performance in the United States. Performing to Bryars’ minimalist classic The Sinking of the Titanic on Sunday night will be turntablist Philip Jeck, featuring projection design by Big Ears alumnus Bill Morrison alongside artist Laurie Olinder. To witness Gavin Bryars’ work come to life through one of the foremost American choral ensembles working today, Big Ears patrons should attend The Crossing’s performance of Gavin Bryars’ The Fifth Century with Prism at the beautiful Church Street United Methodist Church.
We’re especially thrilled to host prolific performing artist Meredith Monk for some very special performances during the festival weekend. Monk and a quartet version of her Vocal Ensemble will perform The Soul’s Messenger, showcasing pieces from some of her most celebrated works such as Atlas, Mercy, and Dolmen Music. Sure to be a highlight, the Tennessee Theatre will host a rare 35mm screening of her 1988 experimental feature film Book of Days, which Monk describes as “a film for the ears.”
Continually revered by The New York Times and The New Yorker, jazz vocalist and new music composer Theo Bleckmann will treat us to two bewitching performances at Big Ears. On Saturday night, his Theo Bleckmann Quintet will take the Bijou Theatre stage for a legendary collaborative performance. Bleckmann will be joined by jazz guitarist Ben Monder, who was featured on David Bowie’s final album Blackstar, for a special duo collaboration at The Standard on Sunday evening.
Making a rare concert appearance in the United States, Norwegian hardanger fiddle player Nils Økland will deliver three performances over the weekend — with this band on Friday, with organ extraordinaire Sigbjørn Apeland on Saturday, and with jazz musician and composer Mats Eilertsen on Sunday. These once-in-a-lifetime Big Ears collaborations are sure to be some of the most memorable experiences at the festival.
Evocative trumpet player Arve Henriksen, one of the world’s most distinctive and in demand musicians, will be joined by keyboard virtuoso Ståle Storløkken on the world class pipe organ at Church Street United Methodist Church for a memorable Friday night concert. Henriksen and Storløkken will also be joined by producer Helge Sten on Sunday evening to perform as Supersilent for the band’s first visit to the United States since a brief tour in 2004.
Rounding out the list of ECM artists at the festival this year is Frode Haltli, who is taking the accordion into exciting and previously unimagined musical realms. We’re excited to present two opportunities to catch the virtuosic performer over the weekend. With his latest work, The Border Woods, Haltli will perform with percussion and the Swedish nyckelharpa on Friday and Saturday night at the Knoxville Museum of Art for a unique experience of new world music. For an intimate solo performance, Haltli will deliver a solo set for festival fans at St. John’s Cathedral.
The detailed concert schedule is live on the Big Ears website here, so make sure to plan accordingly to experience these spellbinding artists during your curated festival weekend. It’s a rare sonic journey…not to be missed.