Ava Mendoza + SUE-C
Between her devotion to collaboration and her nonchalant versatility, New York-based guitarist Ava Mendoza has displayed a ubiquitous presence across the creative music spectrum over the last decade or so. She has paid little heed to the constructed lines between rock, jazz, and experimental traditions and instead casually braids them together depending on the needs of a particular grouping or even a sudden moment in the middle of a given performance. Over the years she’s worked with an ever-widening group of improvisers, dating back to work with the great Lawrence “Butch” Morris. She’s performed in ensembles led by saxophonist James Brandon Lewis and trumpeter Nate Wooley, and alongside the likes of Matana Roberts, Jon Irabagon, Carla Bozulich, Nels Cline, Can vocalist Malcolm Mooney, Fred Frith, and Mike Watt.
Still, despite her collaborative inclinations she also leads her own experimental rock trio, Unnatural Ways, with bassist Tim Dahl and drummer Sam Ospovat. In late 2021 she released a dazzling solo release called New Spells, which blended freewheeling interpretations of pieces by close associates Trevor Dunn, Devin Hoff, and John Dikeman, along with a couple pieces of her own. The performances deftly illustrate the way Mendoza braids together a slew of disparate influences in a single piece, one moment tapping into the primal howl of early electric blues, then hijacking the art-noise of vintage Sonic Youth. Mendoza is a deeply instinctual player unconcerned with jazz orthodoxy. Instead, she embarks on wide-open explorations that borrow from any tradition that suits the occasion.
As the great Marc Ribot said of the album, “A beautiful, powerful and highly original solo electric guitar record—not just another record but a new sound, a new voice.” For her Big Ears performance, Mendoza has invited a collaborator from her Bay Area days at Mills College, the singular video artist Sue-C, fresh from a concert at the inaugural Monheim Triennale in Germany during the summer of 2022.