EMIT: Tampa’s Outpost of Creative Music
by Bob Pomeroy
Chicago has a thriving jazz and experimental music scene. New York is a Mecca for such music. These are places where creative, new music seems to crop up like weeds between paving stones. Everywhere you turn, there seems to be a festival, jam session or concert happening. Pick any weekend of the year and you’re likely to find something cool happening. Tampa Bay doesn’t have a thriving jazz scene, but it does have the EMIT Series!
David Manson is the artistic director for the EMIT series. The series began in 1995 with performances at the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg. Their second concert was a performance by the experimental jazz group, Rova Saxophone Quartet. Since then, EMIT has brought creative artists as varied as Ken Vandermark, Billy Bang, Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, Dave Douglas and the Shaking Ray Levis to the Tampa Bay area. The series has been an outpost
for adventurous music loves in a region overrun with theme parks, shopping malls and prefab teen pop bands. EMIT keeps the flame of real jazz and experimental music burning.
For those of you who haven’t been to an EMIT series performance, David Manson’s new Isopin Labs imprint can help you catch up. The lable has just released a compilation of recordings from EMIT series called Visions.
Visions is representative of the range of music and spirit of adventure that characterize the EMIT shows. Sam Rivers and Evan Parker kick off the compilation with an example of instant compostion called “Confluence.” Sam showed up at Parker’s concert at the Lobby Lounge at the Hotel Detroit and brought his horn with him. Parker invited his old friend to join him and the result was magic. It’s that kind of unexpected magic that makes EMIT so
exciting. Sometimes, when all the elements are right, something truly amazing happens. You can hear some of those moments when Philip Gelb, playing the ancient Japanese Shakuhachi flute, duets with Chris Brown and his powerbook and samplers. Another example of global blending is Amy Denio’s faux Russian folk song. The lyric to Denio’s tune is made up entirely of Berlitz for traveler’s phrases. About half of the Visions disc features visiting musicians improvising with local players. Drummer Jim Stewart does a nice duet with English guitarist Derek Bailey. David Manson manipulates
live electronics in a performance with Davey Williams and Eugene Chadborne gets down with the crew from SHIM.
You can check out the sounds when EMIT’s 2002/03 season gets underway with the return of The Sam Rivers Trio on September 26. The concert will be at the Palladium in downtown St. Petersburg. For more information on EMIT shows, check out www.emitseries.org!
At the same time Isopin Labs released Visions, they released Fluid Motion. The disc is a collection of David Manson compositions performed by the Sam Rivers Trio with Manson and trumpeter Jonathan Powell. Manson describes Fluid Motion as “a dream come true.” The disc was recorded at the Spring Theater in Tampa on January 3rd of this year. “I’ve been playing in Sam River’s big band, the Rivbea Orchestra for some time now, Manson said, by way of illuminating the connection with Rivers. “I’m primarily a sub. I’ve played with them four or five times now. Sam has been on the EMIT concert series a few times and I helped him write a grant. Like a lot of other people around the State, I think he deserves a lot more recognition that he gets.”
“The great temptation was to go in with minimal charts and just do free improvisation,” Manson admits when describing how he wrote for the world class improvisers in the Sam Rivers Trio. “While that could work, I wanted to impose more structure. Every time I write, I have key players in mind. I know that whatever I write, they can play. They looked at the charts and totally got what the concept was. These are really almost neo-classical pieces. They have a European or classical kind of sound. As the group plays together, they loosen up and swing a little so they’re not quite so rigid.”
“We did the whole recording in about 3½ hours,” David said. “The advantage of this kind of music is you don’t want to do a lot of overdubbing or studio wizardry. We went into the studio and formed a circle with the group facing each other, set up the mics and played through everything twice. Of course, there was a lot of bleed over in the mics, which reduced editing possibilities. The recording may not be technically perfect but it has the spirit of communication and improvisation that you loose when you overdub.”
Florida may not be know for jazz and experimental music, but EMIT and committed people like David Manson and Sam Rivers are doing their best to at least keep the fires burning.
To find out more about the discs mentioned in this piece, check out