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Sunday, July 28 – 4:30-6:30pm
Amirtha Kidambi & Elder Ones
+ Lisa Mezzacappa

The New York-based quartet Elder Ones — Amirtha Kidambi (compositions, voice, harmonium and synth); Matt Nelson (saxophone), Nick Dunston (bass), and Max Jaffe (drums) — drops in to Bird & Beckett on Sunday July 28, 4:30-6:30 pm, between stops at Santa Cruz’s Kuumbwa Jazz and Oakland’s Studio Grand. $20 cover charge; sliding scale available.

Bassist Lisa Mezzacappa opens with a short solo set.

Elder Ones scored this assessment in the New York Times from staff writer Ben Ratliff in the New York Times, who put their debut album on his list of Top Ten Jazz & Pop records of 2016 and wrote,

“The aggressive and sublime first album by the band Elder Ones, Holy Science, is a kind of gauge for how strong and flexible the scene of young musicians in New York’s improvised and experimental music world can be. At the center of it are drones and phonemes. Elder Ones’ leader, the composer and singer Amirtha Kidambi, holds forth behind a harmonium, the small keyboard instrument with hand-pumped bellows; it’s commonly used in bhajan, the Indian devotional-singing tradition that was central to her musical experience while growing up in a South Indian family.

“Ms. Kidambi has formal training in Carnatic and Western classical music, too, but that’s not where her input ends. In a recent conversation about where she came from and where she’s going, she discussed the Carnatic singer Sudha Ragunathan; the free jazz of John Coltrane and Albert Ayler; Alice Coltrane’s bhajan recordings from the 1980s and ’90s; Sarah Vaughan; Black Sabbath; the 20th-century classical vanguardists Varèse and Xenakis; the experimental composer Robert Ashley, with whom she worked toward the end of his life; and Renaissance motets. The common theme through them is a sense of immediacy, or what she called intensity.”

Elder Ones’ new album From Untruth (2019) builds on the bedrock foundation of Kidambi’s previous compositional and conceptual work with Elder Ones, while forging uncharted territory

After a journey into wordless abstraction on Holy Science, Kidambi felt the urgency of the political moment required a direct and verbal call to action. The lyric fragments in “Eat the Rich”, “Decolonize the Mind”, “Dance of the Subaltern” and “From Untruth” critique power structures of capitalism, racism, colonialism and fascism, distilling heavy post-colonial theory into concentrated visceral battle cries. The instrumentation adds a layer of technology as a metaphor for modernity, with Kidambi on analog synthesizer and Max Jaffe’s drumming talents extended to electronic Sensory Percussion. The frenzied improvising of Matt Nelson on soprano sax and gravity of Nick Dunston on bass, anchor the music in the tradition of free jazz, while it pushes into new futurist realms. The aesthetic seamlessly reels from modal meditation, atonal expressionism, free improvisation and melodic invention, to unabashed bursts of punk rock energy. This is Elder Ones at an unadulterated breaking point; on the edge of a knife that cuts.

Check out the company this band kept at Philadelphia’s “October Revolution in Jazz” festival last fall, by visiting this link.

A San Jose native, Kidambi earned a B.A. in Voice from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles before setting out for New York, where she received her M.M. in Voice and Musicology at CUNY Brooklyn College and her M.A. in Ethnomusicology from Columbia University. She was on faculty at Brooklyn College and currently serves on the faculty for the New School, teaching music history courses and heading a large scale curriculum development project.

Kidambi has built a substantial performing career, as a soloist, collaborator, and ensemble member in groups including Charlie Looker’s Seaven Teares, Mary Halvorson’s quintet Code Girl, analog percussion and light ensemble Ashcan Orchestra, and Darius Jones’ vocal quartet Elizabeth-Caroline Unit. As an improviser, she’s played with Matana Roberts, Tyshawn Sorey, Ingrid Laubrock, Daniel Carter, Ava Mendoza, William Parker and Trevor Dunn; recent collaborations include the premiere of AACM founder and composer/pianist Muhal Richard Abrams’ Dialogue Social.

Kidambi plays as a member of Mary Halvorson’s Code Girl at SFJazz the weekend before Elder Ones sweep through Santa Cruz’s Kuumbwa Jazz Center, San Francisco’s Bird & Beckett and Oakland’s Studio Grand. A date “in the Velvet Lounge” at Bird & Beckett and a call to action. Don’t sit this one out.


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The Bird & Beckett Cultural Legacy Project

Our events are put on under the umbrella of the nonprofit Bird & Beckett Cultural Legacy Project (the "BBCLP"). That's how we fund our ambitious schedule of 300 or so concerts and literary events every year.

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