Experimental films from Sky Hopinka, the return of Legalize It! with a surprise guest, and more events of note in Madison this week.
Sponsor message: The weekly Tone Madison calendar is made possible with support from Union Cab of Madison, a worker-owned cooperative providing safe and professional taxi services.
THURSDAY JUNE 6
Chicago native and currently NYC-based musician Jonah Parzen-Johnson arranges his baritone sax and synthesizers into warm and fiercely present compositions. His 2017 solo album I Try To Remember Where I Come From focuses on building strong and almost conversational melodic themes, using synths to texture and broaden the pieces but never in a way that distracts from the bright urgency of his baritone playing. He’s willing to push his approach and challenge the audience, but also seems to value the connective power of a strong hook over heady abstraction. Parzen-Johnson’s live sets work a bit more improvisation into the mix, all while deploying the sax and synth elements without a reliance on looping. He plays this Tone Madison-presented show ahead of the release of a new live record, Helsinki 8.12.18. (I believe he will have cassette copies in tow ahead of the June 7 digital release.) This release covers a whole new set of material, and documents the short but meaningful remarks Parzen-Johnson makes in between songs. Hear more from Parzen-Johnson in our recent interview for the Tone Madison podcast. Tickets are available online, and there is a discount for Tone Madison Sustainers. Café Coda’s usual Thursday night programming, Night Of The Improviser, will kick off after Jonah’s show. —Scott Gordon
FRIDAY JUNE 7
The long-running Isthmus Jazz Festival has been shaking up its format over the past couple of years. The lineup used to comprise a series of free shows at the Memorial Union Terrace, capped off by a ticketed headliner concert at the Union Theater (recent headliners have included Richard Davis and trumpeter Terence Blanchard). All well and good, but now the festival partners with a greater variety of local venues and jazz organizations, doing a bit more justice to the variety of music contemporary jazz artists are making and the variety of experiences jazz audiences can have in Madison. This year’s festival spans not just live music but also film screenings, spoken-word, and workshops and talks.
It kicks off June 7 with a small festival within a festival, Strollin’ Monroe Street, part of a Greater Madison Jazz Consortium series that threads a variety of local jazz into the life of different neighborhoods around town; this installment wraps up at Brasserie V with performances from ever-versatile guitarist Louka Patenaude and swing duo Mal-O-Dua. Saturday’s “Circus Jazz Brunch” at the Madison Circus Space just off Milwaukee Street is not only a delirious combination of words—Circus! Jazz! Brunch! I defy you to Madison harder!—but also a very solid combination of musicians, namely pianist Paul Hastil of the New Breed Jazz Jam (one of the most fun local jazz musicians to watch and just an all-around font of nimble melody), bassist John Christensen, and Patenaude again (the festival includes some repeat performances from some of the folks who really boost up the local jazz scene, and spotting them in different contexts feels like part of the fun). Chicago saxophonist Mai Sugimoto and Madison saxophonist Anders Svanoe will lead their bands on June 8 at the Winnebago, just the latest of several new jazz-friendly venues Madison has gained over the past few years.
Another busy hub for jazz, Arts + Literature Laboratory, will combine jazz and spoken word on June 9 with performances from a lineup of poets, songwriters, and rappers, namely T Banks, Zhalarina, Dequadray, and Isha Camara. The North Street Cabaret will host a June 11 screening of Martin Ritt’s 1961 film Paris Blues, set amid Paris’ expat jazz scene and scored by Duke Ellington. Drummer Matt Endres and UW-Madison professor Anthony Black will lead a June 10 talk on the improvisational techniques of legendary jazz drummer Roy Haynes and the abstract expressionist paintings of artist Bob Thompson, who often drew inspiration from jazz. Browse the full schedule, and if you prefer the “kicking back on the Terrace” part, there’s an excellent chance to do that on June 15 with music from brilliant Chicago drummer/producer Makaya McCraven and his trio, as well as trumpeter Dave Cooper, Acoplados, Devin Drobka’s Bell Dance Songs, and student ensembles from both Edgewood College and UW-Madison. Some Jazz Fest events are free and some are ticketed, so plan ahead. —Scott Gordon
The 2019 season of MMOCA’s Rooftop Cinema program kicks off with the experimental short films from Sky Hopinka. Each of the three selections at this screening deal explicitly with the political and cultural complexities of being an indigenous person in the United States. Hopinka, a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation and descendant of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, fluidly pulls together a formidable array of visual and audio techniques, and a number of different approaches to storytelling and structure. I’ll Remember You as You Were, Not As What You’ll Become (2016) honors the late poet Diane Burns through radiant footage of a powwow, selections of text, and video of Burns performing her work. Dislocation Blues (2017) examines the protests at Standing Rock through interviews with two people who participated in them, exploring not just environmental and indigenous resistance, but also the ways in which the experience shaped people on a deeply personal level. The most recent of the three films, Fainting Spells, also uses some of the program’s boldest imagery, as strands of handwritten text course across saturated, multi-layered landscapes.
The screening wraps up a busy evening at MMOCA. From 6 to 9 p.m., the museum will celebrate the opening of Choctaw-Cherokee artist Jeffrey Gibson’s new exhibition, Like A Hammer. Like Hopinka, Gibson explores his indigenous heritage with a whole variety of media and with an ability to tamp into incredibly complex themes. In Gibson’s case, the art on display will range from paintings to punching bags. He’ll be at MMOCA in person for a talk about his art. The opening will also feature music and dance from Tribalized Entertainment and, later, a set from Madison power-pop outfit Bing Bong. —Scott Gordon
TUESDAY JUNE 11
Legalize It! Mickey’s Tavern, 10 p.m. (free)
Back when Aaron Coyes and Indra Dunis of the duo Peaking Lights were living in Madison and traveling a foggy, twisting path toward the project’s dub and pop, and running the original Good Style Shop on East Wash, they also launched a recurring DJ night at Mickey’s called Legalize It!. Between 2010 and 2011 (when Coyes and Dunis moved to LA), Legalize It! featured relaxed but deeply sourced mixes from Coyes, veteran Madison DJ Evan Woodward, and their guests, sometimes mixing in live performances from Peaking Lights, Wolf Eyes, Wet Hair, Julian Lynch, and other acts. As the name suggests, there was a focus on reggae, but the collective reach of these DJs goes much further afield, into obscure corners of electronic music and international grooves. Coyes and Dunis are passing through town and will mark the occasion with a one-off revival. Woodward and Coyes will be spinning, as will Minneapolis musician Shawn Reed (of Wet Hair and Night People Records). They’ve been teasing one more special guest, and it turns out that’s Nika Roza Danilova of Zola Jesus, who will be playing a live solo set. —Scott Gordon
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