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Laminal Animil, Pawan Benjamin at Communication

March 10 @ 7:30 pm - 10:00 pm

In a mood-lit gallery space, Laminal Animil (L to R: Tim Russell, Ari Smith, and Luke Leavitt) improvise in June 2022. Photo at Arts + Literature Laboratory by Grant Phipps.

In a mood-lit gallery space, Laminal Animil (L to R: Tim Russell, Ari Smith, and Luke Leavitt) improvise. Photo by Grant Phipps.

Since their live debut last summer as part of the Madison Jazz Festival, Laminal Animil have become veritable sonic explorers of our fair city. While each member of the trio—Luke Leavitt (on Fender Rhodes electric piano and Roland Juno-106 synth), Tim Russell (on drumset, percussion, and Novation Launchpad), and Ari Smith (double bass and percussion)—has a background in jazz study, their performances are less tethered to those identifiable modes than free improvisation with all the explosive discordance, softened textural interplay, and sudden, harmonious synchronizing that follows.

A commitment to extended technique has allowed the group to sort of fit the bill for any experimental occasion, whether it’s part of a jazz or electroacoustic lineup, or even something altogether more eclectic (as so often happens at DIY spaces around town). Laminal Animil share a versatility with another experimental trio, Brennan Connors And Stray Passage (Geoff Brady, Brian Grimm), who, as of 2023, should be regarded as a Madison mainstay.

Listen to Leavitt, Russell, and Smith chat about their backgrounds, methods, motivations, and academic preoccupations (especially during this silly, witty Laminal Animil interview from a few months ago), and you’ll ascertain just how their personalities interact in a musical setting with such playful intention.

At this Communication show, saxophonist, shehnai player, and Bansuri flutist Pawan Benjamin will open with a solo set that’s equally inspired by Western jazz disciplines, Hindustani, and ceremonial Nepalese music. As a former member of the Brooklyn Raga Massive, New York-based composer Benjamin has a knack for seamlessly blending a diversity of influences, as heard on his last record Tinte Baja.

While the latter is composed and adeptly arranged with an ear for a “jazzier” sound, it often feels fundamentally rhythmic, with all three players (drummer Sean Mullins and double bassist Martin Nevin) credited with malleted, auxiliary percussion on some of the pieces like “Prayer.” But if you’re also attending for the Indian raga side of Benjamin’s repertoire, he’s sure to indulge.

Grant Phipps


2645 Milwaukee Street
Madison, WI United States
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