I am part of several active performing ensembles, or less pretentiously, bands.

DC Improvisers Collective (DCIC)

The DC Improvisers Collective is a quartet exploring the intersection of jazz, contemporary composition and rock music. Their current lineup features Ben Azzara (drums), Jonathan Matis (guitar), and Mike Sebastian (reeds). These musicians come together from diverse backgrounds, bringing experience from performing in rock bands and jazz groups, as well as post-classical composition.

With ears wide open, they craft intricate compositions on the fly. Although the common metaphor for group improvisation often seems to be conversation, this metaphor fails to capture the true real-time, simultaneous collaboration that fuels the work. Equal parts tightrope act and group meditation, the ensemble explores the fertile territory of surprise just beyond the boundary where words fail. Drawing on the visceral energy and immediacy of rock music, along with the spontaneous creativity and subtlety of the jazz tradition, DCIC is able to forge new music that possesses both great intensity and mindful nuance.

The music of DCIC has found receptive ears in the rock world, for example they performed several concerts during 2007 as the backing band for Joe Lally (of Fugazi). DCIC also finds themselves rooted firmly in the jazz world; they have performed alongside many of the nation's cutting-edge improvising musicians as well as performing with Blue Note recording artist Greg Osby.


Low End String Quartet

The Low End String Quartet is a re-imagining of the classical string quartet. The instrumentation differs, adding a bass, dropping a violin, and swapping an electric guitar where the viola should be. All instruments are amplified. This "new and improved" string quartet lineup is much better suited to alternative venues than the classical model, and is better equipped for rumbling your ribcage.

This is not your average chamber music ensemble. The Low End String Quartet's style lies squarely at the intersection of the post-classical, avant-jazz, and post-rock worlds. Their music reflects the influence of modern luminaries such as Steve Reich, Phillip Glass, and Terry Riley, as well as the ecstatic music of Anthony Braxton, Albert Ayler, John Coltrane, and Rhys Chatham. The group's members have played in rock bands, jazz groups, classical and new music ensembles. This wide range of experience allows them to draw on the best practices of each: the visceral excitement of rock, the spontaneous creativity of jazz, and the rigor of the post-classical tradition.

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Using the sound of the spoken voice, instrumental accompaniment and electronic processing, Eigenvalues (Cameron McPhee and Jonathan Matis) compose and perform material that blurs the boundaries between music and literary art. Weaving together original and found text with composed and improvised music, Cameron and Jonathan's work is unique, artistically compelling and socially relevant.

This is a novel and creative redefining of text-setting, of putting words to music, of putting music to words and transforming the boundary between them. Starting from scratch, Eigenvalues is discovering how to combine words and music in a way that retains the integrity of both the spoken language and the musical composition.

This project unites Matis's skill as a composer and musician with McPhee's training in the theater allowing for a collaboration that is simultaneously imbued with experience and unfamiliar and challenging to both artists. Jonathan Matis is a composer and performer whose work actively combines the practices of composition and improvisation. He has performed and recorded with a variety of ensembles, and is a co-founder of the DC Improvisers Collective (DCIC), a quartet exploring the intersection of jazz, contemporary composition and experimental music. Performing with electric guitar, a small collection of low-tech preparations, and live signal processing, Matis coaxes textures from the instrument - in addition to the occasional tried-and-true plucked string approach. Cameron McPhee has performed on and written for the stage since she was a child. Trained in theater at the New World Conservatory for the Arts, her love of the avant-garde has driven her to push the boundaries of traditional theatrical forms.

The name, Eigenvalues, is a tribute to Jonathan and Cameron's faith in the mathematical (ordered and random) universe. The name represents the uniqueness of this project as well as its attempt to bring text and music together into one singular plane.

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Fending / Matis

The Fending/Matis duo explores the fertile territory between composition and improvisation. Their repertoire consists of pieces utilizing various degrees of precomposed structures and materials combined with improvisation in various ways. Fending and Matis have been performing together for years as members of the DC-based improv ensemble, Gray Code.

Both performers specialize in extended techniques of their instruments. Matis incorporates various tools and implements in addition to electronic signal processing to coax unusual sounds from the guitar. Fending brings a wide variety of experience with percussion instruments of the world into play on what at first appears somewhat like a typical jazz kit. Easily able to free himself of the timekeeper role, Fending is an elegant colorist informed by rigorous technique. Both players have extensive experience with ensemble deep listening and improvisation.

Perhaps it could be called post-rock? Maybe it's free jazz? Or possibly D) none of the above?

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