Philly’s improv jazz trio needs your support. And money.
Independent musicians aren’t too proud to beg, but it helps to turn on the charm. That comes naturally to Inzinzac, described by saxophonist Dan Scofield as “an improvising jazz trio playing rock music in odd time signatures.” This week’s gig, part of the monthly Avant Ascension series, kicks off a spurt of seven shows in five cities (details and sample tracks at inzinzac.com). Then it’s off to France, homeland of Inzinzac’s guitarist and composer Alban Bailly, for a tour and cultural exchange. There’s just one problem.
“We have no money. We need some.” Scofield blurts it out before hanging his head in his hands and covering his face. The moment comes during a video pitch on Kickstarter.com, one of a number of new micro-funding platforms that enable artists to appeal directly to fans, bypassing older avenues of cultural support.
Kicking off their need for recording funds, airfare and other travel expenses, Bailly deadpans: “We also require a certain type of food on the plane.” Scofield chimes in: “We all teach during the year, so [during the tour] those children that desperately need our musical guidance will be without us, and we’ll be without their parents’ checks.”
Bailly, Scofield and drummer Eli Litwin are in their late 20s, and live in West Philly and Fishtown. They play a rough-edged, cerebral music that “shares common elements with Balkan, jazz, free improvisation and rock,” explains Scofield, who plays alto and soprano saxes and also co-leads the local quartet Shot x Shot.
“There are definitely traces of Ivo Papasov, Soft Machine and perhaps ’70s Miles Davis,” he continues. “In a way the music stems from a progressive rock ideal in that each piece contains a discernible, driving beat and a clear melody in a short, tightly wound tune, but also incorporates free, thematic-based improvisation.” Bailly, who also plays accordion, ultimately decided on guitar as the right vehicle. He named the group after a small French town where his brother lives.
One can find hints of Inzinzac’s raw, high-garage aesthetic in the music of Many Arms, Normal Love (a chamber-metal group featuring Litwin) and others active in the Philly avant-garde underground. Musicians like these are used to going their own way—launching the Avant Ascension series, for instance, or the Sci Fi series, which was co-curated by Scofield but recently halted.
It was Scofield’s work on a documentary about avant-jazz legend Sonny Simmons that led him to discover Kickstarter.com. “Traditional grants are still viable but have been thinning out,” he says, “and this new DIY method seems to be efficient.” Bailly, who is from France’s Brittany region, adds: “I’ve always been surprised at the resourcefulness of American artists who are by-and-large without the support of government or the broader society.”
Inzinzac plans to tour France in early June with a violin-drum duo called FiliaMotsa. Both bands will then hit the eastern U.S. and Canada in late August, in part with the support of the French Alliance in New York. “The ‘cultural exchange’ consists of documenting both tours from the viewpoint of the visitors,” says Scofield. “Dan and I both work in media,” adds Bailly, “and we’ll be blogging and videotaping our experiences.”
What’s on tap for Tritone? “We’re playing some new material in preparation for our recording in late spring,” Scofield says. “Also, on April 28th at the Rotunda we’ll play a series of Alban’s compositions written for the short films of Georges Méliès, to be performed as a soundtrack.” ■
Wed., Jan. 20, 9pm. $15. With Agent Moosehead + Augmented Fourthtet. Tritone, 1508 South St. 215.545.0475 tritonebar.com
PW's Music Issue 2014