There's a new downtown music series now in play that everyone who cares about forward music should take note of. The In-Between Series, which just debuted (Jan. 12), is a monthly event at the Gallery at Avalon Island. Instead of the upstairs auditorium that used to be DMAC, the performances will take over the main floor of the street-facing gallery. The idea sprang from an inquiry by Attached Hands mastermind Henry (just Henry, please) to gallery director Pat Greene about using the warm, airy space for a music performance between exhibitions when no art is displayed, hence the series name.
To kick it off, UCF music professor and frequent Accidental Music Festival performer Thad Anderson came armed with a book by Medeski Martin & Wood drummer Billy Martin and five UCF percussion majors. Unlike his very meditative and nuanced solo performance on a fancy set of bells opening for Man Forever (Dec. 15, Will's Pub), this ensemble performance was actually much more like Man Forever's drum-corps workout.
The six-man assembly began on warm wood instruments that they played like a heterogeneous orchestra, each unique part constituting a composite whole. Then they commandeered conventional drum kits like a crew team to explore percussive Venn patterns. Finally, they moved into a free-form segment that played like a spontaneous six-way rhythm conversation. There's an organic intelligence that's singular to group drumming, and Anderson's sextet illustrated it intriguingly in various phases.
But before you go thinking this is some ivory-tower parade of esoterica, the In-Between Series is actually looking a lot like a great musical bridge between the avant-garde and indie scenes, an important local conduit that seems to be strengthening. Featured acts, already confirmed through the summer, include local modern music marquee names like Attached Hands principal Henry (with noted indie-rock drummer Tyson Bodiford, Feb. 16), Maximino's Gerald Perez (March 16), Jim Ivy (May 18), Cirque du Soleil's Benoit Glazer (June 15) and Steven Head (July 13) alongside a special Accidental Music Festival presentation of NYC's Joseph Di Ponio (April 13). Moves like this forge connections that improve the artists, the community and the city's overall level of culture.
The debut event was a layer cake of art, formally with an accompanying installation by local artist Ashley Inguanta and informally with movers like local on-scene illustrator Thomas Thorspecken (analogartistdigitalworld.com) capturing the proceedings like only he does and Benoit Glazer video-documenting the performance. It's an extraordinary amount of creative energy to squeeze into an intimate, casual and public affair – and it was a cool scene. Fans of music as art, mark your calendars now. Since the performances are free, at least for now, put extra consideration into donating to the gallery.
Stepping out from noted Connecticut noisemakers Magik Markers, Elisa Ambrogio has been making some noise of her own recently since the release of her solo debut LP, The Immoralist, on Drag City. Down here on her first Florida tour (Jan. 13, Will's Pub), she was accompanied by Virginia's Nathan Bowles on drums. On guitar, Ambrogio is a master of mood and sonic suggestion. Her work with texture and mystique is enough to carry a room even with such a basic live arrangement.
Little in Ambrogio's career so far suggests a propensity for predictability or neatly resolved musical ideas, but her solo work deals in the kind of pop subversion born of the friction between soft vulnerability and druggy atmospherics. Even with her occasional lack of definition, her acumen and heavy hand in crafting palpable ambiance have the ability to powerfully resolve all.
Before Ambrogio, Nathan Bowles did his own performance, an arresting one. With folk credentials in acts like Pelt and Black Twig Pickers, Bowles couldn't come from a more different world. His skilled banjo artistry isn't the stuff of novelty or cliché. Merging Appalachian sounds with elements of drone, it's the kind of music that mines the essence of heritage, distills it and keeps it from slipping into quaint irrelevance. Bowles honors tradition, but he takes it out of its amber time capsule and keeps it a breathing, thoughtful art form capable of not just persisting but expanding.