the suite unraveling
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the suite unraveling

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE
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"Catch the unfolding saga of ‘Monduna’ live on stage"

Lily Maase has one week to learn several pieces of new music before she hits the road for a month for a lecture tour and a few concerts with her band. With the first installment of their graphic novel performance work, “Monduna,” completed, Maase and producer Drayton Hiers are contemplating future chapters before her trip to the southwest.

“We’re using it as a vehicle to get underappreciated but really amazing music heard,” Maase said. “The [jazz] club scene is flailing and really unpleasant. It’s an attitude around the music which is causing audiences to dwindle.”

Originally from Albuquerque, N.M., Maase grew up in a musician’s household, learning how to play the guitar from her father at the age of seven.

“I grew up sitting backstage, in the control room at his concerts,” Maase said. “He’s such a wonderful teacher and person and tries to do things for the right reasons philosophically all the time. That’s the reason I’m a musician.”

ADVERTISEMENTAfter studying music composition in the University of North Texas and playing music with avant garde and indie rock bands in Denton, Texas, Maase moved to New York two years ago to pursue a career in jazz. She met a number of like-minded musicians and artists in Brooklyn, but found few opportunities to perform and compose in established music venues. Maase also discovered something else about her work.

“I have a lot more in common with a number of visual artists,” Maase said. “Playing improvised music is not to play fancy notes and chores but to tell a story. I found that as I was exploring a group of notes, a certain person came to mind, and music became a vehicle for my storytelling.”

Maase pursued this form of narrative music storytelling by organizing musicians she met in Brooklyn or recently moved to the city from Texas. In late 2005, Maase helped form Addtract, which was a composition collective that produced concert series in Fort Greene and later in the Bushwick Public Works, a loft space where Maase currently lives and works. The concerts began attracting visual artists in Gowanus and Bushwick, as well as actors, theater producers, playwrights, and designers, who wanted to participate in the shows.

“Nothing linear ever works for me,” Maase said. “It’s important to not look at everybody else in the city and see what they’re doing. It’s your experience here and you can only do what’s in your own nature to do. I try to find people with similar natures and build that into something where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.”

Maase began collaborating with her fellow musicians and neighborhood writers and producers, including playwright and theater producer Drayton Hiers, who showed an interest in her work. She sought to create an experimental music performance where audience members and performers could interact with each other while coming together for parties at the Bushwick Public Works.

“I thought, for a whole season, let’s have a weird story where everybody has a character and the story unfolds like a graphic novel over the whole season,” Maase said.

Last year, Maase and other members of the Addtract Consortium began writing “Monduna,” a graphic novel performance that takes place in a post-apocalyptic Mad Max version of Bushwick. The story centers on a woman who lives in a desert streetscape and starts collecting people she meets in a large tower to protect them against evil sandstorms, which destroy human technological innovation.

“A mysterious third character will emerge at the next party,” Maase said. “That’s what we’re thinking about now ��“ how we should introduce the next character.”

Monduna features a series of performance art parties, which feature avant garde jazz music, graphic novel art panels, sound painting, theatrical set pieces and a man in a gold dress. That would be Hiers.

“Monduna is something where people can choose to place themselves in the show and interact with the performers,” Hiers said.

Hiers’ role, according to Maase, is to employ different techniques from set design, light and sound design to make the story fit appropriately into the performance space.

“We can get stuck in this city, thinking, I’m this kind of person or I’m in this scene,” Hiers said. “Well, no, it’s all art and life. It’s all this act we’re engaging in.”

Maase hopes that the shows will bring in a diverse audience interested in discovering the connections between visual art and music composition and those who just want to come to a party in Bushwick.

“Ultimately it’s all about people. Connecting to people is more important than making a product or developing a career. As human beings, we’re capable of making concepts greater than ourselves and we’re obligated to go out and celebrate that.”

The next installment of Addtract’s Monduna will be occurring on May 3 at 9:30 p.m. at the Bushwick Public Works on 330 Melrose Street, and a kickoff party is planned for Open studios on June 6, time TBA. For more information, visit www.rules-of-addtraction.org.

- the Bushwick Courier


"unbind."

With the release of the outstanding Unbind, guitarist/composer Lily Maase continues to hone her musico-philosophic voice. She and her quintet, theSuiteUnraveling have created music that lives at the boundaries of jazz and progressive or art rock, being neither and both, with a message that is profoundly uplifting.
The band is different from that on her previous release Aftermath (LMS, 2005) released more than two years ago. That was her Texas band, while theSuiteUnraveling is her New York band, although bassist Matt Wigton and drummer Fred Kennedy know Maase from Texas. Joining them are alto and soprano saxophonist Peter Van Huffel whose own album Silvester Battlefield (Fresh Sound New Talent, 2007) was released to high acclaim and tenor saxophonist Evan Smith.

Maase's compositional style, at least at this point in her career, is (usually) to tie together a very strong and memorable thematic phrase and place it within the context of a specific mood. The intersection of the two is developed through the arrangement, which has both controlled and free sections deftly spliced together.

The music that comes out of this process is both intensely personal and abstractly utopian. It beckons the listener to enter Maase's world of emotion and sound and explore it along with her; one does not remain detached for very long. Each piece has an identity that is fleshed out by the band within the limits of the arrangement. The personalities of these particular band members take the music in a specific direction—a different band would create something else.

The music is driven by its bottom, and Wigton and Kennedy are a superb unit. Wigton's sound is extremely tight and powerful and his unerring rhythmic sense meshes perfectly with Kennedy's multi-phase driving pulse. Van Huffel and Smith play in front of this snarling beast both as a team in harmony and separately. Van Huffel is particularly effective on the higher horns and manages to play “inside” and “outside” the basically static harmony.

Behind all of this is Maase's guitar, which she uses less as a single-line instrument and more as way to give harmonic color, but not by simply strumming. She uses many different techniques that help shape the overall sound.

Unbind, while having twelve tracks, is an organic whole. With one exception, the main tracks are surrounded by short electronic-laden vignettes that cleanse the ears. They separate and connect what precedes and what follows, providing an emotional bridge.

Containing actual masterpieces such as “Made To Be Broken,” “The Great Escape” and “Anaphora” and with “Reduction Sketch” not far behind, Unbind is a thrilling and fulfilling work of sound and emotion. - AllAboutJazz.com


"The Making of Relentless Faith"

The Making of ‘Relentless Faith’

Art is about finding solutions for Lily Maase.

The Brooklyn-based guitarist is coming back to Denton for the first time in more than two years. Maase graduated from the jazz studies program at the University of North Texas in 2004.

“I really look at art as being a form of creative problem-solving,” Maase said. “Really what it comes down to is: Who am I and what am I expressing, and do I have the tools to express those things, and if I don’t, how do I go about acquiring those tools?”

And from there, how does she go about sharing those tools?

Maase will do a solo show tonight at Dan’s Silverleaf, then give a performance and masterclass at UNT on Friday afternoon.

“I’m a working guitarist and there’s a lot of guitar nerd things I could talk about,” she said of her masterclass. But she also plans to discuss the philosophy behind her art, and how she’s worked out solutions to some of her puzzles—like how one manages to survive as a working guitarist in the Big Apple.

“I pretty much left everything I owned—I literally showed up in New York with a suitcase and a guitar,” she said. It took “relentless faith in myself,” she said.

She found lodging and creative cooperation at the Bushwick Department of Public Works—the loft apartment she shares with seven roommates who work in painting, film and other different art forms. Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY has something of an arts renaissance going on, and “It’s all been built by twenty-something artists,” she said.

Another ongoing puzzle for Maase is how to write music that’s “basically rock,” yet accessible to people familiar with improvisational music, classical music, modern performance art and more, she said.

Her Brooklyn quintet, the Suite Unraveling, is instrumental but weaves stories the way a score to a film can. The band includes several more UNT alumni, bassist Matt Wigton and drummer Fred Kennedy.

“My band started out as a jazz band, but it’s very much like an indie rock band with two saxophones instead of a singer,” Maase said.

She and her bandmates feel more comfortable playing not in jazz clubs but at warehouse shows, happy to be sandwiched between a punk band and an Afrobeat group.

Maase also performs solo and with her Montreal-based quartet Life Without Robots, in addition to a handful of other projects. She’s affiliated with the Addtract Consortium, a collective of friends and composers in Brooklyn, Montreal and Copenhagen, Denmark, who share, support, record and distribute their own original, organic music—going at it all with a fiercely independent, do-it-yourself attitude.

“It really is a punk rock way to go about things,” Maase said.

After this month’s round of solo and educational performances across the country, Maase is going on tour with the Lascivious Biddies, a cocktail pop act.

She plays guitar for the group, naturally, but she also sings backup. Singing is part of the job, but it’s also out of sorts for an artist who often refers to herself as a singer-songwriter who sings through her instrument.

“My voice is my guitar,” Maase said, “and I fell like every time I sing and play the singing gets in the way.”

- Denton Record-Chronicle


"Lily Maase and theSuiteUnraveling - unbind. (Addtract)"

"unbind. illuminates and celebrates the human heart."

Full Article:

Guitarist/composer Lily Maase abandons the linear in this abstract/concrete musical painting that explores the wormholes of memory. With her jazz/rock/electronica chamber group, theSuiteUnraveling, Maase created unbind. from live performances (with real-time processing) recorded over a digital reconstruction of previous material and overdubbed with voice and other sounds. (A Bach composition provided the basis for some of the material.) Her shifting compositional architecture reflects our tendency to warp, recompose and manipulate memory, yet she manages to reveal its inviolable emotional cargo. Though she sometimes says too much—forgivable in so talented a young composer— unbind. illuminates and celebrates the human heart. Lily Maase appears in a free concert at UNM’s Keller Hall on Sept. 4 at 7:30 p.m. - the Weekly Alibi


"Ex-Albuquerque composer brings her new quintet to Outpost's Creative Soundscape Festival"

" 'My own compositions incorporate the idea of contemporary classical composition, of jazz improvisation, of rock styles, of the sort of the wildness of free jazz, and it takes all of these and makes them sort of palettes that you can dip into to paint a new canvas.' "

Full Article:

Guitarist, composer and Albuquerque native Lily Maase has been living in Brooklyn, N.Y., for about 10 months now, yet she's accomplished what sounds like 10 years' worth of work already.

She has produced a CD of engaging and critically acclaimed new music, aftermath; premiered a major composition, Hall of Mirrors, at Brooklyn's CAVEgallery; formed a brand-new quintet, theSuiteUnraveling, which she's bringing to Albuquerque; been performing regularly with the New York SoundPainting Orchestra; collected a gaggle of guitar students; and been happily assaulted by an unprecedented creative surge that keeps her composing nonstop.

"I can't say that it's not very challenging on a day-to-day basis, just figuring out how to exist in this crazy city," she says via phone between students. "But the creative chaos and the personal chaos have just been amazing, and the things that it's done for my music ... it's been an incredibly liberating experience."

A graduate of the University of Texas’ jazz studies program, Maase had been making a name for herself on the Dallas music scene. Then, a trip to the Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music, run by trumpeter Dave Douglas, a friend and mentor, changed everything last year.

“I lived in the woods in the Canadian Rockies for three weeks with Dave and a large number of professional New York musicians and 65 students who are just some of the most amazing musicians I’ve ever met,� she says. Many of these folks, Maase discovered, shared her musical language, something that had been missing in Dallas.

“All of a sudden, music went from being this incredible struggle to being incredibly easy,� she says.

Two months after the workshop ended, she moved to New York, home to many of her colinguists, where she’s busy reinventing music.

Noting that the average trained musician today is familiar with everything from Bach to the thorniest contemporary composers, as well as the language of jazz, rock and electronic music, she says, “If creative improvised music is going to survive in this era when you can download pop music on your cell phone, there needs to be a new fusion. We need to take all of this music and make it new, but also something that is meaningful to young people today.

"My own compositions incorporate the idea of contemporary classical composition, of jazz improvisation, of rock styles, of the sort of the wildness of free jazz, and it takes all of these and makes them sort of palettes that you can dip into to paint a new canvas."

Add modern technology, experimental compositional approaches, killer technique and a fearless sense of fun, and you've got some seriously remarkable new music.
The Lily Maase Quintet with Peter Van Huffel (alto sax), Evan Smith (tenor sax), Matt Wigton (bass) and Fred Kennedy (drums) will be painting new sounds at several events this week. Check www.lilymaase.com for additional information.

- Mel Minter - Weekly Alibi


"theSuiteUnraveling at 55Bar"

"Maase has not stood still over the past year, and this music, with this band was extremely emotionally as well as cerebrally rewarding."

Full Article:

theSuiteUnraveling, Lily Maase's current New York group, played the early show at 55Bar to a good crowd. The gig started late because Maase's guitar decided to buzz uncontrollably, and she ran uptown, returning with an Ibanez in a cardboard box. It served its purpose, despite the fact that it refused to stay in tune, and that its electronics behaved differently than her main axe.

Murphy's Law turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because what was supposed to be two shorter sets ended up being one longer set with no break. This served her music well because despite the fact that there are individual compositions that can stand apart, they could be easily viewed as a "suite"? that literally "unraveled"? in front of the audience.

Having reviewed Aftermath about one year ago, I had an idea of what to expect from Maase and was curious to hear her development. If the disc then showed Maase to be a very talented composer, the performance declared her to be very sharp and extremely confident. While not knowing the full details of her music's construction, I can say that much is composed as cells which are characterized by a riff, vamp, motive, rhythmic feel or some combination of these elements. The cells are not to be played in order but signals from Maase to the others, and some between the band members, created the piece from the parts.

Maase and the band are as much about artistic vision as about a groove you can feel. As the small flyers that were distributed at the seats explained, "We believe creative music should speak the language of now. That the language is as fresh as it has ever been. That young musicians are called to pull the language out of yesterday and into tomorrow." Also, "We are five musicians with a common vision. Our paths began different places but have merged in Brooklyn and Queens, New York. We believe in organic music and in new interactions between improviser and form. We do not believe in music stands. We do not read music on stage. We believe in the sanctity of standard jazz and the vivacity of rock and roll. Thank you for listening."

Obviously then, the band must be extremely well rehearsed and exuded a sense that combined an intensity of purpose with the calm preparedness. There existed no clear line between the composed and the improvised, except when the horns of Peter Van Huffel and Evan Smith played in unison or harmony, but even then they would drift apart while listening closely to each other. Maase seems partial to the interval of a second, both major and minor, and the microtones even closer, which create both difference tones and overtones that add a shimmer to the overall sound.

Huffel and Smith do not really function as a front line since the band's esthetic is not that of soloist/accompaniment. There is some blowing here, some guitar there, a drummer/bass event at the right point, but mostly the music was made by the group with different subgroups emphasized at different times. A lot of the connective tissue that bound things together came from Fred Kennedy on drums and Matt Wigton on bass. They were extremely tight and led the band's tight turns on Maase's signals. Wigton's bass tone was amazingly sharp and focused for an electric bass, and after the set we talked a bit about his efforts with the electronics he used to create this sound.

Maase uses her guitar to lead the proceedings by a repeated line or chord series, and occasionally adds rhythmic support. What she does looks simple, but do not be fooled, that is just what she chooses to do, and again, an extended guitar solo, conventional or not, is not what this music is about.

At times soft and plaintive, surrounded by the sounds of multiple singing bowls, or, for extra effect, Wigton's voice, the music could change gears and grow into a powerful wall of sound. Maase has not stood still over the past year, and this music, with this band was extremely emotionally as well as cerebrally rewarding.

Lily Maase: guitar, compositions
Peter Van Huffel: alto & soprano saxophone, clarinet
Evan Smith: tenor saxophone
Matt Wigton: electric bass
Fred Kennedy: drums

- Bud Koppman - All About Jazz


"theSuiteUnraveling at the Cornelia Street Cafe, NYC"

"Put simply, this was powerful music that rocked and cooked, propelled by very strong themes, vamps and grooves. These compositions told stories, having a dramatic arch as well as a continual, forward-moving narrative. "

Full Article:

theSuiteUnraveling is guitarist/composer Lily Maase's working quintet comprised of Peter Van Huffel (alto and soprano saxophones), whose own album Silvester Battlefield (Fresh Sound New Talent, 2007) was released to high acclaim, Evan Smith (tenor saxophone), Matt Wigton (electric bass) and Fred Kennedy (drums). This gig was tied to a CD release party for her new album Unbind, which was a long time coming, as it followed her previous release Aftermath (Self Published, 2005) by well over two years.

Maase, based in Bushwick, Brooklyn, is a bundle of entrepreneurial energy who desires nothing less than to create a new center for the creative arts, including jazz, through the founding of the AddTract Consortium.

This consortium reflects Maase's convictions that composition is central to the future of jazz and that young people need to be developed as listeners. What this means is that her work emphasizes structure while not sacrificing openness and that its rhythms include those of progressive/art rock.

theSuiteUnraveling is the vehicle for the expression of her philosophy (musical and otherwise), and she views the outside musical activities of the band members, who lead or play in other groups, as a positive, bringing welcome feedback and input to her own project. What became clear as the set progressed is that Maase's compositions are sturdy skeletons fleshed out in the moment by players given considerable freedom. That this band has been together for quite a while only intensifies the feeling of music that is organically created from a flexible yet resilient base —music that only this group and this particular mix of musical personalities could have produced at a given moment.

Put simply, this was powerful music that rocked and cooked, propelled by very strong themes, vamps and grooves. These compositions told stories, having a dramatic arch as well as a continual, forward-moving narrative. As at the band's last gig at 55 Bar, and on Aftermath and Unbind, Maase used her guitar as a sonic resource and conductor rather than a virtuoso's solo instrument. She does have the technique, but chooses not to use it, playing instead some of the strangest chord forms this reviewer has ever heard.

The set began with two tunes from Unbind, “Made To Be Broken” and “The Great Escape.” Both use a harmonic pedal point and eschew normal changes. The band's sound is anchored by the bass of Wigton, who has managed, through his electronics, to create a sound that has absolutely no flab— tight, razor- edged, penetrating and growling. Teaming up with him is Kennedy, who enhances the simple drive of rock with many counter rhythms, producing an undulating, very funky and flexible underpinning.

The front line of Van Huffel and Smith interact with each other and with Maase. In this set, Van Huffel took most of the solos, with Smith playing supporting lines around him. “Made To Be Broken” has an uplifting, heroic theme that maintains an intense contrast with the ominous bass drone. Van Huffel's solo was both ”inside” and “outside,” producing goose bumps as the tune reached its climax by reintroducing the simple harmonic changes spiced this time around with note clashes.

”The Great Escape” was, if anything, even more intense in its faster tempo and thrashing bass and drums, complete with a theme of self-assurance and defiance. Full of drama, with Wigton and Kennedy keeping the listener locked in and off balance at the same time, the tune built to a high level of controlled chaos that, rather than seeming self-indulgent, proved very exciting.

After an interlude of two lower energy pieces, the marvelous set ended with “Anaphora,” which Maase promised would wake us up — and so it did. Following another ominous beginning, defined by Wigton's bass with slashing drums from Kennedy, the piece continued to add textures as horn and guitar fought it out, then the other horn entered, each player in turn contributing once again to the sense of controlled chaos. Wigton and Kennedy reentered, bringing the piece to a thrilling climax.

Maase has a compositional philosophy and style that continue to be honed, sharpened and refined without ever letting up on the intensity of the musical experience. She already has a distinctive voice, whose presence and familiarity can only grow as her music attracts listeners coming from many directions.

- Bud Koppman, All About Jazz - All About Jazz


Discography

Music for Robots I (Addtract, 2010)
Live in Bushwick. (DVD - Addtract, 2010)
Unbind. (Addtract, 2007)

Photos

Bio

   Fresh from the Brooklyn underground, guitarist/composer Lily Maase is at the forefront of the arts movement sweeping through the recently-reclaimed industrial neighborhood known as Bushwick, where she has built fully-equipped stages onto warehouse rooftops, recorded music in cavernous basements and abandoned churches, won over-the-top shred guitar competitions and built a multimedia experience around her new music ensemble, the Suite Unraveling, with her own two hands.

    More rock band than jazz quintet, yet playing music more improvised than composed, Lily and the Suite (Michael Kammers, saxophone/farfisa organ; Curt Garey, drums) have one foot planted in the world of rock and roll and the other firmly in the avant-garde, embracing influences as broad as Ornette Coleman, electronic music, and guitar heroes from the days of yore.  The goal?  To create something honest and new, steeped in the sensibility of simpler times, but reaching with reckless abandon into the sonic landscape that lays ahead.

   Music for Robots, the Suite Unraveling's sophomore release, is available in digital and hand-printed compact disc format through CDBaby.com.