Talking Pictures
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Talking Pictures

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As a description, “excellent & baffling music” seems as good as any for what Talking Pictures will be doing at the Cultch on Saturday (November 7). At least that’s what it says on the event poster, which also proclaims that the local quartet will be sharing the stage (and an upcoming recording project) with the Seattle-based
husband-and-wife team of Wayne Horvitz and Robin Holcomb. He sometimes sounds like a postmodern Thelonious Monk, only funkier; she writes wonderfully enigmatic art songs; and their Canadian friends excel at scoring movies for the mind. It’s a match made in heaven.
- The Georgia Straight


The relationship between the improvising communities in Vancouver and Seattle is a long one. Perhaps nowhere is the depth of the creative collaborations between the two West Coast cities better expressed than in the ongoing work between local quartet Talking Pictures and Seattle-based pianist/composers Robin Holcomb and Wayne Horvitz. Besides being influenced by Holcomb's groundbreaking work in the New York Composers Orchestra in the 1980s, Talking Pictures recorded with Horvitz as recently as 2005's excellent release Intersection Poems.
Now the players reunite for another evening of new compositions by Holcomb, guitarist Ron Samworth and cellist Peggy Lee. Horvitz, trumpeter Bill Clark and drummer Dylan van der Schyff round out the performers.
At one of Commercial Drive's busy coffee shops, Holcomb and Samworth chatted about the upcoming performance.
"I've been a fan of Robin and Wayne's music for over 20 years and their late '80s work in New York and that whole downtown scene generated a lot of interest out here and was key in my forming Talking Pictures," says Samworth. "In about 1987, I met Wayne at a workshop at the Western Front and when it came time to find some people to collaborate with, I looked for him again.
"Since he was based back in Seattle, it was easier to do and we've done quite a few things and I always wanted to do something with both he and Robin together."
Vancouver, Seattle players get it all together once more file:///C:Documents%20and%20Settings/koralee/Desktop/TP_Nov7_Pro...
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Holcomb is pleased to be writing for her Northern compatriots. She has been visiting town while learning new pieces and co-writing with Lee. The experience is rewarding.
"These are some of my favourite improvisors anywhere and it's always a pleasure to play and work with them," says Holcomb. "People who can play both very abstract and melodic are of great interest to me and this particular group of players is very skilled in that area.
"I know that I can write out something pretty spare and it will bloom into exactly what I want."
"Improvising together is never a problem for us because of how well we know each other," says Samworth. "It winds up sounding more composed and with Robin's work there is so much melodic and harmonic depth and space in between to explore. "It's an honour for me to play with Robin as I think she is one of North America's finest composers, and that's not just because she's sitting here."
The biggest challenge facing the international ensemble is narrowing down the material it will perform. There is so much from all the composers and new works keep being devised. Owing to children, other obligations and the fact that, well, Seattle isn't next door, the opportunities to perform together aren't as many as all would like. Taking it all on the road is a dream, but the reality is it's hard to manage.
Therefore, going into the studio is a plan.
"We'll be documenting the project and releasing something on [Vancouver-based] Songlines in the new year," says Samworth.
Until that release, this is your only chance to catch these improvising artists performing a unique new repertoire. - The Province


Discography

Ciao Bella
Mirror with a Memory
Humming
Intersection Poems
The Point of It All

Photos

Bio

In 2006, guitarist Ron Samworth’s Vancouver quartet Talking Pictures invited Seattle musicians, Robin Holcomb and Wayne Horvitz to collaborate on an arranged concert of Holcomb’s work. In 2009, a second Vancouver concert and a recording session were organized. Samworth and fellow Talking Pictures’ member, cellist Peggy Lee each composed a new song for the occasion to complement 9 pieces of Robin’s (only one of which had been recorded before) and her arrangement of Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush.
The results throw a different light on the music of one of America’s most distinctive yet ultimately elusive musicians and lyricists. As Holcomb puts it, “Talking Pictures share an intimacy and intuition that is staggering and which they apply with joyful abandon in not only our mutual improvisations but also in their interpretation of my compositions. It was a wonderful experience for me, one of those rare situations wherein I can not only improvise and do whatever arises in the moment, but can also bring to the table any music I want to – the end result doesn’t have to be only an improvised project, or a chamber music project, or a songs project or a jazz project. There is great logic in their coloration and sense of balance, no matter how seemingly chaotic or contrary….Wayne and I have been playing each other’s music for more than thirty years. Talking Pictures have played together for over fifteen years. There are a lot of historical strands at work.”
For more information: www.robinholcomb.com, www.waynehorvitz.net, www.barkingsphinx.com, www.answers.com/topic/ron-samworth, www.dkam.ca/artists/peggy-lee-band. The interview with Robin and Ron is at www.songlines.com/interviews/pointofitall.html.