By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
Probably the best known of the season's performers, British saxophonist John Butcher plays solo at Focal Point on November 28. Butcher has developed an array of instrumental techniques that he has extended, over time, into a personal idiom unlike that of any other musician. At once cerebral and emotive, his playing is full of ingenious detail and sudden revelation.
Saxophonist Andre Vida, who performs on February 23 at The Forum for Contemporary Art, is the owner of a prodigious, pealing tone. A veteran of Anthony Braxton's large ensembles, Vida is capable also of subtlety, spiking the din with whispered asides and upper-register trills. Comparisons with Dolphy are inevitable, but incomplete.
The season closes with The Stephen Scott Bowed Piano Ensemble at the Christ Church Cathedral on March 14. Producing the most conventionally beautiful music of the series via some quite unconventional means, the Ensemble finds a metallic ethereality within the piano. The performance will be accompanied by a live video feed from cameras mounted above the instrument, a set-up that allows the audience a view of the inner workings.
What should have been the second, but will instead be the first, Circle/Cinema performance takes place on Feb. 19 at the St. Louis Art Museum Auditorium. Film and musicians remain to be announced. Also on this season's schedule, though as yet unconfirmed, is a showcase featuring local musicians.
"The hardest thing is to get people to be willing to try something new and to give it that chance by paying serious attention to what they're listening to," Gronau remarks. "If people still think that contemporary music is just dry and difficult, that's long over. There's nothing about contemporary music that excludes wit. And fun." Although it's unlikely that anyone will love everything equally in a given NMC season, all music fans should do their ears -- and heads -- the favor of going once, then going back.