Location: Floor Five, Neil Bluhm Family Galleries
A trio set by cellist Tristan Honsinger with Harri Sjöström and Okkyung Lee, followed by a poetry, dance, and bass trio by Thulani Davis, Cheryl Banks-Smith and Henry Grimes initiate a ten-day performance program series for Open Plan: Cecil Taylor.
About the program
Active since the 1970s, Tristan Honsinger is a Berlin-based cellist versed in free jazz and improvisation. His violent command of the cello rivals the explosive piano attack of Taylor, whom he performed with in Europe in the 1970s and on a recording, The Hearth (FMP, 1989), with Evan Parker. Honsinger will perform a solo set on the Whitney Museum stage in this rare U.S. appearance. He will be joined by Harri Sjöström, a Berlin-based saxophonist, who also has a long history of playing with Cecil Taylor, and Okkyung Lee, a NYC-based cellist.
Three of Taylor’s collaborators unite for a special trio performance combining poetry, dance, and bass. Grammy-winning writer Thulani Davis works at the intersections of fiction, poetry, memoir, criticism, and spoken word, and performed with Cecil Taylor in the 1970s as part of his Quintet and Sextet.
Cheryl Banks-Smith is a veteran dancer, choreographer, and frequent collaborator of jazz improvisers. She performed with Cecil Taylor in the 1980s on dozens of tour stops in Europe both independently and as part of Dianne McIntyre’s troupe Sounds in Motion.
Henry Grimes is a virtuoso double-bassist who has played, toured, and recorded with the greatest jazz musicians of his era. He performed throughout the 1960s with Taylor’s band, both live and on seminal recordings such as Unit Structures (Blue Note, 1966), and most recently joined Taylor for several performances in 2006 and 2007.
Free with Museum admission. Seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis. A limited number of guaranteed seats are available for advance purchase; tickets include admission to the galleries.
Tristan Honsinger is a cello player active in free jazz and free improvisation. He is perhaps best known for his long-running collaboration with free jazz pianist Cecil Taylor and guitarist Derek Bailey. Born in Burlington, Vermont, USA, Honsinger was given music lessons from a very early age, as his mother had hopes of creating a chamber orchestra together with his brother and sister. At the age of twelve, Tristan would give concerts on a nearly weekly basis. He studied classical cello at the New England Conservatory in Boston before moving to Montreal in 1969 to avoid the draft. While in Canada, he became interested in improvisational music. Honsinger moved to Europe in 1974 and was active throughout the continent. Honsinger has a striking appearance, with body language reminiscent of that of a slapstick actor. He has experimented with a combo of three string-players (violin, cello and double bass) and drums in 1991, under the name Fields in Miniature, and has worked in other musical fields, including collaboarations with UK post punk band The Pop Group in 1979, The Ex during the early 1990s and Ig Henneman Tentet.
Davis's other theater work includes, The Souls of Black Folk: An Oratorio for Five Actors (National Black Arts Festival, 2003); Everybody’s Ruby: Story of a Murder in Florida (New York Shakespeare Festival, 1999); an adaptation of Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle (New York Shakespeare Festival, 1990) and Where the Mississippi Meets the Amazon, with Ntozake Shange & Jessica Hagedorn, (New York Shakespeare Festival, 1977). Other musical works for which she has written text include Miya Masaoka’s Dark Passages (Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, 1998) and Bernadette Speach’s A Woman Unadorned, a song cycle (Lincoln Center, NY, 1994).
Davis is a past recipient of a Lila Wallace-Readers Digest Writers Award, a PEW Foundation National Theatre Artist Residency, and a Charles H. Revson Fellowship on the Future of New York City, among numerous other awards. She is the first woman to win a Grammy winner (1993) for liner notes and the opera X is a past Grammy nominee (1993). She was a founding fellow of the Leon Levy Center for Biography at the City University of New York, and has been named a Distinguished Alumna of Barnard College. Davis was honored by the Veterans Committee of the Congressional Black Caucus in 2011 for work on President Obama’s first national monument designation-- Fort Monroe, VA, site of the 1619 landing of Africans. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Afro-American Studies and a Nellie Y. McKay Fellow at the University of Wisconsin.
Henry Grimes (upright bass, violin, poetry, illustrations) celebrated his eighteeth birthday in 2015. He is one of the very few surviving founding fathers and architects of avant-jazz from back in the late '50s and early '60s, today revered by countless musicians and music lovers throughout the world, and he is playing today at the very height of his powers and continues to surpass himself and all expectations each time out. One of the most influential jazz bassists in history, Henry studied at Juilliard for three years at a time when only "classical" music was taught there, and African-American students were very seldom accepted. But soon after leaving Juilliard, Henry rapidly evolved into a progenitor and architect of the "avant-jazz" or "free jazz" movement of the 1950s and '60s, creating new music alongside Albert Ayler, Amiri Baraka, Coleman Hawkins, Charles Mingus, Sonny Rollins, Pharoah Sanders, Cecil Taylor, and many more. Then, after thirty-five years away from the music world, Mr. Grimes was rediscovered in 2002, nearly destitute and without a bass, was given a bass by William Parker, and very soon was back in full force! Since then, Henry has played/toured/recorded with Rashied Ali, Marshall Allen, Marilyn Crispell, Bobby Few, Edward "Kidd" Jordan, Nathaniel Mackey, Roscoe Mitchell, Amina Claudine Myers, Marc Ribot, Sekou Sundiata, Wadada Leo Smith, Cecil Taylor (in renewed collaboration), and many more. Since his return in 2003, Henry has played more than 640 concerts in thirty-one countries, made his professional debut on violin at age seventy alongside Cecil Taylor at Lincoln Center, has seen the publication of the first volume of his poetry, "Signs Along the Road," and illustrates his new recordings and publications. He can be heard on ninety recordings on various labels.
Harri Sjöström founded the international Quintet Moderne and co-founded the The Player Is Trio with Teppo Hauta-aho and Philipp Wachsmann. Sjöström as well as founding the groups: Quartetto Finlandia, Wait, Motström, Up and Out, ECIO, (European Composers Improvisors Orchestra), Sestetto Internazionale; Trio Internazionale; since 1989 in collaboration with the British guitarist John Russell a.o. in Russells international Mopomoso (MOdernism POstMOdernism) projects.These ongoing ensembles and collaborations include internationally leading musicians mainly from different countries in Europe and his home country of Finland. In 1990, Harri met Cecil Taylor in Berlin and has been involved in a large number of projects with the legendary pianist and composer. Among others in: Cecil Taylor Quintet Desperados: Cecil Taylor, Paul Lovens, Teppo Hauta-aho, Tristan Honsinger, Harri Sjöström Cecil Taylor Quintet Regulus: Cecil Taylor, Tony Oxley, Barry Guy, Wolfgang Fuchs, and Harri Sjöström.Cecil Taylor Quintet: Cecil Taylor, Tristan Honsinger, Reggie Workman, Rashid Bakr, and Harri Sjöström. Cecil Taylor Quartet Qu'a: Cecil Taylor, Dominic Duval, Jackson Krall, and Sjöström. He has collaborated with notable leading improvisors in the international scene since the late 70s and performed at numerous international jazz and contemporary music festivals. Occasionally he performs solo and is involved in making film music. Sjöström has been a saxophone teacher since 1980 and is a vital member of the European contemporary improvised music scene.