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Artist Profiles

Billy Bang

By Published: May 7, 2004
Bang?s recording catalogue is exceptional in its quality and extent. He is able to bring his unique sound and compositional skills as solo performer to group leader or member across the full range of jazz genres. Recent releases and tours bear this out and encompass a dizzying array of sound. From the highly accessible swing and mainstream sound of Bang On (Justin Time, 1997) and Big Bang Theory (Justin Time, 2000) to his inventive FAB trio with bassist Joe Fonda and drummer Barry Altschul ( Transforming the Space , CIMP, 2003) and TriFactor collaboration with multi percussionist Kahil El?Zabar and baritone saxophonist Hamiet Bluiett ( If You Believe, 8th Harmonic Breakdown , 2002), Bang somehow keeps it all in perfect perspective. ?It?s all a continuum?but yes I do focus in on certain areas of my music when I am in certain environments. I wouldn?t play the same way with Joe Fonda and Barry Altschul as I would with Kahil and Bluiett?I try to be as appropriate to the music as I am to myself. But ultimately it is going to still be Bang.? The eagerly anticipated NYC debut of TriFactor who are fresh from a successful European tour that included Poland, Austria and Italy will occur at this month?s Vision Festival.

Recent winner of The Association for Independent Music?s 2003 Indie award for best mainstream jazz recording, Vietnam: The Aftermath is a personal and artistic triumph that displays the best of Bang?s abilities: socially meaningful compositions that feature his unique instrumental voice in the context of other world-class musicians. Musically combining Asian cultural signifiers with a full range of jazz and blues, it is the powerful first statement of a planned trilogy that has allowed Bang to begin to restructure his life and provide a forum for others to face their own recollections of that period. ?I was very very reluctant in doing that album?I had been sort of subjugating that whole entire period somewhere way down deep in my mind?not trying to have it come up at all but what I was doing was living as though I was half a person all the time and when it had a tendency to try to come up I would try to dampen it by alcohol or drugs?it brought me to a lot of emotions - tears, sadness, some happiness - it was extremely emotional for me to write the music for that as well as rehearsing it and recording it, it didn?t stop.?

The world premiere of the sequel to Vietnam: The Aftermath occurs this month at the Up Over Jazz Café ©n Brooklyn. Bang will bring together musicians from the first CD but also plans to include Vietnamese musicians on the recording. ?The core will pretty much be the same group with John Hicks on piano, Curtis Lundy on bass, Michael Carvin on drums, Ted Daniel on trumpet, of course [tenor saxophonist] Frank Lowe is not with us anymore, God rest his soul, but I was talking to Henry Threadgill and it depends on his schedule.? With the second CD scheduled to be recorded this month, Bang is already enthusiastically planning the third piece of his Vietnam trilogy and his return there for the first time since 1968. ?What?s ultimately going to happen is there is going to be a documentary?filmed in the country of Vietnam and there is where I will really be performing with Vietnamese musicians. We are trying to organize this with the National Orchestra of Vietnam where I bring Butch Morris there to conduct them. That?s the real ultimate project?that should be the trilogy that should hopefully resolve this journey that I am on right now.?

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Photo Credit
Alan Nahigian

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