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Ken Thomson

Ken Thomson is a staple of New York City’s contemporary music and jazz communities, and is widely regarded for his ability to blend a rich variety of influences and styles into his own musical language while maintaining a voice unmistakably his own. Embracing the combination of complexity in harmony, rhythm, and form while adding a punk-rock aesthetic, Thomson has carved out a unique corner in today’s multifaceted musical world.

As a performer-composer bridging jazz and contemporary music, Thomson has released two albums with his group Slow/Fast. The most recent of these, Settle, was praised by the New York Times for its “intricate long-form compositions,” and garnered a five-star review in All About Jazz. The Chicago Reader wrote, “Few musicians travel as assuredly and meaningfully between jazz and new music.... Thomson’s pieces breathe and emanate an infectious energy, with every wend and wind hurtling the music forward rather than showing off the band’s chops.” He released an album of his compositions for the heralded JACK Quartet, entitled Thaw, on Cantaloupe Music. The record was called the #1 Classical CD of 2013 by Rhapsody, and was among NPR’s “10 Songs Public Radio Can’t Stop Playing.” His 2016 release, Restless, features two major works for cello and piano performed by Ashley Bathgate and Karl Larson. It garnered a 7.9 Pitchfork review and received “Top of 2016” accolades from writers Seth Colter Walls, Steve Smith (Log Journal) and AnEarful, which wrote, “No album in 2016 in any genre did more with less than Restless, featuring two huge-sounding chamber works composed by Thomson.”

Thomson plays clarinet for the Bang on a Can All-Stars, one of the world’s preeminent new music ensembles. He is the musical director for the Asphalt Orchestra – a 12-piece next- generation avant-garde marching band, called “cooly brilliant, infectious” and “top notch players” by the New York Times. He plays saxophone and is one of the four composers in the punk/jazz band Gutbucket, with whom he has toured internationally to 20 countries and 32 states over 17 years, and released six albums and a DVD for Knitting Factory, Enja, NRW, Cantaloupe and Cuneiform Records. He is on faculty at the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival.

As a composer, Thomson has been commissioned by the American Composers Orchestra, Bang on a Can, the True/False Film Festival, Doug Perkins, Mariel Roberts, and others; and has received awards from New Music USA, ASCAP and Meet the Composer. The New York Times reviewed the world premiere of his Wait Your Turn at Carnegie Hall, saying: “The concert ended on a high note ... the music offered a density worthy of the closing bars of a Led Zeppelin epic.” The Times also called his work seasonal.disorder for the Bang on a Can All- Stars, “a virtuoso piece.”

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Album Discography

Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

America at War

Sunnyside Records



New Focus Recordings



Cantaloupe Music



NCM East



Cantaloupe Music




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