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STLJN Saturday Video Showcase: Improvisations from Gino Robair


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This week, let's take a look at some video clips featuring percussionist, composer, conceptualist and record label operator Gino Robair, who's coming to St. Louis to perform under the auspices of New Music Circle next Saturday, March 7 on the main stage of the Mildred E. Bastian Center for the Performing Arts at St. Louis Community College-Forest Park.

Based in San Francisco, Robair has been a force on the international free improv scene since the 1980s, both for his own playing and composing and for his entrepreneurial work as head of Rastascan, a record label he formed to document his own music as well as that of other free improvising musicians.

For his St. Louis gig, Robair will be performing “I, Norton," which is described both as an “improv opera" and “an opera in real time" based on the eccentric story of Joshua Norton, a San Franciscan who in 1859 declared himself “Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico."

The piece uses a combination of conventional notation, a graphic score, and conducted and free improvisation, and the St. Louis performance will feature 20-piece ensemble of musicians, most recruited locally by NMC. There is a short video excerpt online from a performance last October of “I, Norton," which for some reason I can't seem to successfully embed here, but you can watch it by following this link.

Right here on this page, we've got some videos that showcase Robair's improvisational percussion skills in a couple of different contexts. The first clip features an improvised duet by Robair and tuba player Carl Ludwig Hubsch, while the next two document part of a performance by Robair and saxophonist John Butcher last November at the Vortex Jazz Club in London.

Last but not least is a quick taste of Robair playing solo (along with a brief bit of conversation) that's excerpted from Noisy People, a feature-length documentary about San Francisco area improvisational musicians.

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