Acclaimed internationally-touring electro-acoustic sextet for which I largely play clarinet and bass clarinet. This group, directed by the Bang on a Can collective in NYC, has worked with an exhaustive list of composers over 20 years, while focusing on the music of artistic directors Michael Gordon, David Lang, and Julia Wolfe. I have been a member of this fantastic group since 2013.
Ken Thomson Sextet
My compositions for horns and rhythm section — I’m playing alto saxophone with Anna Webber, tenor, Russ Johnson, trumpet, Alan Ferber, trombone, Adam Armstrong, bass, and Daniel Dor, drums. New record out September 7, 2018 on New Focus/Panoramic Recording (Naxos), with American and European tours.
I am the music director and alto saxophonist for this 8-piece virtuoso street band that plays music from across the world, performing outdoors at festivals and indoors at theaters across the US and Europe. After working with everyone from Yoko Ono to Goran Bregovic, David Byrne, St. Vincent, and more, Asphalt’s released a re-imagination of the Pixies record Surfer Rosa, which debuted at Lincoln Center Out of Doors in Summer 2013 and was released on Cantaloupe Music in Fall 2014. In 2018, the group played a weeklong set of concerts at the Bravo Vail music festival in Colorado.
This is long form, theatrical and often intense music for alto saxophone/bass clarinet with trumpet, guitar, bass, drums. I’m trying to synthesize some of my more rigorously composed music with the influences of jazz and improvisation. The group has released two CDs; the first, It Would Be Easier If (2010), received a feature-length review in The New York Times referring to the “intricately wrought and incident-steeped” compositions and “gutsy precision of the playing.” After the followup CD, Settle (2014), the Chicago Reader wrote, “Few musicians travel as assuredly and meaningfully between jazz and new music as saxophonist Ken Thomson.”
This punk/jazz 4-piece collective has been going strong since 1999 — having toured 33 US states and 19 countries across the USA and Europe, and released 6 CDs and a DVD on Cuneiform Records, Cantaloupe Music/Enja Records, NRW, Plattenfroster and Knitting Factory Records.
I’m on performance faculty here with an incredible team of colleagues. This festival, for emerging composers and performers, features inspiring student-fellows every summer, and is always a highlight of the year — with multiple daily concerts, packed rehearsal days, and an ending marathon concert all at the Mass MoCA museum in the Berkshires, Massachusetts.
Recorded works only - for alto saxophone, gtr, bass, drums
through-composed distorted/clean jazz quintet
More as Composer/Arranger
More as Performer
Ken Thomson & Slow/Fast: Settle critical acclaim
Thomson has a growing catalog of music written for ensembles of different sizes, and has released a number of albums with groups that he has created. His latest effort combining the sounds of jazz and contemporary music, Sextet, garnered Top of 2018 placement from websites Second Inversion and AnEarful and has toured to Europe and across the US. His previous project, a five-piece group called Slow/Fast with whom he released two albums, toured to the Saalfelden Jazz Festival and more; the group was praised by The New York Times in a full review for its “intricate long-form compositions.” He released heralded full-length CDs of his compositions in 2013 with JACK Quartet (Thaw) and in 2016 with cellist Ashley Bathgate and pianist Karl Larson (Restless). A subsequent composed chamber music release is forthcoming in 2021.
Ken 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, an 8-piece next-generation avant-garde street band. He plays saxophone and is one of the 4 composers in the punk/chamber/jazz band Gutbucket, with whom he toured internationally to twenty countries and 32 states over twenty years.
As a teaching artist, he is on faculty at the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival and has given composer master classes to multiple universities across the globe, and as guest faculty at the Vermont College of Fine Arts Masters program and a composer mentor at the Ensemble Offspring Hatched Academy in Sydney, Australia.
As a composer, he 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, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, ASCAP and the Aaron Copland Fund for Music. The New York Times wrote of his work “Wait Your Turn” for the American Composers Orchestra upon its debut at Carnegie Hall: “The concert ended on a high note…. the music offered a density worthy of the closing bars of a Led Zeppelin epic;” and of his work “seasonal.disorder” for the Bang on a Can All-Stars, “a virtuoso piece.”
As a clarinetist and saxophonist, he has performed and recorded with Ensemble Signal (conducted by Brad Lubman), working directly with composers from Steve Reich to Helmut Lachenmann and performing on CDs for Harmonia Mundi, Mode, Orange Mountain, and Cantaloupe Records. He is a frequent collaborator with many new-composed music groups including Alarm Will Sound, International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), Novus NY and more. He has also worked as a music director, notably, directing composer Julia Wolfe’s “Traveling Music” at the Bordeaux Conservatory, France, 2009, and has conducted performances of “Music for Airports” with the Bang on a Can All-Stars, choir, and guest musicians from Melbourne to Buenos Aires. With the Bang on a Can All-Stars, he has appeared as a soloist with the LA Philharmonic, Danish Radio Symphony, BBC and RTE Concert Orchestra, and more.
He has recently been the subject of profile features in Downbeat, NewMusicBox and Critical Read. He is a F. Arthur Uebel Artist and D’Addario Woodwinds Artist.