Lingua Franca

Ken Thomson's Lingua FrancaPhoto Brad Henkel

New York’s downtown meets the international Berlin jazz scene

New virtuosic, emotive, through-composed jazz for this all-star international band of Berlin-based musicians.

Ken Thomson, saxophone/keyboards/compositions (NYC-Berlin)
Mirna Bogdanović, vocals (Slovenia-Berlin)
Keisuke Matsuno, electric guitar (Berlin)
Simon Jermyn, electric bass (Ireland-Berlin)
Ivars Arutyunyan, drums (Latvia-Berlin)

Ken Thomson’s latest project debuted on Leap Day, February 2024 in Berlin. This new band of international, virtuosic Berlin-based musicians brought to life the detailed and breathless compositions by the New Yorker turned Berliner. Ken Thomson is the clarinetist with the NY-based contemporary music group Bang on a Can, who toured Europe throughout the early 2000s in the band Gutbucket and later released leader records with his bands Slow/Fast and Sextet, and has been featured in countless clubs and festivals as a leader including the Saalfelden Jazz Festival, Bimhuis, and more.

The musicians of this project are not only well-established bandleaders in their own right, but are the type of adventurous musicians to join Ken Thomson as they fall headfirst together into the journeys of the compositions. The expressive vocalist Mirna Bogdanović who joins Thomson in the frontline of the band has won the Deutscher Jazzpreis for Debut Album of the Year in 2021 and was nominated for the Deutscher Jazzpreis Album of the Year in 2023. Keisuke Matsuno and Simon Jermyn are two of the most in-demand musicians in the city, both performing with musicians such as Jim Black, Charlotte Greve, John Zorn and many more — and whose feel, time, and expression are matched only by their compatibility as rhythm section teammates. Drummer Ivars Arutyunyan has a dual career in his native Latvia, performing with a vibrant scene and winning the “Composer of the Year” prize from National Cinema Award “Lielais Kristaps,” alongside his work in Berlin; he, too, has played across the world and performed with Seamus Blake, Wanja Slavin, and more.

Tour Dates – booking December 2024 now!

Dec 7, 2024 Tonne, Dresden
Dec 19, 2024, Unterfahrt, Munich
Dec 20, 2024 Donau115, Berlin

Here are some live audio excerpts from show at Sowieso in Berlin.  Recorded on handheld 2-track recorder.

“Suspend” rehearsal excerpt

“You Are A” (2-track acoustic gig recording)  End of Simon’s bass solo through end..

“Lingua Franca” (2-track acoustic gig recording) End of Keisuke’s guitar solo into Ivars’ drum solo (3:11) through end..

“Grey” (2-track acoustic gig recording) Getting into Ken’s alto solo..


About Ken Thomson’s Music:

“Ken Thomson’s music dances at the crossroads of contemporary classical and jazz—filled with boundless verve, blistering improvisations, and contrapuntal complexity. When he’s performing, his energy shines onstage—and when he’s writing music, it leaps off the page.” – Maggie Molloy, Second Inversion

“Mr. Thomson’s compositions are intricately wrought and incident-steeped” – Nate Chinen, The New York Times

“There are lots of jazz artists who write complex music, but much of it lays flat and sounds stiff. 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, and every deceleration and pause recasting the sections of his multipartite works rather than winding up the next display of virtuosity. “ – Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader

“kraftvoll, komplex, abwechslungsreich, leidenschaftlich, unterhaltsam.” – JazzThing

“Er ist einfach ein Gipfelstürmer” – Hans-Jürgen Schaal, JazzThetik

Listen to previous albums

Ken Thomson Sextet: “Misery is Our New Hope”

Ken Thomson and Slow/Fast: “Bend Towards Light”