Monday July 31, 2006

Every Show Unique

Improvisational jazz ensemble Burnt Sugar, led by Dayton natives, to perform and conduct workshops at UD.

Expect the unexpected. 

That's the advice of Dayton native Jared Nickerson for audience members of Burnt Sugar, The Arkestra Chamber, in which he plays bass guitar. The improvisational jazz ensemble — the brainchild of writer, guitarist and producer Greg Tate, also a Dayton native — will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 30, in the Kennedy Union Boll Theatre on the University of Dayton campus as part of UD's 2006-2007 Arts Series.

Tickets cost $14 for the general public; $8 for UD faculty, staff and alumni; and $5 for students. Call the UD box office at 937-229-2545.

The group will be staying at UD for most of the week prior to Saturday's performance and will conduct workshops with students from the University of Dayton and Stivers School for the Arts. Students will learn about improvisational performance and have the opportunity to perform with Burnt Sugar during the UD Arts Series Launch Party at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 29, at ArtStreet, on the corner of Kiefaber Street and Lawnview Avenue in UD's south student neighborhood. A complete list of Burnt Sugar's activities is below.

Burnt Sugar, formed in 1999, "was conceived as a contemporary version of Miles Davis' Bitches (sic) Brew band, exploring the connective tissue binding jazz, rock, funk, 20th century composition and African music in a lyrical, seductive, exploratory, improvisational manner," according to the group's Web site.

Every show is a unique musical creation as Tate guides performances using conduction, a system developed by jazz composer Lawrence "Butch" Morris to orchestrate improvisational performances. The multicultural group of performers, consisting of anywhere from 12 to 20 players, also shifts from show to show, with instruments also varying from turntables to vocalists. Members have performed with the likes of Jeff Buckley, The The, Norah Jones, P-Funk and Sheryl Crow.

"Burnt Sugar aptly summoned the spirits of chaos and order to sublime effect, unleashing a ferocious performance that left many listeners speechless and others cheering for more," John Murph of wrote in a concert review. Rolling Stone writer David Fricke called the group "a multiracial jam army" with sounds reminiscent of Miles Davis, King Crimson and Jimi Hendrix.

The UD performance will be the group's first in Dayton, and a homecoming of sorts for Nickerson and Tate.

Nickerson attended Resurrection and St. James Catholic elementary schools in Dayton and graduated from Chaminade High School in 1971. Tate attended McNary and Westwood elementary schools. He lived in West Dayton until his family moved to Washington, D.C., when he was 13.

"My mom worked as a reporter with the Dayton Journal Herald in the '60s and both my parents were very active in the local civil rights and black power movements," Tate said. "I lived across the street from a guy named Derrick Floyd who introduced me to Junie Morrison of the Ohio Players."

Tate also writes for such publications as The Village Voice, The New York Times, Rolling Stone and Vibe, and he's the author of three books, including "Everything But The Burden: What White People Are Taking From Black Culture."

Many of the Burnt Sugar members are similarly multitalented. For example, Bruce Mack, also a music teacher at a New York City public school, is featured in a film that received a rousing response at the Tribeca Film Festival, "When Fried Eggs Fly." Two screenings of the film will be held during Burnt Sugar's Dayton stay, and Mack will discuss his experiences with his work and the film.

Since 2000, Burnt Sugar has released eight discs under its Trugroid label and one on its specialty label, Avantgroid. The group performs regularly in New York City venues, including The Blue Note, The Knitting Factory and CBGBs. Burnt Sugar also has performed at such venues as the Royal Festival Hall and Marquee Club in London; Club Paradox in the Netherlands; the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.; Lincoln Center and Central Park Summerstage in New York City; and the Banlieues Bleues and Sons d'Hiver festivals in Paris.

"In their own way, the members of Burnt Sugar are musical revolutionaries intent on reviving jazz from its anemic state and injecting it with the depth, power and adventurousness of Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman and other kindred spirits," wrote Daytonian Don Thrasher, who writes about music for the Dayton Daily News, in an In These Times magazine article. "By doing so, Tate and company are creating music that is reflective of modern society and, more importantly, charting a path for the healthy future of jazz."

Burnt Sugar, The Arkestra Chamber:
List of activities scheduled during residency at the University of Dayton

"When Fried Eggs Fly:" documentary film
An inspirational story of a New York City jazz musician and educator
7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 26
Sears Recital Hall, Jesse Philips Humanities Center. Free

"More Than Hip Hop: Black Music and Culture in America"
Lecture by Greg Tate, music critic and founder of Burnt Sugar
8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 27
Marianist Hall Learning Center. Free

"Improvisation: On Creating Careers in the Arts"
Career Services panel discussion with Burnt Sugar musicians. 
3:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 29
Marianist Hall Learning Center. Free

Jam Session and Arts Series Kick-Off Party
Featuring Burnt Sugar and UD and Stivers students
7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 29
ArtStreet. Free

UD Arts Series: Burnt Sugar, the Arkestra Chamber
More than a dozen jazz musicians in a sizzling, improvisational concert
8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 30
Boll Theatre, Kennedy Union. Tickets cost $14 for the general public; $8 for UD faculty, staff and alumni; and $5 for students. Call 229-2545.

For media interviews, contact Eileen Carr at 937-229-2787. For more on UD arts events, see For more on Burnt Sugar, The Arkestra Chamber, see or