FIMAV | Natural Information Society informs you of its great sounds !

Interview by Alain Brunet

Additional Information

Originally from Philadelphia when he started his career among former members of The Roots, Joshua Abrams has long been key musician to Chicago creative new music, hybridising free jazz with western minimalism, North-African Gnawa music and other cultural sources. This eight-piece version of his band Natural Information Society — which ABRAMS dubs the “Community Ensemble” — plays unfolding and layered trance-inducing rhythms and melds, among other elements. Scott Thomson, the new  FIMAV’s artistic director, has told PAN M 360 that this group has been one of the most beautiful concerts he bought at Guelph music festival where he was also artistic director for 7 years. So? We talk to Joshua Abrams!

PAN M 360 : The guimbri, a gnawa luth that many people from Occident  discovered with the famous Moroccan group Nas El Ghiwane in the early 80’s, is a central instrument in the Natural Information Society. Can you tell us how your love and dedication for this instrument started? What does guembri bring in your ensemble’s sound? How do you see it as a soloist instrument?

Joshua Abrams :  I first heard the guimbri played by Malleem Mahmoud Ghania on the record he made w/ Pharoah Sanders, The Trance of The Seven Colors. as a bassist it grabbed my ear and imagination. It has a very vocal quality and brings together low tones and percussive sounds in a profound way. Advanced technology for centering the mind. It allows me to bring together many musical interests and methods including composition & improvisation in a personal way.

PAN M 360 : I suppose you were the first double bass player before moving from Philadelphia to Chicago, isn’t right? Is bass still as important for you as guimbri today?

 Joshua Abrams : Yes, the double bass remains my primary instrument. I play it often in many different situations & on many recordings.

PAN M 360: By the way, do you still nourish human relationships with some former members of The Roots ?

Joshia Abrams : Yes

PAN M 360  : Of course your path is quite different in Chicago where you embraced this creative music whose origins lie in free jazz’s AACM community, post-rock, footwork or post-house experiments. You are obviously evolving in a different ecosystem! What led you to settle in Chicago?

Joshua Abrams : The music !

PAN M 360  : The expression Natural Information appeared in 2010 in your discography. Can you remind us of the background of this expression?

Joshua Abrams : It seemed like a potent combination of two common words that i had never heard used together. Natural Information is a good descriptor for where I enjoy focusing my attention and a good aspiration for what the music could be.

PAN M 360: How did Natural Information Society evolved since?

Joshua Abrams : We have released seven albums with varying lineups, orchestrations and musical personalities. I’ve written different bodies of music for each of those configurations to explore together .  The quartet of myself with Lisa Alvarado, Mikel Patrick Avery and Jason Stein plays the most frequently but on special occasions such as FIMAV the larger version of Natural Information Society Community Ensemble gets to play .

PAN M 360 : How do you see linkage between traditional music and contemporary experiments in music?

Joshua Abrams : I’m mostly interested in music’s vitality. For me whether something is old or new, traditional or experimental takes a back seat to the energy the music can share. All strategies are welcome.

PAN M 360:  Lisa Alvarado, harmonium
; Mikel Patrick Avery, drums 
;  Berman, cornet
; Kara Bershad, harp 
Hamid Drake, conga, tabla, tar
, Ben Lamar Gay, cornet
; Nick Mazzarella, alto saxophone
; Jason Stein, bass clarinet
; Mai Sugimoto, alto saxophone, flute; Ari Brown, tenor saxophone. Can you comment briefly about each role in this ensemble?

Joshua Abrams : We try to build a web with our sounds where the nuances of everyone’s changes can be heard and  felt and the music can evolve gradually. Everyone in the group are amazing musicians & artists in their own right and I’m honored by their participation. I write the pieces and lead the group. Lisa plays harmonium and creates our stage settings, she is my partner in the world and Natural Information Society. Mikel has been with the group for a long time and we have developed a strong intuitive musical bond. Hamid is a musical master, a mentor and a dear friend. But really the history of music making and friendship runs throughout all of the members of the group. Musical facility is important but patience , discipline and attitude are even more important. All of the horns in the group recognize this and are willing to put aside the impulse to play on top of the ensemble and embrace being part of our collective sound. 


PAN M 360:  According to the official program put online by the Victoriaville festival, Ari Brown is the featured soloist on tenor saxophone. Can you tell us how you built your artistic relationship with him? Also how do you want to feature him in this concert? 

Joshua Abrams : There is an old tradition in Chicago of the tenor saxophone being used as a sophisticated technology for human well being. Ari is currently the foremost practitioner of this tradition. We met years ago when he asked me to fill in for his bass player who was stuck in traffic. Recently he has participated on some of my film scores & with Natural Information Society. I have filled in from time to time with his band and we have an improv trio with Mike Reed.


PAN M 360 : What will be your next recording and live projects in music? Joshua Abrams : New music is getting close! There is also a collaboration with Bitchin Bajas that is close. Many other things have been recorded, a duo with Joëlle Léandre … 

THE NATURAL INFORMATION SOCIETY PLAYS AT FIMAV ON FRIDAY 17. TICKETS AND INFOS HERE

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