Ava Mendoza – elg
The Lithuanian audience is not yet familiar with the group of Jonathan Haffner and Dalius Naujokaitis-Naujo, who have played together in Lithuania many times in the past.
The inseparable tandem offered two avant-garde figures of international calibre to join them and formed the group in 2019 for the performance in Bar Lunatico in New York.
An avant-garde artist whose work is described as traversing a number of genres, Mendoza has performed with wide range of musicians, including Nels Cline, Nick Zinner, Jon Irabagon, William Hooker, William Parker, Fred Frith, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Moppa Elliot, Malcolm Mooney, Marc Ribot, Mette Rasmussen, Chris Corsano, Nate Wooley, Dave Taylor, Rova Saxophone Quartet, The Violent Femmes, and many more.
The artist initially studied classical guitar at the Interlochen Arts Academy and at the same time started improvising and playing in rock and punk bands. She later earned a degree in Intermedia Arts from Mills College in Oakland, where she honed her guitar playing skills under Fred Frith. After graduating, the musician performed extensively in Oakland with various ensembles and solo, formed her own avant-rock band Unnatural Ways, with which she released three albums.
After moving from Oakland to New York in 2013, Ava joined the milieu of John Zorn and his The Stone club, where she was given an artist residency; played Zorn’s music. His record company Tzadik has released CDs of Mendoza’s trio with bassist Tim Dahl and drummer Sam Ospovat. That stage of the guitarist’s work is documented on recordings with Sir Richard Bishop, Maxime Petit, Will Guthrie, the William Hooker Trio, John Irabagon and Moppa Elliott bands, as well as other well-known improvisers.
The artist has received scholarships from various institutions in the USA, Australia, the Netherlands, and Serbia, and a number of commissions, including the writing of live soundtracks for motion pictures. Ava Mendoza holds master classes and creative workshops in the US and Canada, lectures not only on guitar and composition, avant-garde jazz, but also on digital art.
With various partners and projects, the guitarist has travelled all over Europe, played in prestigious concert halls, theatres and clubs.
Saxophonist Jonathon Haffner regularly collaborates with Dalius Naujokaitis-Naujo. Like Dalius, he was a wingman of late Jonas Mekas (1922-2019), a world-famous Lithuanian artist, poet, curator, and the godfather of US avant-garde cinema, so he repeatedly participated in events dedicated to Mekas’ memory in Lithuania. Last year, the musician joined the group Užupis, which made virtual debut at the Vilnius Jazz.
Growing up in California, Haffner began studying music there under the late saxophonist Phil Sobel. After moving to New York, Jonathon formed the Himalayas with his long-time friend Kenny Wollesen and soon joined Ilhan Irsahin and Butch Morris’ Nublu Orchestra.
He has played and recorded music with many well-known improvisers, including Morris, Frisell, Jason Moran, Uri Caine, Jim Black, Eddie Henderson, Chris Potter, Brian Blade, Graham Haynes, Elliott Sharp, Cindi Lauper, Jesse Harris, Rickie Lee Jones, Brazilian Girls, Medeski, Martin and Wood and Sex Mob.
The saxophonist’s album Life on Wednesday, produced by David Binney, was recorded together with Craig Taborn, Wayne Krantz, Eivind Opsvik, Jochen Rueckert and Kenny Wollesen. With this Sextet, he performed at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam.
Jonathon’s latest album came out this year, recorded with Max Jaffe, Jonathan Goldberger and Dave Harrington.
Haffner currently performs and records with Wadada Leo Smith Great Lakes Quartet along with Jack Dejohnette on drums and Jon Lindberg on bass.
Guitarist, bassist, composer and pedagogue Simon Jermyn has played everywhere, with everyone since arriving in New York from Ireland a few years ago. According to critics, Irishman’s broad interests and his affable, generous spirit are reflected in his music.
Jermyn plays in many ensembles, including Jim Black’s Smash and Grab, a trio with Allison Miller and Jerome Sabbagh, Howard Peach with Lander Gyslelinck and Chris Speed, Wood River, and Marc Hannaford’s Trio. Moreover, he is the leader of the band Trot A Mouse with Tom Rainey, Ingrid Laubrock and Mat Maneri; plays solo.
He has also collaborated with John Zorn, Gerald Cleaver, Anna Webber, Tom Rainey, Chris Lightcap, Ingrid Laubrock, Tony Malaby, Ben Goldberg, Jeff Davis, Allison Miller, Nate Wood, Simon Nabatov, Satoshi Takeishi, Ben Monder, Jacob Sacks, Briggan Krauss, Tommy Crane, Kirku Knuffke, The Mivos Quartet, Empyrean Atlas, Glass Ghost and many other well-known improvisers.
Simon regularly appears in festivals and music clubs in US and Europe. The artist holds a PhD from the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland. He travels the world extensively giving masterclasses and creative workshops.
Dalius Naujokaitis-Naujo, a drummer of avant-garde experimental music and free jazz, has resided and worked in New York for quarter of a century. However, he often comes back to Lithuania to perform. He started his musical career here: while studying at the Balys Dvarionas School of Music in Vilnius Dalius was guided into ensemble playing by Vladimir Chekasin; in 1987, he graduated as a percussionist from Vilnius Conservatoire, where he studied with Arvydas Vainius.
Since 1986, Naujokaitis has worked with Skirmantas Sasnauskas’ jazz ensemble, later joined Juozas Milašius’ Gitarmanija, got fascinated with noise music. Before leaving Lithuania, he has collaborated with many a Lithuanian jazz master including Vladimir Chekasin, Petras Vyšniauskas, Tomas Kutavičius, Eugenijus Kanevičius as well as with various rock, jazz, punk, pop music groups.
In addition, the musician has tried his hand in theatre and film. In 1994, together with Juozas Milašius and Vladas Pranulis he staged a theatre production Woman in the Dunes (after Kobo Abe’s novel), and with Vilija Naujokaitienė composed soundtrack for One Love Story (director Julius Žižiliauskas).
In 1995, he settled in New York and got involved in the Big Apple improvisers community. Acquainted with filmmaker Jonas Mekas, he started giving solo performances in the Anthology Film Archives. Together with Jonas Mekas, Eugenijus Varkalis, Julius Ziz and Audrius Naujokaitis he formed Free Music on Second Street group, which released two albums. Dalius’ music can be heard in films by Jonas Mekas: Happy Birthday to John Lennon, On My Way To Fujiyama and This Side of Paradise.
On the other side of the Atlantic the drummer performed and recorded with a number of improvisers such as Butch Morris, Art Baronas, Doug Wieselman, Briggan Krauss, Tim Keiper, Ava Mendoza, Kenny Wollesen, Michael Formanek, Johnathon Haffner, On Ka Daivis, Dave Harrington, William Shore, as well as Nublu Orchestra, Now We Are Here, Brooklyn Bears, Tiger Lithy, Nick Gianni’s Evolution, Kenny Wollesen’s Wollesonic Laboratories and The Himalayas, collaborated with dance music group Brazilian Girls and many more.
With New Yorker artist Sandra Koponen, he had formed Untytė, the group basing its original music on Lithuanian sutartinės. Yet another project Rasa Rasa, designed in collaboration with Kenny Wollesen and Jonathon Haffner in 2012, united representatives of new improvised music and sutartinės singers from Lithuania. This formation has been documented on Wollesen, Haffner & Naujo: Rasa, Rasa, released on John Zorn’s legendary Tzadik in 2014.
In New York, together with Ken Jacobs Dalius mounted a musical film project Lumiere/Naujokaitis/Jacobs: Nervous System Concerts, has collaborated with modern dance company Limbic Six and Tiny Mythic Theatre, directed feature films.
Since 2015, Dalius has been a member of Užupis group (together with Wollesen and Shore). This group has recorded two albums.
In 2020, the drummer went on tour in Japan with the band Subskin Cables. During the pandemic, he formed the group Nojo Hotel with Wollesen and recorded a triple album, which is expected to be released later this year. At the same time, a 30-minute sound composition Nojo Airlines was created, which brought together many musicians from all over the world and Lithuania via the Internet.
In recent years, he has been frequenting Lithuania with various projects. Here he had formed Naujo Atomic Orchestra, which toured Austria and Croatia, also has collaborated with Traffic Trio, renowned local performers such as Liudas Mockūnas, Eugenijus Kanevičius, Juozas Milašius, Tomas Kutavičius, Migloko and members of Džiazlaif, Kanalizacija, Garbanotas Bosistas and Labas Vakaras, as well as Kenny Wollesen, Jonathon Haffner, Sean Francis Conway and other New Yorkers.
Collaborating with K. Wollesen and J. Haffner, for the last decade Dalius has been returning to his homeland every year to spark musical happenings here with young Lithuanian musicians and representatives of the New York scene. These musical projects, which bring together many talented people, were performed at Fluxus Ministry, Vilnius Jazz festival, Empty Brain Resort club, Mama Studio Concert Hall, and Peronas Bar.
In 2016 and 2017, the drummer together with Raimondas Pranka and Laima Griciūtė organized Peronas Jazz festival in Vilnius. In 2016, for contributions to Lithuanian jazz Dalius was honoured with Vilnius Jazz Award.
Last year, D. Naujokaitis-Naujo initiated a grandiose, week-long project in memory of Jonas Mekas, gathering together outstanding masters of jazz, avant-garde, ethno-music and academic music scene. However, his ambitions at the Vilnius Jazz this year may surpass all previous ones. D. Naujokaitis-Naujo and his music projects were given the whole day of the festival – October 15th.
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