GateSound #1: A word from the curator

Our new music series at the Gates of Heaven launches February 21 with Ches Smith.

Ches Smith (right) will play with pianist Craig Taborn and violinist Mat Maneri on Feb. 21 at the Gates of Heaven, for our first GateSound concert.

Ches Smith (right) will play with pianist Craig Taborn and violinist Mat Maneri on Feb. 21 at the Gates of Heaven, for our first GateSound concert.

We all have Facebook to thank (or blame), at least in part, for the new GateSound series. Tone Madison reposted a piece last September that originally ran in May 2014 encouraging the city to better incentivize the use of the Gates of Heaven as a music venue. I commented on that post, “let’s start booking!” Tone’s editor, Scott Gordon, then got in touch and drinks were shared. Yada yada yada, GateSound was born.

My curation for the series was not consciously considered before jumping into booking the first few acts. But in starting to book more acts (and write this piece) I’ve realized a natural logic, at least logical to me, has begun to emerge. The series is not focused on a particular genre but rather on an impulse I perceive in each artist’s music: pushing. Pushing whatever instruments, genres, and sounds they are working with towards new territory. Seeking an honest and holistic personal music. This can take the form of what appears to be a jazz trio, as in the case of percussionist Ches Smith’s group, inaugurating the series this Sunday, February 21. Or a pretty straightforward rock five piece, as Skeletons might look when they play the second installment on March 31. But both of these groups, as well as those we’re looking at bringing in the future, freely draw on the sounds that interest them and synthesize them into a singular music particular to each artist.

The uniqueness of the Gates of Heaven as a space demands unique artists—and artists who are willing and excited to work with the particular acoustics of the space to craft a performance specific to the Gates. Ideally this will be a special experience for the artists and the audience, not the typical jazz/rock club or theatre. I hope a bit of the ceremony and ritual of the space can be brought into each performance to create an extraordinary event for all involved.

Ches’ new record The Bell, which was just released last month by ECM Records, exemplifies these curatorial goals well. On listening to it, it’s not exactly jazz, not exactly classical … not exactly sure what to label it. But it’s certainly compelling and is inviting you into the sonic world Ches is exploring, along with the bandmates who will join him at this show, Craig Taborn (piano) and Mat Maneri (violin). The focus on the decay of notes and the space between sounds should pair exceptionally well with the intimate acoustics of the Gates of Heaven.

Ultimately I hope this series is able to fill a vacuum I perceive in Madison: providing a space and engaged audience for artists of many stripes who might otherwise fall through the cracks of Madison’s regular venues. Similarly, I hope it will provide Madisonians the opportunity to see some of their favorite cult musicians (and those they have yet to discover) who might otherwise not include us in their tour route. I hope to see you February 21, March 31, and beyond.