On Friday, December 14, I will premiere an original five movement composition I call Vonology. After years of performing with Von and researching his presence in the world, I have put together an original musical expression about my mentor and friend. In my career, travels, and research I have conversed for hours and hours about Von with Steve Coleman, with countless Chicagoans as they remember moments of his solos or his stories of life and music, with George Freeman in his living room while he remembers childhood moments and gigs, and with Amsterdam musicians who speak passionately about Von’s affect on their music. From my years of playing with him and hearing the profound stories people tell, I have composed a piece that feeds off of Von’s large presence in the world, both in the past and as it lives in the present.
Von spoke often in symbolic language. One time he explained to me, after I asked him what he played in a crazy solo, that he imagined a tonic of a key surrounded by a rainbow and that he played in the rainbow, but always making sure to return to the tonic. Expressing musical processes in this way was an integral feature of conversing with him, as people’s memories have confirmed to me. Von was deeply versed in the Bible (the book of knowledge, as he called it) and astrology which he both used as symbolic systems to understand and explain music and humanity.
For this composition, I combined astrological symbolism and musical intuition to inform my musical process. Brian Allemana, a highly skilled in astrologer as well as my brother, made Von’s chart and interpreted the symbols (Von is a Libra, born October 3rd, 1923). I assigned pitches and rhythms to the most compelling meanings as they connect shapes within houses, planets, and other Zodiac signs. The result is a long form composition that combines interpretations from people of different jazz communities, my brother’s astrological vision, and my personal feelings for Von, all filtered through my musical vision, something Von always pushed me and countless of his horses to pursue.
Please come join us for this premiere:
Friday, December 14th, at 7pm at theSouth Shore Cultural Center, 7059 South Shore Drive.
More info: see the Jazz Institute of Chicago. I would like to thank Lauren Deutsch and the Jazz Institute of Chicago for their generous support of this project. Please become a member of this great organization.
Mike Allemana: Guitar and compositions
Victor Garcia: Trumpet
Greg Ward: Alto Sax
Geof Bradfield: Tenor Sax
Kendall Moore: Trombone
Tomeka Reid: Cello
Matt Ferguson: bass
Michael Raynor: drums
Voices: Sue Demel, Lindsay Weinberg, Alton Smith, and Bill Brickey
Conductor and author of astrological texts: Brian Allemana