Alvin Singleton at 80 and a movie with Momenta!

Screenshot: The Momenta Quartet with Alvin Singleton and his wife Lisa Cooper at his online 80th Birthday Concert!

Dear friends,

Happy New Year! It’s been an interesting one so far, but I am cautiously optimistic…How does that Beatles song go?

I’ve got to admit it’s getting better, it’s getting better all the time.
It can’t get no worse!

Speaking of better, you all are THE BEST – thanks to your support, Momenta raised $8805 in our annual fundraising campaign. It’s a little under our $10,000 goal, but in the spirit of “glass half full” (in this case, 88% full), I would say this exceeded my expectations during these trying times. We appreciate all of your support over the years, financial and otherwise. Being an optimist, I will also remind you that it is never too late to support Momenta! We do accept donations year round, through our profile page at The Field.

Meanwhile, I am all fundraised out – and I imagine, so are you! So let’s talk about something much more fun! Today I have three exciting topics:

1. Throughout the month of January only, you can enjoy HocTok’s special “Singleton Project 80,” celebrating the 80th birthday of one of Momenta’s favorite composers, Alvin Singleton!

Singleton Project 80 Concert: Momenta performs his String Quartet no. 1 (1967) and his fourth quartet, Hallelujah Anyhow (2019), commissioned for Momenta by Chamber Music America, and I play Alvin’s exciting and virtuosic Argoru IV (1978) for solo viola 

Singleton Project 80 Film: Alvin’s personal friends and colleagues from the many facets of his amazing career (including Momenta!) share birthday greetings with Alvin

More information on the HocTok website.

2. Now through January 24: Momenta at the Movies:

One of Momenta’s last projects before COVID reared its ugly head was the recording of an original film score by another of our all-time favorite composers, Daniel Thomas Davis, for Julia Haslett’s documentary “Pushed Up the Mountain,” about a group of botanists’ journey to save the migrating rhododendron, now endangered in its native China.

Watch “Pushed Up the Mountain” at the Wild and Scenic Film Festival any time from now through January 24. There is also a half-hour live Q and A with filmmaker Julia Haslett tomorrow, Wednesday, Jan. 20 at 6pm. Once you’ve unlocked the program, be sure to click “Watch Now” within the 24-hour window in which the live stream occurs to watch the Q and A. 

3. And now it’s my turn to expound upon Momenta’s upcoming recording project.

Throughout the course of our year-end fundraising campaign, my colleagues shared their thoughts about Momenta’s collaborations with Elizabeth Brown, Roberto Sierra and Shawn Jaeger, all of whom will be featured on this album. The two remaining composers, Jason Kao Hwang and the late Yusef Lateef, are very important to me personally. I met them both through my involvement in the “downtown” improvisation and “avant-jazz” scenes, which comprises the other half of my performance career, along with my classical and classical contemporary playing which you all know through Momenta. 

I first met Jason when I was curating a monthly new music series at the Galapagos Art and Performance Space in Williamsburg (before it moved to DUMBO, and eventually Detroit.) He was performing in a four-piece band with composer/performers Lisa Karrer (voice), David Simons (theremin) and Bob Hoffnar (pedal steel guitar.) I loved his playing and checked out his recordings with the Far East Side Band, among other ensembles. We re-connected playing in big “conduction” projects with the late great Butch Morris, Hans Tammen, and in Adam Rudolph’s Go Organic Orchestra – check out the new record Focus and Field from our live performance at Roulette on March 8, 2020, by the way! It’s amazing (if I might say so myself!) – and it was my last gig before the COVID-19 lockdown.

Eventually Jason invited me to play in his own improvised string orchestra project “Spontaneous River,” and I invited him to write his first ever string quartet for Momenta, “If We Live in Forgetfulness, We Die in a Dream” (2011), which we premiered at the Rubin Museum. I am thrilled that we are now planning to record this gorgeous piece from Momenta’s unique personal repertoire!

Speaking of Adam Rudolph and his Go Organic Orchestra, it is through him that I met Yusef Lateef. He invited Momenta to premiere Lateef’s Second String Quartet at a very special birthday concert at Roulette. We repeated this performance at Williams College, near where Yusef Lateef lived, and that was one of his last public appearances before he passed away. At that concert, he gave me a score and parts of his new String Quartet no. 3. He had wanted us to play it for him, but a month later he died at the age of 93. We premiered it the following October at our first annual Momenta Festival, and will now record it on our upcoming CD.

Our performances of both Yusef Lateef quartets are featured as part of Adam Rudolph’s curated collection of Films and Videos on the wonderful new web page “Yusef Lateef: A Centenary Celebration” hosted by UMass Amherst.

In the spirit of Looney Tunes – That’s All Folks!

Thanks again for your support, we hope you enjoy these videos and here’s to a better year ahead!

All the best,