InterMusicSF has not yet released the schedule for its SF Music Day festival, taking place later this month. However, a few days ago I learned that one of the sets would involve a San Francisco premiere performance. As a result, I decided I would “jump the gun” and alert readers to what is likely to be a major special occasion.
The performers will be the members of Rent Romus’ Life’s Blood Ensemble, participating in the Jazz & Improvised Music category. Prior to the pandemic, Romus was a major figure on the “bleeding edge,” both as curator of the LSG (Luggage Store Gallery) Creative Music Series and the annual Outsound Summit held every summer at the Community Music Center in the Mission. One of his last concerts before lockdown involved a performance of Manala, which was an original suite that wove free improvisation together with a synthesis of elements of jazz and those of neo-traditional Finnish music. Romus composed this suite working Heikki Koskinen; and they drew upon Finnish literary sources, including The Kalevala, a nineteenth-century work of epic poetry compiled by Elias Lönnrot, and shamanic traditions of Finno-Ugric folklore.
The new work to be premiered is Itkuja Suite, the latest joint project of Romus and Koskinen. This will continue their interest in synthesizing jazz and free improvisation with traditional Finnish sources. The suite has a subtitle: “Invocations on lament, a healing journey.” The literal translation of the title is “crying;” but the connotations entail a more all-encompassing worldview of the concepts of existence, loss, and change.
Performance will require ten musicians. Romus will lead, performing on alto and soprano saxophones, flutes, kantele (a tradition Finnish plucked-string instrument), and bells. Koskinen will also play kantele, as well as tenor recorder, E-trumpet, and flutes. The other musicians will contribute as follows:
- Joshua Marshall: tenor and soprano saxophones, flute
- Erika Oba: flute, piccolo
- Ann McChesney-Youg: accordion
- Mark Clifford: vibraphone
- Safa Shokrai: bass
- Cory Combs: bass
- Max Judelson: cello
- Timothy Orr: percussion
As has already been announced, SF Music Day will take place on Sunday, March 20. Once again all performances will take place in the Veterans Building of the San Francisco War Memorial at 401 Van Ness Avenue. Readers probably know by now that this venue is convenient to public transportation on both Van Ness Avenue and McAllister Street. Itkuja Suite will be performed at 5:15 p.m. in the Dianne and Tad Taube Atrium Theater on the fourth floor of the building. There will be no charge for admission to any of the SF Music Day events.