New York Encuentro

Blaise Siwula

Improvised Jazz music from a piano sax drums trio balancing the fine line between almost mainstream to free blowing counter-point free music but in a very melodic way.

New York Encuentro was recorded after several tours with Katsuyuki Itakura and Blaise Siwula in Japan and the USA. Originally formed as “Big Hearts” they found a kindred spirit in Richard Gilman-Opalsky a drummer who also has several degrees in political philosophy. Pianist Katsuyuki Itakura (b. 42) or “Kats” (as he’s more commonly known) has been playing jazz piano in Japan since his teens. He met saxophonist Blaise Siwula at the C.O.M.A. series in NYC in 2004 and a partnership was born which produced the “Big Hearts” cd release on Cadence Jazz Records in 2006. “New York Encuentro” steps ahead and covers a new spectrum of jazz music from the smoky ballad to full force free jazz and a few references to Eric Satie by Kats. Richard’s drums are a constant reminder that improvised music should maintain a concise direction.

July 22, 2011 Grego Applegate Edwards - Gapplegate Music Review
Friday, July 22, 2011

New York Encuentro: Blaise Siwula in Excellent Form with K. Itakura and R. Gilman-Opalsky

Now that what was once called the "new thing" is nearly 50 years young, we have a chance to assess what has gone on so far. Not today, however, since as I write this New Jersey is headed toward 100-plus-degree weather and my office is rapidly becoming an oven with yours truly as the tuna casserole. Nevertheless there are substyles in "free" improv that are well marked out and players working within the various parameters with increasing economy of expression and a kind of certainty years of experimentation and musically genetic drift have made possible.

The trio of Katsuyuki Itakura, piano, Blaise Siwula, alto and tenor saxes, and Richard Gilman-Opalsky on drums serves as a good example. New York Encuentro (No Frills Music 002) finds them in a free-blowing set that has the consistency of music by players who know where they are coming from, know where they want to be, and then get there.

Itakura comes out of the Cecil Taylor school of pianistic all-overness. He's quite good at keeping the lines and clusters coming. Gilman-Opalsky has the Sunny Murray-and-after freetime drumming down and interacts well with the others. Then there is Blaise Siwula. He has a way of his own that relates to what has gone before but does so in ways that are endlessly inventive. It's not so much a timbral sound sculpting that goes on with Blaise on this set, though he does of course have a sound. It's the way he keeps coming up with lines of interest, setting up a dialog especially with the piano, laying out line after line of musical improvisation with a lucidity of someone who knows what he is about...that is what makes New York Encuentro music well worth hearing. Posted by Grego Applegate Edwards - See more at: The title "New York Encuentro" was Richard’s inspiration - "Encuentros were the meetings, or "encounters" the Mexican Zapatistas organized in Chiapas after their rebellion in 1994. People from outside Mexico came together for the encounters for a unique moment to exchange ideas and try to build something together, then they dispersed. The Zapatistas also sometimes called these meetings "Intergalacticas", since they were all in one space but exceeded the boundaries of that space. "

August 29, 2011 Ken Waxman - THE NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD | September 2011 New York Encuentro Katsuyuki Itakura/Blaise Siwula/ Richard Gilman-Opalsky (No Frills Music) by Ken Waxman Named for the idea-exchanging “encounters” Mexican Zapatista guerillas organized following the 1994 Chiapas uprising, the only concepts espoused on this outing are purely musical. Yet the unfettered tonal expressions demonstrated by this trio of veteran improvisersare as radical in their way as the Zapatistas’ libertarian socialist ideas were in theirs. That’s radical, not confrontational. For no matter how atonal New York Encuentro’s eight tracks appear, they never fail to communicate. Upfront are the key clipping and sly, note-patterning of Japanese pianist Katsuyuki Itakura plus the reed prestidigitation of saxophonist Blaise Siwula. Keeping the rhythm linear is drummer Richard Gilman-Opalsky, who also possesses degrees in political philosophy. Considering his few brief solos are mostly involved with cymbal clanking and press roll reverberating, it’s obvious that Gilman-Opalsky’s musical philosophy adheres to the Zapatistas’ low-key (r)evolution. In their playing, the other musicians are as similarly sympathetic as the Mexican movement’s rural base is to wealth-distribution ideas. But like a minority of Zapatistas who turned to direct action, the trio here plays vociferously enough to get their ideas across. Especially animated is Siwula, who on a piece such as “Toy Box” opens the container to reveal staccato tongue slaps, balanced reed bites and overblowing into every corner of the package. At the same time he isn’t averse to ending a series of irregularly accented stutters with a joking quote from “Heart and Soul”. While the pianist is capable of kinetic jumps, his playing is economical, with singlekey shading like early Cecil Taylor or mature Thelonious Monk. The sprightly “Great Incept” could be an updated Monk tune, with Itakura plinking broken-octave lines, shaded with stride echoes andSiwula on tenor saxophone harmonizing in ballad tempo like Charlie Rouse. Although the trio’s intensity is often expressed in reed triple-tonguing and splayed, keyboard leaps, in 2011 this progressive encounter should be no more revolutionary than the Zapatistas’ ideas about nonviolent equality.

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    Toy Box 11:51
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