Diversity of Leadership Makes For Great Music
by Ken Aldcroft

Since its inception in late 2004, the Association of Improvising Musicians Toronto has grown into an organizational force in the world of creative and improvised music. Taking cues from exemplary organizations like Chicago’s AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians), the London Musicians Collective and Vancouver’s New Orchestra Workshop, AIMToronto has found its own distinct and forward-looking mandate to inspire and support the creation and presentation of creative music in Toronto. Many of the association’s 160+ members keenly understand the creative musician’s necessary role in 21st Century’s musical culture and act not only as creators but also as presenters in order to best serve the thriving and dynamic local creative music community. The organization’s activities are broken into two distinct yet complementary sets of tasks: board-driven activities and memberdriven activities. The dynamism between these two facets is the key for Toronto creative music to be recognized locally, nationally, and internationally.

The primary board-driven event is the quarterly Interface Series, a three-night concert series and workshop featuring Canadian and international artists in collaboration with AIMToronto musicians. Guest artists have included Jean Derome (Montreal); Achim Kauffman, Michael Moore and Wolter Wierbos (Amsterdam); LaConnor (Vancouver); Mick Beck and Paul Hession (U.K.); Lori Freedman (Montreal); Stephen Grew (U.K.); Wilbert de Joode (Amsterdam); Joe McPhee (USA); William Parker (USA); Rainer Wiens (Montreal) and Thomas Charmetant (France); and Eddie Prévost (U.K.). A recent related project was the formation of the eighteen-piece AIMToronto Orchestra to collaborate with legendary American composer Anthony Braxton, which culminated in a performance at the Guelph Jazz Festival main stage in September, 2007.

Beyond these activities, the board is regularly approached by organizations interested in collaborations with AIMToronto, including 2006 Nuit Blanche in association with the Music Gallery, the Alley Jaunt Art Crawl, Contact Contemporary Music, Arraymusic, the Guelph Jazz Festival, and Harbourfront.

Board-driven events such as the Interface and special projects generally include a well-known artist from Canada or from abroad. These efforts raise the profile of Toronto musicians on the national and international stage and help to inspire musicians to continue their ongoing work. However, as exciting and rewarding as these events have been, perhaps more crucial to AIMToronto’s development are the consistent, day-to-day activities that the Association’s membership undertakes. This is where musical skills and creative relationships are cultivated in ways that have allowed board-driven activities to be as successful as they have been.

Member-driven events involve primarily the presentation of ongoing music series. Eleven AIMToronto members in total curate and present the weekly Leftover Daylight Series, the Somewhere There Series, and NOW Series, the monthly Bitchin’ Series, and quarterly CoexisDance Series. Often, members will present one-off concerts with special guest artists in collaboration with or on double-bills with Toronto musicians. Some artists who have performed recently in Toronto include Steve Swell, Joey Baron, Eugene Chadbourne, Jimmy Carl Black, master Malian musician Jah Youssouf, Nicole Mitchell, Dave Rempis and Tony Malaby, just to name a few. The organization of workshops throughout the year at the NOW Series includes a number of ongoing presentations such as Michelangelo Iaffaldano’s large ensemble workshop, Christine Duncan’s Element Choir workshops, and the John Stevens Search and Reflect workshop presented by Ken Aldcroft and John Wilson. Other workshops include the weekly Improviser’s Pool, Victor Bateman’s five-week improvisation course offered in May, and ongoing John Zorn Cobra workshops with Joe Sorbara. These workshops allow less experienced musicians to engage with the scene, and allow musicians of all levels to learn from each other’s experiences outside of performance. There are also several annual events presented by members such as MUSIC(in)GALLERIES, curated by Scott Thomson; the 416 Creative Improvisation Festival, presented by Glen Hall; and the Eric Dolphy Memorial BBQ – a creative music picnic in Dufferin Grove Park – hosted by Nilan Perera.

AIMToronto’s board- and member-driven structure has created a provocative model by which creative musicians can foster the development of a local creative music scene. Toronto’s increasingly fertile music community now rivals any other scene in the world in both quantity and quality of activity thanks to the hard work and open mindedness of AIMToronto’s membership. If you want more information about the Toronto creative music scene, then see www. aimtoronto.org. For information about upcoming events, please sign up for Soundlist (www.soundlist.ca), a detailed weekly listing for creative music in the Toronto area.

Ken Aldcroft
Toronto based improviser, composer and AIMToronto board member.

IAJE Fall 2007