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
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.
Toronto based improviser, composer and AIMToronto board member.
IAJE Fall 2007