One marker of bassist Michael Formanek's creativity and versatility is the range of distinguished musicians of several generations he's worked with. While still a teenager in the 1970s he toured with drummer Tony Williams and saxophonist Joe Henderson; starting in the '80s he played long stints with Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Fred Hersch and Freddie Hubbard. (As a callback to those days, Formanek recorded with hardbop pianist Freddie Redd in 2013). The bassist has played a pivotal role on New York's creative jazz scene going back to the '90s when he notably led his own quintet and played in Tim Berne's barnstorming quartet Bloodcount. Nowadays Formanek's in the co-op Thumbscrew with Brooklyn guitarist Mary Halvorson and drummer Tomas Fujiwara.
Formanek is also a composer and leader of various bands. His principal recording and international touring vehicle is his acclaimed quartet with Tim Berne on alto saxophone, Craig Taborn on piano and Gerald Cleaver on drums, which records for ECM; 2010's The Rub and Spare Change and 2012's Small Places both earned coveted five-star raves in Down Beat. Formanek writes, and the quartet plays, compositions of great rhythmic sophistication that unfold in a natural sounding way – challenging music the players make sound like lyrical free expression. His occasional groups include the 18-piece all-star Ensemble Kolossus, roping in many New York improvisers he works with. Ensemble Kolossus recorded their first CD of all Formanek originals for the prestigious ECM label in December of 2014. The CD, The Distance was released in February 2016 and in addition to numerous other accolades also received a five-star review in Downbeat!
Born in Terre Haute, Indiana cellist Hank Roberts made his name in the 1980s legendary New York Downtown scene. Faced with a dearth of improvisational cellist mentors or peers, he carved his own path through that fertile ground alongside such frequent collaborators as Bill Frisell, Tim Berne, Marc Ribot and John Zorn, finding a second home at the famed Knitting Factory, leading and recording with his own groups, ‘Birds of Prey, ‘Black Pastels’, ‘Little Motor People’ and co-founding ‘Miniature’ with Tim Berne and Joey Baron, and the ‘Arcado String Trio’ with Mark Feldman and Mark Dresser.
The list of names with whom Roberts has shared stages or recording studios with includes Gavin ,Jeff Buckley, David Sanborn, Mamadou Diabate, Andy Summers, Gary Burton, Marty Ehrlich, Arto Lindsey, Gerry Hemingway, Don Byron, and Julius Hemphill.
He is currently a member of Bill Frisell’s 858 Quartet and Big Sur Quintet, and appeared on the guitarist’s Grammy-winning 2004 release Unspeakable. He’s recorded 10 albums on the ‘Winter & Winter’ label, along with numerable self-released recordings. His solo performances are singularly compelling and unpredictable, wending from jagged dissonance to intoxicating pop songcraft.
Nürnberger Zeitung: the American cellist, Hank Roberts, dares to present magical musical field tests, which sound as delicate as a moribund musical box or intoxicating emotional like a pop song. …ingenious.“
His 2008 CD Green, with drummer Jim Black and guitarist Marc Ducret, won that year’s German Recording Critics’ Award in the Jazz category. “There’s a wisdom and patience and catholicity in this record (‘Green’). ‘It’s all one song,’ goes the hip musician’s cliché, but Mr. Roberts walks that walk.” Ben Ratliff, NY Times? Based since 1989 in Ithaca, New York, Roberts finds inspiration in the area’s thriving music scene. He performs and records locally with a host of uniquely talented musicians and plays annually at the Finger Lakes Grassroots Festival, which spans a range of music from old-timey Americana to African and Cajun music. He’s shared that stage with artists such as Ti Ti Chickapea with Richie Stearns and Eric Aceto, Tenzin Chopak and Rockwood Ferry, Kevin Kinsella, Mamadou Diabate, Jeb Puryear, Keith Secola, Nery Arevalo, Martin Simpson, the Sim Redmond Band, John Brown's Body, and Donna the Buffalo.Roberts contributed musical arrangements and appears in the film Greetings From Tim Buckley, which premiered at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival.
Since finishing his studies at the prestigious Mills College, percussionist Ches Smith has worked across jazz, rock, and experimental categories, proving to be a versatile artist ready for any challenge. Over the years he has worked with Xiu Xiu, John Zorn, Wadada Leo Smith, John Tchicai, Marc Ribot, Fred Frith, Tim Berne, Terry Riley, and many others. He has appeared on over 30 recordings, the most recent being Finally Out Of My Hands with his These Arches ensemble featuring Mary Halvorson, Andrew Parkins and Tony Malaby.