rick cambell, david stone, thomas ferrella interview with jonathan zarov WORT 89.9fm 2/21/2020
anders svanoe/thomas ferrella interview with jonathan zarov, WORT 89.9 fm, 2/23/18


is often the harbinger of great things, maybe it’s a sense of awareness that things are possible, living an open life, allowing worlds to collide…well that is exactly the formula that allowed for the genesis of this jazz series

on a non-descript spring day in 2016 i get a whisper phone call from a fellow cigar-smoking frame-building buddy, kevin metz, “hey…ferrella…you know a guy named roscoe mitchell?… “yes”, a lil thought bubble emerges – who the hell doesn’t?… ” well, i’m in his basement installing new floors and he is upstairs with all of these guys making the craziest noise, you’d love it”, second thought bubble – that’s music, for f*ck’s sake!

now the light-bulb moment…just maybe…mr mitchell would like to perform while he is back in town – as a sidebar mr mitchell used to live here in madison, but took off for a more welcoming california environment where he is a professor in jazz studies at mills college; this wackadoodle idea was floated to kevin who in turn floated it to roscoe and the next day i get a phone call

“is this thomas?… this is roscoe mitchell” …gulp… and that particular collision led to my jazz series

i simply book what i like, so pick an adjective – avant-garde – free jazz – improvisational jazz – experimental … does it really matter? i personally don’t pigeon-hole anything and semantics are not important here, but what is important is that this just happens to be the type of music that moves the jazz art form forward, these are the musicians that don’t hesitate in allowing worlds to collide, in fact they embrace it – my kinda folks! – to name drop some of the musicians i have hosted: ken vandermark, tomeika reid, andrew cyrille, tim daisy, makaya mccraven, eddie gomez, dave king, chris speed, tim berne, jeb bishop, hamid drake, paul wertico, mars williams, caroline davis, larry ochs, nate wooley, fareed haque, reid anderson, paal nilssen-love…oh hell yea!… and our beloved local musicians have stepped up to the plate and have held their own with consistent home runs… michael brenneis, john christensen, brennan connors, matt blair, russ johnson, paul dietrich, dave cooper, tom gullion…, these folks have blessed us humble midwesterners with the anointment of sonic love – thank you!

caroline davis called my series “a national icon” – you have to love her on many levels, first she floats that alto… is that getz?, then she writes, arranges and plays these personal poignant melodies piercing the limbic with integrity grit and love, yes that makes you flip and oh yea…btw she does the same thing with her voice! that’s a trifecta my friend, a hat trick…lucky cherries…but national icon? …hhhmmm… the remark was reiterated about a month later by trumpeter, russ johnson and then ken vandermark said “ferrella is working at the highest level to produce concerts for an important audience in america, and for one of the most significant groups of musicians in the world – those who belong to the avant-garde”, william parker said “it is amazing what you people have done here, frankly we don’t even have this vibrant of a scene in new york city” WHAT?! …so…that got me a thinkin…

i simply opened a door, offered a small quiet listening room, no contracts, enthusiastic respectful listeners showed up, a diy culture where everyone shares in the same vision, respect and love become the constant, the musicians get it…and that is where those comments come from, fans are digging – musicians are digging, it is simply beautiful

and of course as with all great things, nothing happens in a vacuum, i am fortunate to surround myself with respectful, mildly-touched individuals like dave stone, ed ahrens, plus several mr anonymouses who have helped us financially and me personally as cultural senseis, mike at ALCHEMY and rajan at DOBHAN – where our musicians eat for free! …and more worlds collide…

will the revolution start with music? – i am hopeful

thomas ferrella

since these humble beginnings, i have officially partnered with dave stone in 2019 and have launched our new non-profit venture, BlueStem Jazz, and we will continue presenting progressive jazz in madison, however we have now partnered with multiple local venues as a means of expanding our services and increasing exposure for this valuable art form, these venues range from a quiet recording studio to listening rooms to full-on killer clubs…all dedicated to the progressive, avant-garde, experimental musician, and as always we do this simply as volunteers and do not take a penny, what we get in return is much more valuable – beautiful, beautiful music in our own town – which btw is making a couple old guys really happy!

for the full skinny, tune in to the 
showbiz roundup podcast and read our all about jazz and forward never straight articles.

always forward!

thomas ferrella