Kerrytown Concert House welcomes back the Thollem/Michalowski/Alwin Trio! Keyboardist, composer, and improviser Thollem McDonas teams up with area improvisers Piotr Michalowski and Abigail Alwin for an evening of spontaneously composed chamber music.
Thollem is a pianist, keyboardist, organist, composer, improviser, singer-songwriter, activist, author and teacher. He's spent his life skirting and erasing the edges of boundaries musically, culturally, geographically. His work is ever changing, evolving and responding to the times and his experiences, both as a soloist and in collaboration with hundreds of artists across idioms and disciplines. Though Thollem's widely known as an acoustic piano player, he's also the lead vocalist for the Italian agit-punk band Tsigoti and has recently branched out significantly into the world of electronics through a multitude of projects.
Thollem was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, studying the standard classical piano repertoire, composing and improvising since he was a young child and absorbing the myriad of sounds of his culturally diverse upbringing. After dedicating his 20s and 30s to grassroots political activism, he's refocused his attention these last 15 years on a breadth of musics that incorporate his myriad experiences and curiosities. In this last decade alone, he has played well over 1,000 concerts throughout N. America and Europe as a soloist and in collaboration with hundreds of musicians, dancers, and filmmakers. As leader or co-leader, he has released over 50 albums in that span on 22 different vanguard labels to international critical acclaim. “Thollem is an astounding pianist who understands the huge scope of the instrument” (Terry Riley) and who continues to delve into the furthest reaches and sub-genres of Post-Classical, Free Jazz, Noise, Punk, dance and film. A brief cross section of his many recent collaborators include William Parker, Pauline Oliveros, Stefano Scodanibbio, Nels Cline, Mike Watt, Rob Mazurek, Martha Colburn and ACVilla. He is the founding director of Estamos Ensemble, a Mexican-American cross border ensemble for musical exchange as well as the lead singer of the Italian agit-punk band Tsigoti. He's also a published author about art, politics and his travels in The Anthology of Essays On Deep Listening, Full Moon Magazine (Prague) and First American Art Magazine. In 2017, Thollem is developing his second feature-length film through an 8 month, 48 state odyssey with his partner, videographer ACVilla: Silver Ochre's Public Domain.
Piotr Michalowski has been collaborating with musicians in Ann Arbor and the Detroit area for over two decades. His first public performances involved mainstream modern jazz and big band music, but he soon moved on to more radical sounds. Early in his musical career he worked closely with violinist red player Len Bukowski and violinist Mike Khoury in the collective Close Embrace of the Earth in concerts and recordings. Since then he has collaborated with many other musicians at home and abroad. He has played in Warsaw, Paris and Rome, and in various places in the US, often in duets. On some of his recent travels he has performed with Fred Lonberg-Holm, Vinny Golia, Jon Raskin, Jason Kao Hwang, Andrew Drury, and Ken Filiano among others. His past Edgefest performances have included appearances as part of a group organized by Andrew Bishop and in trio with Michael Malis and Ken Filiano. His most recent appearance on CD in on Jason Kao Hwang's "Voice" on Innova.
Abby Alwin, cellist and improviser, weaves sounds inspired from the moment, and generated from the heart. She serves the community in the capacity of a public-school orchestra director, with a 15-year tenure with the Ann Arbor Public Schools. In addition to her classroom teaching, she co-directs the AAPS Comprehensive Outreach Music Program in collaboration with the Community Music School of Ann Arbor, which connects music tutors with disadvantaged students whom would otherwise not have private instruction. Alwin is recipient of the 2013 Yale University Distinguished Music Educator Award, recognizing innovative and exemplary pedagogy amongst the best in the United States. She seized the opportunity in 2013 to spend the summer teaching violin in Kenya, and plans for more international music adventures. Most recent performance projects have included performing solo & in collaboration with Detroit composers, improvisors & choreographers, focusing on improvisatory and contemporary idioms as well as the folk traditions of Bulgaria & Greece. Ms. Alwin is currently the assistant conductor of the Dexter (MI) Community Orchestra.