THE NEW QUORUM — past Resident Artist Bios
Wadada Leo Smith
Trumpeter, composer, educator, visual artist and Pulitzer Prize Finalist Wadada Leo Smith is a pioneer in the fields of contemporary jazz and creative music. He was an early member of Chicago’s legendary AACM, joining in 1967 and co-founded the Creative Construction Company, a trio with Leroy Jenkins and Anthony Braxton in the late ’60s. In 1971 Smith formed his own label, Kabell Records, for which he recorded a number of albums considered classics of their kind. He recently retired as a professor of Music at the California Institute of the Arts, and is the director of the Institute’s MFA program in African American Improvisation. Smith has studied a variety of music cultures (African, Japanese, Indonesian, European, and American) and has developed a music theory, and a notation system to fully express this music, which he calls "Ankhrasmation." He has been a major force in contemporary jazz for over 40 years and performs frequently throughout the world.
Nicole Mitchell is a creative flutist, composer, bandleader, and educator. Noted as “the most important jazz flutist of her generation” (Troy Collins, all about jazz), she has received the "Top Flutist" award from Downbeat Magazine Critics Poll and the Jazz Journalist Association consecutively since 2010. Having emerged from the Chicago avant-garde scene in the early ’90s, Mitchell formerly served as the first woman president of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). With her ensembles, and as a featured flutist and composer, Mitchell has been a highlight at festivals and art venues throughout Europe, the U.S., and Canada. Ms. Mitchell is a recipient of the prestigious Alpert Award in the Arts (2011) and has been commissioned by Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, the Chicago Jazz Festival, International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), and the Chicago Sinfonietta Orchestra and the French American Jazz Exchange (FAJE). In 2009, she was commissioned to premiere Honoring Grace: Michelle Obama for the Jazz Institute of Chicago. Nicole Mitchell is a Professor of Music at University of California Irvine, where she is a core faculty member of “Integrated Composition, Improvisation and Technology,” an innovative new Ph. D. program. Among the first class of Doris Duke Artists (2012), Mitchell works to raise respect and integrity for the improvised flute, to contribute her innovative voice to the jazz legacy, and to continue the bold and exciting directions that the AACM has charted for decades.
Lisa E. Harris
Recognized by the Huffington Post as “One of Fourteen Artists that are Transforming Opera,” Lisa E. Harris is a creator. This Texas-based producer of many talents lists new opera composer/performer, filmmaker, singer/songwriter, writer, educator, community organizer, environmental transformist, and Mother Earth advocate as some of the work that she does. Harris serves as lead singer for “Jason Moran presents A Fats Waller Dance Party,” and is a featured vocalist — along with Meshell N'degecello — on Moran’s Grammy-nominated album All Rise: A Joyful Elegy for Fats Waller. In 2007, Harris founded Studio Enertia, a mixed media production company in Houston and in 2013 began the artists run and operated Studio Enertia Artist Residency Program. Harris and longstanding collaborator Alisha B. Wormsley were the 2014 guest artists in residence at both the Art League Houston and Studio XX in Montreal, premiering and remounting a retrospective exhibition PROOF. Harris is a two-time recipient of the Individual Artist Grant from the Houston Arts Alliance, supporting the creation of her ongoing work, “CRY OF THE THIRD EYE,” a new opera film in three acts about identity and gentrification in Third Ward Houston Texas. She is the inaugural Artist in Residence of Freehold Art Exchange in Freehold, NY.
Damon Locks is a visual artist and vocalist/musician operating in the Chicago area since 1988. In late ’80s, he formed as vocalist/percussionist the punk band Trenchmouth, which toured the U.S. and internationally for seven years. In the ’90s, he formed the avant-garde band The Eternals with whom he still plays. In 2000, he began performing as a vocalist/sampler operator in Rob Mazurek’s jazz group the Exploding Star Orchestra. A printmaker at heart, his mediums include screen print, digital print, photography, paint, pencil, teaching, drum machine, sampler, kalimba, melodica, or vinyl records. His art is communicating and the medium is less the focus. As time marches on he has become more invested in creating art that inhabits the spaces that intersect with the concerns of surviving contemporary culture. In recent years, he has lent his artistic and/or teaching talents to Prisons and Neighborhood Arts Project, Art Reach, the Center for Urban Pedagogy, the Jane Addams Hull House Museum and teaching at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). The collaborations have allowed him to explore more directly engaged ways of making work. He most recently received the Helen Coburn Meier & Tim Meier Charitable Achievement Award, which provides a cash award to Chicago-area artists in mid-career who push the artistic envelope.
Larry Blumenfeld has been a regular contributor to The Wall Street Journal for the past decade. During the past 20 years, his culture reporting and criticism have appeared in The Village Voice, The New York Times, and Entertainment Weekly, among other publications, and at websites including Salon and Truthdig. He is editor-at-large and columnist for Jazziz, a national monthly magazine of which he was editor-in-chief from 1995-2000. He received the Helen Dance-Robert Palmer Award for Writing in 2011 from the Jazz Journalists Association, which honors just one writer each year. He maintains a popular jazz blog, “Blu Notes,” hosted by Blouin Media, the publishers of Art & Auction magazine. Blumenfeld’s writing about New Orleans has appeared in the published essay collections, “Pop When the World Falls Apart” (EMP/Duke University Press) and “Best Music Writing, 2008” (Da Capo Press). His essay “Exploding Myths in Morocco and Senegal” appeared in “Music in the Post-9/11 World” (Routledge Press). His ongoing coverage of New Orleans began as a Katrina Media Fellow with the Open Society Institute, and has also been supported by a grant from the Ford Foundation. He was formerly honored with a National Arts Journalism Program Fellow at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Blumenfeld has lectured and presented at a wide range of festivals, schools and cultural institutions, including Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, and the National Jazz Museum in Harlem.