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A Night of Improvised Round Robin Duets in NYC

The power of two

Wadada Leo Smith, David Murray, Kaki King, Nels Cline, Petra Haden, Marc Ribot and Jherek Bischoff (from left), Town Hall, NYC, May 2014. Courtesy Red Bull Music Academy

Since 2010, attendees of the annual Undead Music Series in New York have had the opportunity to witness “A Night of Improvised Round Robin Duets,” which co-presenter Adam Schatz describes as “the greatest way to trick a roomful of people into listening to 100-percent improvised music for two hours.” After shuttling among venues, the Round Robin landed this year on May 14 at the Town Hall, a capacious room that would’ve been unbookable if not for the co-sponsorship of the Red Bull Music Academy (RBMA). “We love the historical context of the legendary jazz shows that have happened in that space,” said Undead co-founder Brice Rosenbloom shortly before the event.

This was the first theater-seated show in Round Robin history (they’ve also transpired in New Orleans and Detroit), and like last year’s go-round at Brooklyn Masonic Temple-the first Undead-RBMA collaboration-the span of genres, aesthetic temperaments and even generations was huge. “Allen Toussaint comes from a [New Orleans] background that we haven’t really highlighted much,” said Rosenbloom, “so we’re thrilled that he’s bringing that tradition into the mix. It’s also great having someone like Wadada Leo Smith onstage with younger folks like Jamie Lidell and Daedelus.”

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