Rothenberg, Ned , virtuoso wind player; b. Boston, Mass., Sept. 15, 1956. Ned Rothenberg’s playing successfully bridges the worlds of twentieth-century avant-garde composition and jazz-based improvisation via a highly personalized, idiosyncratic approach to reeds and shakuhachi (Japanese end-blown flute). This is not music for the casual listener; with its focus on microscopic detail and extended technique, his music is cerebral in the best sense of the word—challenging, provocative, and ear-expanding—and amply rewards attentive listening.
He honed his skills in the late 1970s with Anthony Braxton, appearing on the monumental Creative Orch. Moving to N.Y., he became involved with the downtown jazz/new music/no wave crossover scene, notably as a member of the trio Semantics with drummer Samm Bennett and multi-instrumentalist Elliott Sharp. Since then he has worked with a host of collaborators from the fields of jazz, free improvisation, modern classical, and world music, establishing himself as one of the foremost practitioners of his instruments. Rothenberg’s explorations of microtones and the extreme ranges of his instruments are foregrounded in intimate settings, such as his duets with Tuvan overtone singer Sainkho and his New Winds trio with fellow innovators Robert Dick and J. D. Parran. His compositional acumen is showcased in larger ensembles like the all-star nonet Powerlines and the Ned Rothenberg Double Band, the latter of which finds him in unusually funky territory reminiscent of the work of Brooklyn’s M-Base players.
The Cliff (1989); Traction (1991); Opposites Attract (1991); The Crux (1993); Overlays (1993); Antonyms (1994); Digging It Harder from Afar (1994); Powerlines (1995); Real and Imagined Time (1995); Amulet (1996); Potion (1998).
—Dennis Rea/Steve Holtje