Musician and composer Ned Rothenberg, who will perform this weekend at Pathways at the Chilmark Tavern, doesn’t care for labels. Describing his particular blend of jazz, world music, and other genres, he says, “It’s music for people who have open ears and not a lot of preconceptions — who are not concerned with stylistic purity. It’s something very immediate and intimate.”
Rothenberg lives in Brooklyn, and is making the trip to the Vineyard specifically for the one-night-only solo show. He travels all over the world performing with musicians from places as diverse as India, Israel, and Russia. He recently performed in New York City with musicians from Morocco. His next tour will be with a singer from Tuva in Siberia. That tour will take Rothenberg through China and Japan.
The multi-instrumentalist plays regularly in jazz clubs and other venues around New York and Boston. He has released, and been featured on, dozens of CDs. For the solo show on the Vineyard, Rothenberg will be playing multiple wind instruments, including alto sax, clarinet, bass clarinet, and the shakuhachi — a traditional Asian bamboo flute. Rothenberg lived in Japan at one point, and studied with two of the masters of that instrument.
Currently the musician and composer teaches at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, commuting from his home in Brooklyn. He has performed since his teenage years, playing, by his estimate, over 1,000 shows throughout the world. Rothenberg’s last appearance on the Vineyard was in 1974, when he performed with a local jazz band as a teenager. He has been visiting the Island since childhood.
Although he is reluctant to pigeonhole his brand of music, Rothenberg says of his solo performances, “I do creative and composed music built around a personal language and vocabulary.”
Critical acclaim from a number of media outlets might give a better indication of what Vineyarders can look forward to. The New York Times calls Rothenberg “a composer on the edge of jazz and new music,” and the Village Voice described his solo outings as having “a near religious focus to them.”
Perhaps the LA Weekly’s music reviewer Glen Hirshberg captures the essence of the eclectic performer’s work best, writing, “What renders Rothenberg more approachable and, in the end, more significant than many of his peers, is the serenity at the heart of his fiercest playing. Even when fronting the Double Band, his longstanding, free-blowing jazz-funk ensemble, Rothenberg infuses solos of breathtaking virtuosity with a rare, peaceful patience.”
Rothenberg’s performance will represent the wind-down to the Pathways season. On Friday, April 19, the performance space will host the final We Dance event, featuring multiple original choreographed pieces, followed by DJ dancing. On Tuesday, April 23, Ken Wentworth and Liz Witham of Film-Truth Productions will present clips from their latest documentary “Follow the Journey of the North Atlantic Right Whales,” and on Friday, April 26, Pathways will host its season finale, featuring music, writing, poetry, and a dance film.
Composer and performer Ned Rothenberg will present a solo show on various instruments on Saturday, April 20, from 7 to 9 pm at Pathways at the Chilmark Tavern. Doors open at 6:30. Free admission.