DC Improvisers Collective
Review of "Triangulation"
From: Signal To Noise, Fall 2008, issue #51, Page 63
By: Bill Meyer

DCIC is a guitar/electronics-reeds-drums trio with links to underground rock - guitarist Jonathan Matis recently toured with Fugazi bassist Joe Lally, drummer Ben Azzara was in Delta '72 - as well as jazz - they have performed with Greg Osby. They play in a hybrid language, slipping in the occasional rock chord as easily as they slide through textural explorations. Mike Sebastian's horns, and especially his exotically pitched saxello, are what makes their music stand out. He's as adept at tying knots in his own lines like Roscoe Mitchell as he is at reeling out an imploring, klezmer-tinged lament. At close to an hour, their debut overstays its welcome a bit, but there's enough happening here that I'd be happy to check them out if they came to my town.

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DC Improvisers Collective
Review of "Triangulation"
From: Cadence Magazine, July - Aug - Sep 2008, pp. 257-8
By: Jason Bivins

The D.C. Improvisers Collective takes things in a different direction (by the way, don't think I don't spot the Ravens jersey on the cover, guys). With some limber reed work, clacking percussion, and a resounding Strat (with delay pedals and so forth) this group gets closer to the sound of Brad Shepik, the Tiny Bell Trio, and mid-90s "downtown" stuff than anything free improv. But really, what do labels matter? "Museum of Commerce and War" opens with a nice full drone from reeds/feedback, and morphs into a kind of vamp and from there into a long open section filled with dark rubato playing and clouds of electronics. It's the kind of multi-directional flight these guys often take. And across the record, one hears a brief spasm of noisy free funk on "Punk Jazz"; several passages for cranky Strat chokes and wrestling holds, kinda like Raoul Bjorkenheim; and skirling saxophones on "Man Versus Nature" and the reflective "The Girl from Quarna Sotto" (the saxophonist elsewhere digs in on tenor in a Butcher-influenced fashion). In general the music is equal parts uncertainty and innovation, as if they're not really sure what they want to accomplish but they're having too much fun trying and then discarding ideas to really care.

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DC Improvisers Collective
Review of "Triangulation" and Interview with Jonathan Matis
From: WAMU Metro Connection, March 28, 2008
Host David Furst

"Somewhere between the worlds of acoustic jazz, punk and the spiky discord of art rock bands like King Crimson, members of the DC Improvisers Collective are following their own musical path. April 1st is the official release date for the Collective's new CD, "Triangulation". Guitarist and composer Jonathan Matis joins us to talk about the project."

DC Improvisers Collective
One Track Mind Feature, Review of "Triangulation"
From: Washington City Paper, March 19, 2008
By: Michael J. West

Standout Track: No. 8, "Mourning in America," a slow, quiet free-jazz rumination. Mike Sebastian's tenor sax is the dominant instrument, with guitarist Jonathan Matis and drummer Ben Azzara providing a sparse backdrop. Though the song's title suggests a dirge, the languorous melody could just as easily be a lullaby.

Musical Motivation: To spontaneously create music at the intersection of jazz, classical, and rock. Onstage DCIC might have a template, such as a particular scale, that yields a different product at each performance. In the studio, however, improvisation can actually involve a fair amount of advance planning. "'Mourning in America' was actually a series of overdubs," says Matis. "Mike went in [the studio] first and just played something for a couple of minutes; Ben went in, listened to it, and worked something out on the drums; then I went in with the guitar."

The Makeup: Matis is as accomplished a composer as he is an improviser. He works at combining the two, but results vary with the musicians. "I tend to write for people rather than for instruments," he says. Currently he's writing what he calls a "post-rock" string quartet for musicians with classical and jazz backgrounds; Matis is still trying to decide how much space to leave for improv, since musicians have different levels of comfort with it. As for his own comfort zone, Matis admits that improv lets him disguise his shortcomings. "That's really about my limitations on guitar," he says. "If I were a better player, I'd probably spend less time playing free."

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DC Improvisers Collective
Review of "Triangulation"
From: Cleveland Free Press, April 1, 2008
By: Matt Whelihan

While the DC Improvisers Collective might be best known for working as Fugazi bassist Joe Lally's backing band in 2007, these guys throw down a scattered and shrieking mix of jazz, rock and noise on Triangulation. Fans of improvised music will love the rapport this trio (guitar, drums and reeds) seem to share as disconnected puttering and moaning suddenly locks into a groove before slowly starting to fray at the edges. The issue here seems to be that the boys in DCIC are keeping improv as a fringe genre, and while current fans of the style would want nothing less, it makes accessibility to newcomers or casual listeners very difficult.

Maybe it's the improvised status of the band, or maybe it's a testament to the talented musicians who form its ranks, but Triangulation features an eclectic, albeit often bizarre, set of sounds. See the Arabian Nights soundtrack written by freeform jazz artists sound of "Then Don't Listen," the scratchy, screaming fuzz of artsy rocker "Punk Jazz," and the nightclub shuffle of "Mourning in America," for example. It's the kind of stuff that makes improvisation so exciting in the first place, even if that experimental nature is also what turns so many people away.

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DC Improvisers Collective
Review of "Meme and Variations"
From: http://zzaj.freehostia.com Feb 2009
By: Dick Metcalf, aka Rotcod Zzaj

DC Improvisers Collective - MEME + VARIATIONS: This improvised collection of live shows from around the D.C. area really hits the MARK... I'm immediately reminded of some of the wild early-'80's sessions we had up here in Olympia, Washington, as well as down in Birmingham, Alabama with Davey Williams & LaDonna Smith. The players on these sets are (primarily) Ben Azzara (drums); Daniel Barbiero (double bass); Jonathan Matis (guitar); & Mike Sebastian doing reeds... & they are KICKING it, folks! Lots of audience interaction, so you know it's not just the artists patting themselves on the back with a recording of what they did. The thing most striking about these pieces is that they are so on... there's no hesitation with any of the players - they just START it up... yet, they are all in SYNCH (something often hard to do on a live-improv recording). Sebastian's reeds kick in just after 7 minutes on the first track, "Affinity Is as Infinity Does", & they are smokin'! This piece runs the whole gamut... much like an "improv opera", if you will. Some listeners (those who haven't heard much improvised music before) will find this a difficult listen, but if you have any adventure left in your heart - THIS is the sonic journey you want to be on, no doubt! This one will stay in the rotation for a long time - it gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me! Get more information at http://dcic.alkem.org/music.html Rotcod Zzaj
DC Improvisers Collective
Review of "Meme and Variations"
From: Cadence Magazine, June 2007

"No such limitations [on spontaneity] hamper the free blowing of the DC Improvisers Collective (Ben Azzara, d, perc; Daniel Barbiero, b; Jonathan Matis, g, prepared g, electronics; Mike Sebastian, ts, ss, bcl.) The 57-minute Meme and Variations (Sachimay 31) presents ample opportunity for everyone to solo, and this is accomplished with skill and thoughtfulness. The prepared guitar work is especially noteworthy, sounding at first like a mixture of Keith Rowe and Sonny Sharrock but taking on a refreshing life of its own as the disc proceeds. The four long tracks (Affinity is as Infinity Does/Four Soliloquies (a) The Composition of Air (b) Opaque Mirrors (c) A Portrait of Jerome Horwitz as a Young Man (d) The Unwobbling Pivot/After Europe After the Rain/Meme & Variations) veer between modality, swing, and controlled freedom."

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Mike Sebastian
photo by: Pete Duvall
DC Improvisers Collective
Live review of June 2 performance at the Warehouse
From: Washington Post June 4, 2005
By: Mark Jenkins

Improvisation was the conceptual link between two quite different groups that performed at the Warehouse Next Door on Thursday: the DC Improvisers Collective and Japan's (by way of Seattle) Na. The local quartet drew heavily on jazz's improv tradition, while Na juxtaposed passages derived from rock, classical and even country music. Yet both shared one thing: guitarists who tested the limits of their instruments.

The DCIC, which headlined, was three-quarters of a standard avant-jazz group, dominated by powerhouse saxophonist Mike Sebastian. His bleats and trills usually overpowered the other sounds, including guitarist Jonathan Matis's more conventional playing. Yet Matis took the spotlight twice, first during a Sebastian less passage in which he placed his guitar on a stool and played it like one of John Cage's "prepared" pianos, attacking it with pencils and dulcimer hammers. He also asserted himself during the final piece, making a big noise with fuzz tone, and using slides (one of them actually a vibrator) with both hands. Because closing time was near, the DCIC played only a 30-minute set and seemed to have just begun demonstrating what it can do.

Na is a trio but played Thursday as a duo, singer-guitarist Kazu Nomura explained, because the drummer had to take a class. As Noriaki Watanabe knelt on the floor, playing keyboards and synthesizer, Nomura sang, played and strutted, sometimes dancing right out of his sneakers. The music ranged from rock riffs to madrigal melodies to atonal skittering, interspersed with squeals, crashes and howls, both instrumental and vocal.

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Avant Guardian
preview of the of June 2 performance at the Warehouse
From: Washington Post Express June 2, 2005
By: Mike Kanin

A composer makes and champions improvised sound

MUSIC | Jonathan Morris—who may also be known to D.C. music fans as Jonathan Matis—is a classically trained composer who studied under Noah Zahler at Connecticut College. Since 1995, the D.C.-area native has found his performances trending toward the free improvisation end of the musical spectrum. On June 2, Morris' D.C. Improvisers Collective will preform as part of a program called "Composing Is For Cowards"... Read complete article >>

Review of Here, We Are
From: All About Jazz, May 2003
By: Frank Rubolino

Mysticism abounds when the DC Improvisers Collective (DCIC) holds a musical sťance. The performers delve into remote realms, conjuring up inventive music with sorcerous cunning. This searching association of experimental artists affords its members the opportunity for open-ended exploration in various-sized group scenarios.

On this recording, the DCIC features four free spirits. Mike Sebastian awakens the ghosts of music present and future through his fierce woodwind flights; Jon Ozment offers weighty acoustic and electric piano brews; Mark Merella executes jarring percussive resonance; and Jonathan Matis adds bracing stimuli through his guitar. Electronics play an important role as well, with Ozment, Merella, and Matis each negotiating the amplified terrain for special effects.

The program, as could be expected from the band's name, is fully improvised. These instant composers thrive on the spontaneity of the moment, allowing their innate sense of adventure to dictate the direction the music takes. It goes off in multiple streams of consciousness that slide into hallucinatory states, often through alternating pairings that fold into full quartet activity.

For example, Merella pumps incendiary fuel to drive Sebastian into forceful areas in two duets, and he supplies more subtle nuances in his matching of ambiance with Ozment. One trio selection without Sebastian is awash in eerie vibrations. The band rises to its creative best on the full ensemble tunes that comprise the majority of the recording. With all improvisers interacting as a unit, the music peaks in waves of otherworldliness.

Each title develops through the probing and suggestion of the players. Sebastian speaks in multiple tongues, allowing his bass clarinet to supply spirituality or his saxophones to emit eruptive energy. Merella floods the field with a plethora of exotic percussive tones, injecting rattling, clanking, and other stimuli into the concoction. Ozment sends a jarring message from his piano or keyboards, painting a voluminous soundscape in the process. Matis's guitar efforts offer contrasting reactions; he releases smoldering juices or calming melodiousness into the group context.

While sound in its purest form plays an important role, the pieces display continuity with little need for silence and space as support. The recording flows in suite-like fashion as one collective expression.

From jarring abruptness to passive serenity, the DCIC responds to the moment at hand to create music of unique character and demanding quality. Aided by electronic supplements, it becomes especially vibrant. Each musician stays in touch with his psyche and responds to the circulating spirits of the others on this compelling example of unrestrained group meditation.

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photos by: Pete Duvall | design by: ben azzara © 2005-2008