Trevor Dunn, Ches Smith and Charlie Hall christen Solar Myth, the once Boot & Saddle, with an intimate VIP soft opening.
By now, everybody in Philadelphia knows that Ars Nova Workshop’s Mark Christman (Executive and Artistic Director) and the people out of South Philly’s Franklin Porter took over Broad and Ellsworth’s post-punk palace the Boot & Saddle for the avant-garde jazz curator and concert event booker’s office space and new live listening room, jazz totem sales salon, natural wine boite and craft brew space. And while, officially Ars Nova Workshop’s Christman and company won’t properly unveil the new clubroom until sometime in November, they did christen the new off-Washington Avenue venue with its spanking new name, Solar Myth, with its Sun Ra Arkestra reference, and some special looks, sounds and tastes of what the space (is the place) will be.
On Thursday, October 30 that meant seeing one of Mike Patton’s Mr. Bungle partners, bassist and composer Trevor Dunn, who reunited his beautiful noise exploratory jazz outfit Trio-Convulsant for the first time in nearly 20 years with tracks from its evocative new, 2022 album Séances. Clever Dunn’s trio with guitarist Mary Halvorson and drummer Ches Smith was joined by the strings and winds quartet Folie à Quatre (flutist Anna Webber, violinist/violist Carla Kihlstedt, cellist Mariel Roberts and bass clarinetist Oscar Noriega) and the effect it had was no myth.
To a packed, invite-only audience, Dunn’s Trio-Convulsant did something I needed desperately: offered my head an often dark, but dreamy improvisational free jazzy space to roam. Although Dunn calls the album, just released on October 28, something of a chamber-jazz-metal inspired by bizarre tales of an 18th-century French religious sect, the sounds of tracks such as “Secours Meurtriers” and “Saint-Médard” were more wind and wood than metallic. Its arrangements seemed similar to something arranger and orchestrator Gil Evans might have done for Miles Davis than what Dunn was initially musically inspired by for Seances, Desmond Blue, the 1962 album by saxophonist Paul Desmond’s band with guitarist Jim Hall with string orchestra.
If by chance or curatorial decisiveness, the next two nights of Solar Myth, October 30 and Monday, October 31 are equally tied to Evans’s production charge Miles Davis as Philly’s The War on Drugs drummer, Charlie Hall, performs yet another Miles-focused piece with his solo ensemble, Get Up with It at Solar Myth. Only this time, they’re moving away from the gates of Gil Evans’ opulently zig-zagging ambiance and into the 50th anniversary of electric Mile Davis’ classic funk-jazz experiments, Jack Johnson and On the Corner.
Save for the original tin metal ceiling from the Boot & Saddle of old, everything about the fresh and spacious Solar Myth is new, open and spare, save for the clanging complexities of the free jazz and nu-classical music Ars Nova Workshop will book from ancient to the future. Myth on.