María Grand and Amirtha Kidambi have worked together in collaborative settings including Grand’s ensemble DiaTribe, and most recently in Mary Halvorson’s sextet, Code Girl. This duo exploration is a new project born of their friendship, which developed on the road. Grand and Kidambi shared their final live performances before quarantine on tour in Europe with Code Girl. With the sudden announcement of the travel ban, the tour was cut short and they returned to a lock down. In quarantine, Kidambi acquired an alto saxophone and they began trading sax lessons for voice lessons over Skype. Grand, who has recently incorporated singing into her compositions, is a dynamic and dextrous saxophonist. Kidambi, a virtuosic vocalist, is an amateur saxophonist with an intuitive approach, similar to Grand’s sensitive vocal style. In this duo, they explore the timbral and expressive combinations of their voices and saxophones through collaborative compositions. This is not only a premiere of the duo, but Kidambi’s debut on alto saxophone.
This performance will be presented virtually and available for free on a variety of streaming platforms. Roulette’s theater is currently closed for public performances as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the safety measures that Roulette has put in place to keep staff, artists, and the public safe.
María Grand: tenor sax, voice, composition
Amirtha Kidambi: voice, alto sax, composition
María Grand is a saxophonist, composer, educator, and vocalist. She moved to New York City in 2011. She has since become an important member of the city’s creative music scene, performing extensively in projects including musicians such as Nicole Mitchell, Vijay Iyer, Craig Taborn, Mary Halvorson, Jen Shyu, Fay Victor, Joel Ross, Aaron Parks, Miles Okazaki, etc. María writes and performs her original compositions with her ensemble, DiaTribe; her debut EP “TetraWind” was picked as “one of the 2017’s best debuts” by the NYC Jazz Record and her full-length album Magdalena was praised by major publications such as the New York Times, Downbeat, JazzTimes, Billboard, JazzIz, and others. The New York Times calls her “an engrossing young tenor saxophonist with a zesty attack and a solid tonal range”, while Vijay Iyer says she is “a fantastic young saxophonist, virtuosic, conceptually daring, with a lush tone, a powerful vision, and a deepening emotional resonance.” María is a recipient of the 2017 Jazz Gallery Residency Commission, the 2018 Roulette Jerome Foundation Commission, the 2019 Roulette Residency, and the 2020 Jazz Coalition Commission Award. She was nominated for the Jazz Journalist’s Association Up-And-Coming Musician of the Year 2018 and named the 2018 Newcomer Musician for the El Intruso 11th Annual Internation Critics Poll, as well as Best New Artist in the 2018 JazzTimes Reader’s Poll. As an activist in the performing arts, María is a founding member of anti-discrimination group the We Have Voice Collective. María is a member of Mary Halvorson’s Code Girl, Joel Ross’ Parables, has toured with Antoine Roney, and performs and tours regularly with her own ensembles, as well as with RAJAS, led by Carnatic musician Rajna Swaminathan. She has toured Europe, the United States, and South America, playing as a leader in venues and festivals such as WinterJazzFest and BRIC JazzFest in NYC, PDX Jazz in Portland, OR, Jazzdor Festival in Strasbourg, Paris, the YardBird Suite in Edmonton, Canada, JazzUnterfhart in Munich, Germany, Victoria Natjonal Scene in Oslo, etc.
Amirtha Kidambi is invested in the creation and performance of subversive music, from free improvisation and avant-jazz, to experimental bands and new music. She is an educator, activist and organizer, informed by anti-racism, decolonization and anti-capitalism. As a bandleader, she is the creative force behind Elder Ones, featuring rising New York artists Matt Nelson, Nick Dunston, and Max Jaffe. Elder Ones’ Holy Science and From Untruth released on Northern Spy, have received critical praise from the New York Times, Pitchfork, Downbeat, and WIRE magazine. Kidambi topped the categories of “Rising Star Vocalist”, “Rising Star Composer” and “Rising Star Jazz Group” in the Downbeat Critics Poll for 2019. She is active in an improvising duo with electronic musician Lea Bertucci, in a kinetic interaction with reel-to-reel tape machine, with the forthcoming album Phase Eclipse on Astral Spirits. Kidambi is a key collaborator in Mary Halvorson’s latest sextet Code Girl, the duo Angels & Demons with Darius Jones (setting Sun Ra poetry) and in various collaborations with William Parker. As an improviser, she has played with New York luminaries including Matana Roberts, Tyshawn Sorey, Maria Grand, Ingrid Laubrock, Ava Mendoza, Fay Victor, Trevor Dunn, Ben Vida, Tyondai Braxton and Shahzad Ismaily. Kidambi worked closely with composer Robert Ashley until the end of his life, premiering his final opera CRASH and had the honor of working with the late composer/pianist Muhal Richard Abrams for the premiere of Dialogue Social. She has performed and presented her music in the U.S. and internationally at Carnegie Hall, The Kitchen, Whitney Museum, EMPAC, Berlin Jazzfest and various DIY/punk spaces. Kidambi has received grants from the Jerome Foundation, Asian Cultural Council and artist residencies at EMPAC, Roulette, Pioneer Works, and Bucareli 69 in Mexico City.
Photos: Melanie Metz, Pedro Rosas