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Ashley Paul

Reed player Ashley Paul will be my guest in the studio on Thursday, March 13. A recent graduate of the New England Conservatory, Ashley is one of the most exciting musicians to emerge out of Boston’s new music and improv scenes in quite some time. This month she will begin an artist residency along with partner and collaborator Eli Keszler at the Issue Project Room in New York City and will be performing there with the likes of Phill Niblock, Loren Connors, and David Linton. She just released her second CD on the Rel Records imprint, home of Eli Keszler and Red Horse. Titled Dol, it’s a beautiful record of saxophone, clarinet, crotales, electronics, and vocals. The week prior to her performance on RF, she took some time to answer a few questions.

What is your background, both musical and otherwise?

I grew up in Iowa in a very creative house. My mother was always painting or doing crafts, my older sister practiced piano all day and my dad played guitar and got me completely hooked on the RCA Victor recordings of Paul Desmond and Jim Hall when I was about six. So I started telling people I was going to be a saxophonist far before I had ever picked up the instrument and wanted to be Paul Desmond for years.

I have always been very involved in doing both art and music and always had a tendency towards trying new ideas. This definitely developed more when I moved to Boston for my undergad at NEC.

Could you talk a bit about your training at NEC — how that has shaped your current work?

The last two years at NEC were really life changing, mostly because of the people I met and got to play with. I completed both my bachelors and masters there and the part I appreciated the most after coming back from living in NYC for three years in between degrees is that people are always playing, always excited about music and there is a space to do it. This is something I totally took for granted when I was younger. Having the space to work doesn’t really seem to happen, especially in New York. I also met two of my best friends, who I now play with, Eli Keszler and Anthony Coleman. Anthony was my teacher, with whom I mostly studied composition, although it’s hard to say exactly what we did. He changed my musical life, that’s for sure.

What kind of set-up do you usually use in your solo work?

I love high pitched instruments, so right now I’m working with soprano saxophone, bells and a sampler. I take it one performance at a time though, so it changes a lot.

You have a number of current collaborative projects, including your duo with Eli Keszler and your trio with Eli and Anthony Coleman — could you talk a bit about these various current collaborations?

Eli and I are both very interested in how sounds interact. We both love crotales and I think we discovered about a year ago how interesting bowed crotales and saxophones sound together. I think our collaborations really stemmed from this.

The trio is this wonderfully weird thing. I don’t know what it is.

Your upcoming residency at the Issue Project Room, which includes collaborations with some really interesting musicians, including Loren Connors and Phill Niblock, looks really exciting. How did the residency come about and take the shape that it has?

I first met Suzanne Fiol, who runs Issue, through Anthony. Last spring I did a show with Eli there, opening for Ikue Mori and Zeena Parkins and I just fell in love with her and her space and started going to concerts there and eventually played a few more times there in a duo with Eli and a trio with Anthony. I don’t know, I guess we just hit it off and she asked Eli and I to do the residency. She basically asked us who we wanted to play with. Eli and I sat down and made a list of some people, and she made it happen. I can’t really believe it but our first concert is coming up already on March 19th, a double bill with Alex Waterman, Gerry Hemingway and Wolter Wierbos.

Are there any musicians, artists who have particularly influenced what you do?

Seeing my friends and peers doing creative things pretty much is my biggest inspiration, and really seeing any live music and art. I also adore Paul Desmond, Morton Feldman, Ornette Coleman, Giancinto Scelsi, my mom’s paintings, John Cage….

What other shows, recordings, or other projects do you currently have in the works?

I will be performing Mauricio Kagel’s piece “Der Schall” this coming Tuesday, March 18 at Merkin Concert Hall in NY with Greg Kelley, Joe Morris, Tom Plsek, Eli Keszler and conducted by Anthony Coleman. Its this amazing piece for five musicians and something like 56 instruments. I am playing instruments like ocarina, octave bass harmonic, bass balalaika and taishokoto, to name a few. I will also be playing a duo set with Anthony at The Stone next Friday, March 21st.

In addition I play in the quartet Everything’s a Little Glorious (saxophone, trombone, guitar and bass) whose album I’m working on right now. We play all original music drawing mostly from contemporary classical, rock, jazz and noise influences.

The new record (Dol) is really lovely (I’m listening to “one ten” right now). Is it officially out yet?

Yes! Finally. I just got the CD’s back. Yay!

-Susanna Bolle


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