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IMPFEST 2024 lineup announced

Submitted by Joanne De Pue on April 11, 2024 - 11:45am
  • IMPFest VIII
    The student-run Improvised Music Project (IMP) collaborates with the School of Music to produce IMPFest.
Saxophonist Chris Speed, trumpeter Jun Iida, and bassist Todd Sickafoose headline IMPFEST 2024, the annual festival co-hosted by the School of Music and the student-run Improvised Music Project (IMP).  Admission to the three-day festival is free, thanks to generous support from Seattle's Raynier Foundation.
The festival, which pairs up-and-coming musicians with seasoned professionals of international renown, is the IMP’s signature annual event. This year, Speed and Sickafoose perform their original music in sets with Jazz Studies students and with faculty Cuong Vu (trumpet), Ted Poor (drums), and Steve Rodby (bass). Iida performs a headlining set with his own band, with faculty Cuong Vu and Ted Poor presenting an opening set. 



Wed. April 24: Chris Speed, saxophone (Chapel Performance Space, Wallingford)
All concerts are at 7:30 pm and admission is FREE. Visit the links above for details. 

Artist Biographies

Jun Iida

Trumpeter, composer, educator, and recording artist Jun Iida (Joon Ee-da) has quickly established himself as a highly sought after musician. A recording and performing artist, Iida has performed extensively throughout the U.S. at notable jazz clubs, theaters, and festivals with his sextet and as a sideman.

Originally from St. Louis, MO, Iida has lived in Seattle, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Los Angeles, and has recently relocated to New York City. Iida has internalized the different styles of music from each region, making his approach to composing and arranging appealing and unexpected with his subtle amalgamation of contemporary jazz, blues, pop, hip-hop, soul, and classical music.

The son of Japanese immigrants, Iida’s mother, a semi-professional koto (Japanese harp) player, had a profound influence on his love of music. Iida says, “My mother was always playing music around the house. She loved all types of music, especially classical, and I spent my formative years listening to Brahms, Tchaikovsky, and Mendelssohn. My mother wanted to make sure we didn’t lose our culture and language, so she also taught us Japanese folk and children’s songs. But I also listened to jazz, blues, soul, rock & roll, and hip-hop, which were all prevalent in St. Louis when I was very young.”

Iida began studying the piano when he was five years old and subsequently started playing the trumpet when he was nine after listening to his mother’s Louis Armstrong album, Hello Dolly! Although Iida was mainly attracted to jazz when he was young, his interests encompassed a wide range of styles, and he performed in several classical orchestras and wind ensembles throughout his high school and college years. Iida went on to study classical music at the Cleveland Institute of Music and jazz at Case Western Reserve University, where he also studied aerospace engineering.

Iida’s debut album as leader, Evergreen, was released January 19, 2024 on Origin Records.

“All compositions are reflective of both his Japanese heritage and his command and fluency in jazz composition and stylings, the two worlds being complementary and mutually enriching on this showing. The diversity of mood and style, not to mention thoughtful programming of tracks, is a real strength of this album. All in all, there is a great deal to enjoy here.”
– London Jazz News

“Iida’s trumpet delivers a lush, mellow tone. His improvisations are thoughtfully presented, surprisingly inventive, and highly inflected with ornamentations both classic jazz and Japanese-inflected elements. He swings in a style which is totally unique. Evergreen is a texturally-varied debut album from Iida and his exceptional musicians. It is colorful and, at times, enchanting, stimulating both ear and mind.”
– All About Jazz

Iida is able to bring in elements of his upbringing, along with touches of classical, and even hip-hop rhythms. As a result, songs such as the title track “Evergreen” and “Shiki No Uta” are uniquely contemporary yet forward leaning. Iida’s solos are elegant and engrossing while the band is given moments to shine to make the entire album a treat. Evergreen by Jun Iida smokes from beginning to end. It’s a fine way to start 2024.”
– Slang of Ages

Chris Speed

Chris Speed is a tenor saxophonist, clarinetist and composer, whose work ranges widely, from a jazz base out through various forms of folk, classical and rock music. Affiliated with a bewildering variety of ensembles, he has been a prominent and influential voice in jazz and improvised music for three decades.

Born in 1967, Speed grew up in the Seattle area where he met future colleagues Jim Black and Andrew D'Angelo, all of whom ended up in Boston in the late 80's where they formed Human Feel with guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel. (Scatter 1992, Welcome to Malpesta 1994, Speak To It 1996, Galore 2007, Party Favor EP 2016 and Gold 2019). After studies at New England Conservatory followed by a stint with the Artie Shaw Band (led by Dick Johnson), Speed moved to New York City where he started working with Tim Berne and his band Bloodcount. (Unwound 1996, Discretion 1997, Saturation Point 1997, The Seconds 2006).

Speed's fascination with the mysterious rhythms, melodies and old-worldness of folk music from the Balkans led to the formation of Pachora (Black, guitarist Brad Shepik and bassist Skuli Sverrisson), an ensemble that evolved from playing East European folk music covers regularly at the Knitting Factory to touring critically acclaimed original music throughout North America and Europe. (Pachora 1997, Unn 1999, Ast 2000 and Astereotypical 2003). Chris' passion for folk music is also documented with the brass band Slavic Soul Party (In Makedonija 2002 Knitting Factory Records).

Yeah NO, Speed's band with Black/Sverrisson and Cuong Vu (trumpet) initially convened in the mid 90s as an experiment in decoding and scoring out group improvisations, which inspired an unusual book of music that also fused elements of jazz, rock, eastern folk and weird minimalism. Thriving in NYC in the late 90s, they also toured the States and Europe and made four recordings (Yeah NO 1997, Deviantics 1998, Emit 2000, Swell Henry 2004).

The Clarinets, an ongoing collaboration with Oscar Noriega and Anthony Burr, explores the possibilities of the clarinet (multi-pitch tones, timbre deviation) in the context of group improvisation. This group blurs the boundary between composed chamber music and experimental improvisation and creates an acoustic ambient music of unusual grace and beauty.  They have three recordings, The Clarinets (2006 featured on NPR’s Fresh Air), Keep On Going Like This (2012) and No Pressure (2019).

Endangered Blood (Jim Black, Trevor Dunn Oscar Noriega, Speed) was formed in 2008 to play benefit concerts for saxophonist Andrew D'Angelo, who'd been diagnosed with a brain tumor. (D'Angelo eventually made a full recovery). Their music draws from the members' diverse backgrounds and influences, combining post-bop, 20th-century chromaticism, traditional New Orleans funeral marches, avant-garde jazz and post-punk to create a sort of mad-scientist concoction. Its compositions are cerebral, but they're also gritty and full of energy. (Endangered Blood 2010, Work Your Magic 2013, Don’t Freak Out 2018, plus an appearance on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts in 2012).

With the formation of the Chris Speed Trio in 2014 with drummer Dave King and bassist Chris Tordini, Speed has put an inimitable stamp on the classic sax-bass-drums format. This is a group returning from other explorations to work deep within the jazz tradition, bringing everything else they've learned back in. Most compelling about this music is the incorporation of early jazz styles in a way that is direct and deeply felt. The music is joyful and generous and Speed has an uncanny knack for coming up with tunes that can create a whole world of emotions and formal possibilities behind an often catchy melodic surface. (Really OK 2014, Platinum On Tap 2017, Respect For Your Toughness 2019, Despite Obstacles 2023).

Broken Shadows (Tim Berne, Reid Anderson, Dave King, Speed) is a quartet of kindred spirits communing over shared loves and common inspirations; banded together to reinterpret the timeless sounds conjured by great artists from the rural South and heartland of the country, primarily Ornette Coleman and Julius Hemphill. The way saxophonists Berne and Speed perform this music with the bass-and-drum team of Anderson and King has a rocking, roughhewn harmonic convergence wholly in keeping with the source materials, even as their improvisations have a searching, burning modernism of their own. (Broken Shadows 2019 re-released on Intakt).

In August of 2021, Speed, along with guitarist Ben Monder, joined The Bad Plus (with Reid Anderson and Dave King). The new (debut) record was released on Edition Records September of 2022.

In 2006 Speed created Skirl Records, a label dedicated to Brooklyn based creative music, now with over 50 releases.  “As a document of the fertile Brooklyn scene, Skirl has few equals, skirting the boundaries between jazz, rock, electronic, classical and improvised music.” --AllAboutJazz   

Todd Sickafoose

Todd Sickafoose is a Tony and Grammy award-winning composer, producer, arranger, orchestrator, bandleader and double bassist. He has performed on hundreds of recordings, toured internationally, appeared at music venues and festivals from Carnegie Hall to New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, and played on national television and radio programs including the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Show with Conan O’Brien, The Artists Den, and NPR’s Mountain Stage. Known as a musical cross-breeder who stretches across genres, Sickafoose has been described by the San Francisco Chronicle as “a captivating improviser, imaginative composer, and master of collaboration”.

In 2004, Sickafoose began performing and recording in a duo format with folk poet, activist and cultural icon Ani DiFranco. Their relationship has developed for nearly two decades – together they have made 7 albums, two concert DVDs, and performed over 1000 shows.

In 2007, Sickafoose began working on Anaïs Mitchell's folk opera, Hadestown, wearing many hats including arranger/orchestrator and music producer. After years of development and regional productions, the show opened at the Walter Kerr Theater on Broadway in 2019 and won 8 Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Orchestrations for Sickafoose and collaborator Michael Chorney. Sickafoose produced the Hadestown Original Broadway Cast Recording which won a 2019 Grammy for Best Musical Theater Recording. Hadestown continues to run both on Broadway and a North American Tour, and will open on London’s West End in early 2024.

Straddling the worlds of folk, indie rock, jazz and chamber music, Sickafoose’s own band Tiny Resistors has performed at the North Sea Jazz Festival, Stern Grove Festival, Angel City Jazz Festival and been featured on many “Best-Of” lists including the Village Voice and JazzTimes. Writing for Tiny Resistors, he recently composed Bear Proof, a long-form chamber jazz hybrid commissioned by the Doris Duke Foundation.