New York-based composer, saxophonist, and flutist Anna Webber, called "one of the most exciting new arrivals on the New York avant-garde jazz scene" by Peter Margasak in the Chicago Reader (2014), releases Binary with her band the SIMPLE Trio, featuring John Hollenbeck on drums and Matt Mitchell on piano. The recording will be out October 25 on Skirl Records.
For Binary, Webber looked to the internet for inspiration. Using websites that turn words into drumbeats, YouTube test channels, and even her own IP address, she found a constant stream of inspiration for her compositions. The album's title track was composed using numbers and letters produced by a random binary digit generator.
"Using material from a pre-defined source like the internet helps me to be more creative," said Webber. "It keeps me from falling into routines."
When writing the music for Binary, Webber began each piece with a small melodic, rhythmic, harmonic, or purely conceptual starting point. The five "Rectangles" tracks on the album come from the YouTube test channel "WebDriver Torso," which features ten-second videos of red and blue rectangles set to high-pitched, microtonal sounds. With a number of the pieces, she created musical plays-on-words that exude a sense of tension and release, including "Impulse Purchase," which was written using Webber's IP address, and "Tug o' War," a transliteration of the game tug of war into music. Interested in both the complex as well as the playful aspects of the internet, Webber investigated how the concept of a meme could manifest in a musical context in the aptly titled "Meme."
Though the internet provided innumerable opportunities for compositional experimentation, the greatest excitement came from knowing that she was composing for her SIMPLE Trio bandmates Hollenbeck and Mitchell, two incredibly adept musicians who share her desire to venture into unexplored territory.
"Because we've been playing, touring, and recording together as a band as well as in various projects for several years now, our musical interaction since the last album has evolved considerably," said Webber. "John and Matt are fantastic to compose for and improvise with because they have the ability to play challenging music in a way that feels relaxed and natural."
Webber's intention in her work is to blur the line between composed and improvised material, creating frameworks for improvisation that will challenge the musicians to expand outside the realm of what they normally play. She is committed to experimenting with the jazz form, pushing her to challenge conventions as well as her own impulses as an artist. Although Webber situates herself in the jazz world, her compositional approach is as greatly influenced by jazz music as it is by new music composers such as Giacinto Scelsi, Györgi Ligeti, and Gérard Grisey.
Binary finds the SIMPLE Trio expanding and building on what The New York Times called the "range of the group members: fulminous, intense collective improvisation" in songs that feel like living things and lead the audience in different directions on each listen. Binary is yet another example of the trio's ability to combine "a huge sound, big ideas and disarming humor into an engagingly avant-garde approach that promises to continue to gain wider recognition," (Style Weekly, 2016).
Anna Webber is an integral part of a new wave of the Brooklyn avant-garde jazz scene. A saxophonist and flutist who strives for the unexpected, she has furthermore consistently proven herself to be a unique and forward-thinking composer with releases such as 2014's SIMPLE (Skirl Records) and 2013's Percussive Mechanics.
In addition to the SIMPLE Trio, Webber also leads the septet Percussive Mechanics with which she has released two albums on Pirouet Records: Refraction (2014) and Percussive Mechanics (2013). Webber is also featured on Dan Weiss' album Sixteen: Drummers Suite and on an upcoming release from Jen Shyu's band Jade Tongue. She is a member of Ohad Talmor's Grand Ensemble; Matt Mitchell's Sprees; Fabian Almazan's Realm of Possibilities; the Erik Hove Chamber Ensemble; and a new sextet from Bang on a Can All-Stars member Ken Thomson; among others. She recently played in the world premiere of Sila: The Breath of the World by Pulitzer Prize-winner John Luther Adams at Lincoln Center.
In 2015, she was the recipient of a grant from the Shifting Foundation. In 2014, she won the BMI Foundation Charlie Parker Composition Prize as a member of the BMI Jazz Composers' Workshop. She is the winner of the 2010 Prix François-Marcaurelle at the OFF Festival of Jazz in Montreal. She has been awarded grants from the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec and the Canada Council for the Arts and residencies from the Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts and the Millay Colony for the Arts. Webber is originally from British Columbia, Canada.