Douglas R. Ewart is busy and is getting busier and busier
By Dan Emerson.
Multimedia, multidisciplinary, multi-instrumentalist Douglas R. Ewart does too much to fit perfectly on a business card. Depending on the day or time of day, he is a composer, improviser, record company owner, sculptor, mask and instrument maker, educator, lecturer, artistic organization consultant and, as his biography says. , “A full-fledged visionary”. Douglas R. Ewart is recovering from the Covid-induced lull in public activity with two upcoming performances at the Icehouse in Minneapolis on Friday November 19 and Friday November 26.
On November 19 at the Icehouse, Douglas R. Ewart and his eight-member ensemble will perform “Songs the Universe Gave Us”, Collaborating with Douglas R. Ewart, Mankwe Ndosi, voice and poetry; Faye Washington, cello and flute; Jacqueline Ultan, cello; Diane Miller, guitar; Douglas Kearney, poetry and song; Baba Babatunde Lea, congas and vocals; Davu Seru, drums, and Douglas R. Ewart on woodwinds, percussion and vocals. A week later, on Friday November 26 at the Icehouse, Douglas R. Ewart will perform his work “Sonic Magic”, with Lea on congas and vocals, poet Tish Jones, singer-poet-percussionist Ndosi, cellist and bassist Anthony Cox, saxophonist Donald Washington and percussionist Kevin Washington. The November 19 performance, “Songs,” will feature new compositions, as well as improvised works. “I believe in spontaneous composition. It’s endemic to a lot of the things I do, ”says Douglas R. Ewart. Groups include people with whom Douglas R. Ewart has worked for a number of years, except for a few.
“We have a great relationship and these are people I like to play with because they are very seasoned and very nimble” at improvising, “said Douglas R. Ewart. “We all get along socially and ideologically. These things don’t hurt by making an alliance and collaborating with people. He only worked a few times with guitarist Diane Miller. “I love his approach to the guitar. “He met Kearney through Another Musician’s Project and” I was so impressed with his work. Babatunde Lea is one of the best congueros around. I can tell from the way he grants his congas that he deeply underestimates the story and what the instrument is capable of delivering.
Like most other artists, Douglas R. Ewart has seen his concerts cut back due to the pandemic, “but it is interesting that this also offers opportunities that may not have happened.” One opportunity was to work with an arts group in Vancouver, who asked them to write music and also do ongoing workshops. He was one of the first to adopt the Internet. “In 1993, I did a gig with Wadada Leo Smith, who was in California, and Leroy Jenkins in New York, while I was here. We had to set up special lines to do this. In 1963, Douglas R. Ewart brought the music he absorbed to his hometown of Kingston in Chicago, where he became a member of the influential Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). Douglas R. Ewart and his wife Janis arrived in the Twin Cities decades ago, where he was a positive example for musicians and other types of artists.
Douglas R. Ewart has a long list of accomplishments and credits, including a United States-Japan Creative Art Fellowship in 1987 to study both modern Japanese culture and the traditional Buddhist shakuhachi flute, as well as to give public performances in Japan. He is an internationally renowned past president of AACM. His ensembles include the Nyahbingi Drum Choir. the clarinet choir, Douglas R. Ewart & Inventions, Douglas R. Ewart & Quasar and Douglas R. Ewart & Stringnets. He released music on his own label, Aarawak Records (founded 1983), which released his Red Hills and Bamboo Forest, Bamboo Meditations at Banff, Angles of Entrance, New Beings and Velvet Fire.
Believing that compositions should evolve and change, Douglas R. Ewart has created new or revised musical forms, such as his continually evolving suite “Music from the Bamboo Forest” (his score currently includes six movements employing a abundance of flutes, reeds, percussion instruments – many of which are handmade – and a significant audience participation). Other Douglas R. Ewart collaborators have included Muhal Richard Abrams, Amina Myers, Beah Richards, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Anthony Braxton, Alvin Curran, Anthony Davis, Von Freeman, Fred Anderson, Joseph Jarman, Yusef Lateef, Roscoe Mitchell , Ajule Sonny Rutlin, Rita Warford, Dee Alexander, Robert Dick, George E. Lewis, James Newton, Cecil Taylor, Richard Teitelbaum and Henry Threadgill.
Douglas R. Ewart also designs and manufactures instruments, from unique wind instruments to percussion instruments. His individually handcrafted sculptures, sound sculptures and masks have been exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Art Institute of Chicago, among others.