The Margaret Slovak Quartet – For the Moment
The Margaret Slovak Quartet consists of Margaret Slovak on electric guitar, Grammy nominee Fred Hersch on piano, Michael Formanek on acoustic bass, and Michael Sarin on drums. For the Moment features Margaret’s original classically influenced instrumental jazz compositions, and was recorded in New York City in November, 1989; it is now being released for the first time, 18 years after the original recording sessions.
Originally from Denver, Colorado, Margaret Slovak is a guitarist, composer and painter. She began playing the guitar at the age of 12, composing at age 14, and performing professionally at age 16. Margaret studied jazz and classical music and visual art, receiving her BFA in jazz studies from the Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, Washington in 1986. She also attended the Kansas City Art Institute, the University of Missouri Conservatory of Music, and the Banff Centre Summer Jazz Workshop in Alberta, Canada, and received several scholarships for her schooling. Margaret has studied with renowned musicians Ralph Towner, John Abercrombie, Dale Bruning, Gary Peacock, Kenny Wheeler, Art Lande, Hadley Caliman, and Julian Priester.
After graduating from the Cornish College of the Arts in 1986, Margaret spent two years in Denver, performing, studying, and composing. In 1988, she moved to New York City, where she spent five years leading her own band and performing her original music. While in New York, Margaret had the opportunity to perform and record with Fred Hersch, Michael Formanek, Michael Sarin and Joel Weiskopf; she also produced two recordings of her original music and performed with the Peruvian folk/jazz group, Antara. In addition, Margaret embarked on several tours of the western United States, and toured through Germany in the fall of 1991. In 1994, Margaret relocated to Portland, Oregon. In the summers of 1994 and 1995, she toured with her group, which included Bob Moses on drums, performing in Portland, Seattle, and Canada. In the fall of 1996, Margaret toured through Germany and the Czech Republic; she has also performed extensively throughout Oregon, Washington, Colorado and California.
In addition to public performances, Margaret plays therapeutic music for patients in ICU, oncology, neurology, orthopedic and trauma units at Good Samaritan, Emanuel, and OHSU Hospitals and Hopewell House Hospice in Portland. She is also a painter, and creates images which reflect her musical compositions; she often presents concerts in which her paintings are displayed on stage while she performs her corresponding musical compositions. Margaret’s original artwork is also featured on her CD covers.
As a composer and guitarist, Margaret combines elements of jazz with classical and world music, creating a unique and highly personal musical style that is deeply expressive. Margaret’s first CD, Undying Hope (1998) features her solo guitar compositions. Her second CD, New Wings (2005) contains original solos and duos. Her third CD, For the Moment (2007) features her original compositions for a jazz quartet. Margaret’s CD’s are currently receiving national and international radio airplay. She also appears on three compilation CD’s: Proximity (1998), Sundays at Central (2001) and Bridges (2007). In addition, between 1995 - 2005, Margaret was the recipient of ten grants from Portland’s Regional Arts & Culture Council for her music and art projects. Margaret was an adjunct faculty member at Marylhurst University for 13 years, and also taught at Portland State University, Portland Community College, and Mt. Hood Community College. She currently teaches guitar and theory privately.
Pianist and composer Fred Hersch has earned his place among the foremost jazz artists and creative musicians in the world today. He is widely recognized for his ability to steadfastly create a unique body of original works while reinventing the standard jazz repertoire - investing time-tested classics with keen insight, fresh ideas and extraordinary technique. Hersch's many accomplishments include two Grammy nominations for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance and one for Best Instrumental Composition, and a 2003 Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship for composition.
Hersch is considered to be the most prolific and widely-praised solo jazz pianist of his generation. In 2006, Palmetto Records released the solo disc Fred Hersch in Amsterdam: Live at the Bimhuis; its release led to Hersch becoming the first pianist in the 70-year history of New York's legendary Village Vanguard to play an entire week as a solo pianist shortly after the disc's release. In addition, he leads a trio, a quintet and has ongoing special collaborations with jazz and classical instrumentalists and vocalists around the world. His most recent recording, the trio CD, Night and the Music, was released by Palmetto May 1st, 2007.
His career as a performer has been greatly enhanced by his composing activities, a vital part of nearly all of his live concerts and recordings. Hersch recently created Leaves of Grass (Palmetto Records), a large-scale setting of Walt Whitman's poetry for two voices (Kurt Elling and Kate McGarry) and an instrumental octet; the work was presented in March 2005 in a sold-out performance at Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall as part of a six-city US tour. Hersch has toured with concert pianist Christopher O'Riley ("Heard Fresh: Music for Two Pianos") and he has also collaborated sopranos Renèe Fleming, Audra McDonald and Dawn Upshaw; violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg; and pianist Jeffrey Kahane. He has received commissions from The Gilmore Keyboard Festival, The Doris Duke Foundation, The Miller Theatre at Columbia University, The Gramercy Trio and The Brooklyn Youth Chorus. His solo piano compositions and chamber music are published by Edition Peters.
Hersch has acted as a passionate spokesman and fund-raiser for AIDS services and education agencies since 1993. He has produced and performed on four benefit recordings and at numerous concerts for the charities Classical Action: Performing Arts Against AIDS and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS that have raised over $200,000 to date.
After graduating from The New England Conservatory in 1977, Hersch relocated to New York City and quickly became one of the most in-demand pianists in town. As a sideman, he appeared with such jazz masters as saxophonists Stan Getz, Joe Henderson, and Jane Ira Bloom; flugelhornist Art Farmer; harmonica virtuoso Toots Thielemans; vibraphonist Gary Burton; and bassists Sam Jones and Charlie Haden.
Hersch has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning with Dr. Billy Taylor and on a wide variety of National Public Radio programs including Fresh Air, Jazz Set, Studio 360 and Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz. Hersch has also been awarded a Rockefeller Fellowship, grants from The National Endowment for the Arts and Meet the Composer, and six composition residencies at The MacDowell Colony. A committed educator, Hersch was a faculty member at the New England Conservatory for ten years, and has taught at The New School and Manhattan School of Music; he is currently a visiting professor at Western Michigan University.
Michael Formanek's singular approach to the acoustic bass has led to an impressive range of musical associations. During his twenty-six year career, he has played and/or recorded with Tim Berne, Freddie Hubbard, Stan Getz, Marty Ehrlich, Chet Baker, Tony Williams, Gerry Mulligan, Fred Hersch, Dave Liebman, Uri Caine, Joe Henderson, Mark Isham, James Emery, Mingus Big Band, Terumasa Hino, Cedar Walton, Attila Zoller, George Coleman, Jane Ira Bloom, Bob Moses, Gunther Schuller, Peter Erskine, Gary Thomas, Baikida Carroll, and many others.
Composition also plays a significant role in Formanek's overall musical profile, and four albums of his original music, Wide Open Spaces, Extended Animation, Low Profile and Nature Of The Beast have been released to critical acclaim on the Enja label. Formanek produced or co-produced all of these recordings, and among the featured musicians are Greg Osby, Tim Berne, Mark Feldman, Dave Douglas, Marvin "Smitty" Smith, Ku-umba Frank Lacy, Marty Ehrlich, Wayne Krantz, and Jim Black.
Formanek is a consistent presence on the touring circuit in the US and abroad. He has performed his own music regularly with a wide range of ensembles, and is involved in ongoing projects including Tim Berne's quartet Bloodcount, a more recently formed cooperative trio with Peter Erskine and Marty Ehrlich called Relativity, and the Tim Berne/Michael Formanek duo. Current releases of particular interest include a solo bass recording Am I Bothering You? on Screwgun, and a Tim Berne/Michael Formanek duo recording, Ornery People, on Little Brother Records, which Britain's The Guardian newspaper rated as "two excellent examples of personal and inventive free-improvised acoustic jazz with no props...Formanek's solo set ranks with the great solo bass performances."
Michael Formanek currently teaches jazz bass at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore, Maryland.
A native of Bainbridge Island, Washington, drummer Michael Sarin studied with Jerry Granelli and also attended the University of Washington and the Banff Centre for the Arts in Banff, Alberta, Canada. He performed extensively in Seattle with such artists as trombonist Julian Priester and vocalist Jay Clayton. Michael relocated to New York City in 1989; he established himself as a high caliber jazz drummer and improviser while playing in the Thomas Chapin Trio. This trio recorded the well-received album Anima for Knitting Factory's label in 1991, and continued to tour and record many more excellent CD’s until the loss of Thomas Chapin in 1998.
In addition to being a core member of Chapin’s Trio, Sarin has worked frequently with such genre-leading musicians as bassists Mark Dresser, Drew Gress and Ben Allison, pianist Myra Melford, violinist Mark Feldman, guitarist Brad Shepik, trumpeter Dave Douglas, saxophonist Tony Malaby, and many others. He tours extensively throughout Europe, the U.S., Japan, and Canada.
Notes and thoughts:
About this CD:
On November 20th, 2006, 17 years to the day of the first recording session for this CD, I found myself on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, in the mastering studio of A.T. Michael MacDonald. Remarkably, Michael had also been the recording engineer for these original sessions back in 1989. As Michael popped the tiny Digital Audio Tape (DAT) into his soon- to-be-obsolete DAT player and worked his magic to bring this music into the 21st century of technology, the memories of those recording sessions and rehearsals began to flow…
I still remember vividly the morning of November 20th, 1989, the first of two days of recording sessions for this project…I was living on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, in the proverbial “illegal” sublet. Filled with nervous excitement, I rose early to practice and make sure that the music was in order. As I carried my equipment out to my olive green 1979 Ford Fairmont, I noticed that several other cars were double parked on each side of me – I was boxed in! I blared my horn, hoping that the car owners would come and move their vehicles. When no one appeared, I backed my car over the curb and drove onto the sidewalk to escape this predicament. I then proceeded to pick up Michael Sarin and his drums in Brooklyn, and we eventually made it to the recording studio on West 14th Street in Manhattan. We worked all day and late into the evening, and finished the recording on the following day, November 21st. The music was recorded using the live-to-2-track DAT process, with no overdubbing, in the moment…
This was my first serious recording session other than some demos that I had done in music school and shortly after my graduation. The creative and talented drummer Michael Sarin had played in my quartet in Seattle when I attended The Cornish College of the Arts. I had moved to NYC in 1988, and Michael relocated there in 1989. I heard bassist Michael Formanek play in a club in the East Village; I was floored by his expressive and masterful playing and asked if he would be interested in being on this project. After he listened to a demo tape of my tunes, he suggested the gifted and lyrical pianist Fred Hersch to complete the quartet. Although I very nervous when I called Fred Hersch for the first time, my nerves were soon calmed by his caring and encouraging nature. I was so honored that they all agreed to record with me! Since Fred and Michael Formanek had played together a lot in New York, and Michael Sarin and I had played all of this music before in Seattle, things clicked musically. I felt as if I was in a dream during the rehearsals and recording sessions.
After finishing these sessions, I spent several years “shopping” the tape to over 100 record labels, and had quite a bit of interest in the recording from several companies. However, during the early 1990’s many small labels were shutting down or being swallowed up by bigger companies, so none of these deals ever materialized. Thus, in 1993, when I left NYC and moved to Portland, Oregon, I put the original tapes in a safe place and let go of trying to get this recording out into the world. I then released two newer recordings on my own Slovak Music label (Undying Hope in 1998 and New Wings in 2005). At the urging of Fred Hersch and other friends and mentors, I have finally decided to release this quartet recording. Although it is now 18 years old, it does reflect the music that was in my heart at that time, and the magical moments that were captured during those two days of recording, in which I felt completely supported musically and personally by these three extraordinary musicians: Fred Hersch, Michael Formanek, and Michael Sarin.
~ Margaret Slovak – October, 2007
For the Moment…
As we search for meaning, direction and connection in this complicated modern world, it is human nature to sometimes lament the past and/or worry about the future. Within the art form of jazz music, there exists the possibility for musicians and listeners to explore, cherish, and gain strength and inspiration from the present moment, and to celebrate and live in it. Jazz improvisation and composition frame the hearts and spirits of all involved in the actual creative process, bringing people of all ages, cultures, and backgrounds together for shared moments of joy, beauty, and peace. May the music within help you to experience such moments.
~ Margaret Slovak
“Margaret’s songs and solos have a distinctive melodic and lyrical style, that will draw you in and open your ears.”
- Guitarist/composer JOHN ABERCROMBIE
“Margaret Slovak’s music is a complete statement. Beautiful guitar playing and deeply personal and resonant original compositions…
- Pianist/composer KENNY WERNER
“...the best example of feminine fretwork since Emily Remler...if Bill Evans played guitar, he’d probably sound like Slovak, which gives you an idea of how good she is.”
- Dave McElfresh, CADENCE REVIEW
“Margaret is a very talented guitarist with a lyrical approach and a wonderful sense of sound and tone - highly recommended.”
- Saxophonist/composer DAVE LIEBMAN