“Tom Djll has been making thoughtful, elegant music for nearly 30 years and has taken the trumpet as far beyond its silver, snarling vernacular as it is possible to go, and as far from the extended technique proponents as Bill Dixon is from Roy Castle. ” - The Wire
Current and recent projects include:
Beauty School with Jacob Felix Heule and Matt Chandler
Tender Buttons with Tania Chen and Gino Robair
Grosse Abfahrt with Gino Robair, Tim Perkis, John Shiurba, Matt Ingalls + guests
hackMIDI – circuit-bent electronics and digital piano sounds
Bled Sorghum with bran…(pos) and Matt Ingalls
Revenant Quartet led by Karl Alfonso Evangelista, with Michael Coleman and Nava Dunkelman
Quartet with Tim Perkis, Matt Ingalls and Scott Walton
Dynosoar brass and gongs sound sculptures with Ron Heglin and Karen Stackpole
Space Junk jazz trio with Jordan Glenn and Scott Brown
INTERMINACY: John Cage tribute with Tim Perkis
Mockracy: co-operative orchestra, actors, and maxed media
Tony Passarell’s Thin Air Orchestra
All Tomorrow’s Zombies: structured noise with Tim Perkis & Gino RobairGino Robair’s I, Norton and Neither Confirmed nor Denied
sfSound Group, led by Matt Ingalls
Most of 2015 is by the boards now, it being October 1. Right now it seems the whole Bay Area scene is going cracko for silent movie accompaniments by weirdo musicians. One of these is led by Joe Lasquo and features Tom Nunn, Beth Custer, David Michalak, Jorge Bachmann, and me. The film is Dziga Vertov’s Man with A Movie Camera. We did it on Sept 22 at PianoFight and we’re doing it again down the street at Center for New Music on October 4. The other movie accompaniment I’m down for was put together by Tania Chen and Ben Tinker. It’s all electronic and the film is the classic METROPOLIS. Players include, besides me and the two organizers, Laetitia Sonami, Jeanie Aprille Tang and Josephine Torio. Tender Buttons is busy this fall, with one performance every month from August on through December. We did the 14th Outsound Festival with video artist Bill Thibault. The show we did last week at Tom’s Place will be stuck forever on a shiny cloud in my Heaven of Best Gigs Ever. We did a revival of my piece INTERMINACY (for electronics and “lost” John Cage stories) in August and are planning an expanded version for 2016 with NEW STORIES!!! Oh, and we recorded at Fantasy last April and are putting the finishing touches on an LP from that session. Lots of things in the works for Tender Buttons. The same can be said for Beauty School, which plays the Norcal Noisefest 2015 this coming Saturday October 3. And we have way too much material for a new release that we’ve been tussling over since last spring. The band just keeps evolving and getting warmer and noisier. The other Big News from 2015-16 is my re-entry into modular synthesizer playing, with a major cash drainage following in its wake. Do I dream of wires? No need, I own plenty of ‘em now. A number of solo electronics shows went down since last November, at least 3 of them at Robotspeak in Lower Haight-Ashbury. Many new friendships and opportunities have arisen since the voltages started controlling me. Other highlights of the past year were a quintet with Dominic Lash at VAMP in Oakland, work with dancer Christine Bonansea Saulut, more duos with Julia Mazawa, Beauty School tours to SoCal and PNW, and continuing involvement with Jacob Felix Heule’s Doors That Only Open In Silence series at Temescal Art Center, a super community-building thing.
2014 has been interesting so far, with the real goodies to come (isn’t that always how it seems?). Started off with a bang with the visit of Jack Wright and his son Ben. Jack and I go back a long way, to 1986 or so. It’s always a real kick in the pants to have him around. There’s talk of a tour on the East Coast in 2015… A lot of new players have been showing up. Karl Evangelista looped me into a project he calls Revenant, and he, Michael Coleman and Nava Dunkelman comprise three of the best improvisers I’ve ever played with. Turntablist Julia Mazawa invited me to drone with her on KFJC in May, and that led to another show at Berkeley Arts in July. I’m looking forward to further collaborations with Julia! Ritwik Banerji had me work with his software-based improviser he calls Maxine, the experience of which provided some inspiration for my new keyboard-based project, hackMIDI, which I’ve presented at Berkeley Arts and the Center for New Music and will be doing again at the upcoming Thingamajigs Festival in October 2014. Back in April I got involved with a group of dancers led by Christine Bonansea Saulut and we’ve been improvising together almost every Sunday since, at a great (so far private) space called the Starline Social Club. Other players have included Jacob Felix Heule, Suki O’Kane, Kanoko Nishi-Smith, Tim Perkis and Zachary James Watkins. Christine is in Berlin at the moment, but we’ll welcome her back on October 19 with a gig at Berkeley Arts… Almost by accident a new trio project called Bled Sorghum was formed for a set at LCM in Oakland (the hottest spot in town!) with Matt Ingalls and the legendary bran…(pos). We shattered, and we’re going to do it again in a couple of weeks at a new venue in Haight-Ashbury called Second Act, at a legendary address (formerly the long-running theater The Red Vic.). Grosse Abfahrt is slated for a reunion with the wonderful German trumpeter Birgit Ulher on September 27 at the aforementioned Center for New Music in SF, sponsored by sfSound… with some live previews the day before on the aforementioned KFJC radio station! … I’ve been playing tons of piano at home but nothing in public yet, but that may soon change. Tim Perkis introduced me to a world-class cornetist from LA, Dan Clucas. He and I have rehearsed a bit and planned a bit and on October 7, at Tom’s Place in Berkeley (another Tom, Duff, that is) we will finally debut our act, with me tickling the ivories in my eccentric, jazz-aware manner. Whew! Is that everything? Not quite… Beauty School has done some hair-raising gigs this year. We’re getting sharper and more focused but not any quieter. A cassette release is imminent, and to launch it we’re heading to the unsuspecting LA area in October. Our slogan is “Music can be avoided.” Catchy, ain’t it?
2013: This past year has been pretty good. Appeared with my first great music teacher and inspiration, Roscoe Mitchell. Directed an improv orchestra featuring Vinny Golia, Phillip Greenlief, Ross Hammond, Randy McKean, and many others (both of those instances thanks a million to Tony Passarell). Grosse Abfahrt knocked ‘em cold at the Chamber Music Day festival at SF’s Yerba Buena Center; then collaborated on an electronic zeppelin launch with Alfred 23 Harth and Torsten Müller, at the Center for New Music, a new, tightly-run venue, located in the seediest part of San Francisco.
So there you go, from the high to the low… anyway, last August (2012) I traveled to New York to play at The Stone with my esteemed partner-in-arms Tim Perkis (and with Andrew Drury, one of the busiest, most talented, and nicest guys in the business). In August ’13, as part of sfSound’s trumpet section, I got to participate in a night of celestial mind-blowing, opening for the Sun Ra Arkestra at the Victoria Theater (SF), where the line to get in was around the block — something in this line of music one doesn’t often see. Earlier this month (Sept ’13) I sat next to Vladimir Tarasov, the legendary Lithuanian percussionist, as part of a group assembled by Jon Raskin (we played that score shown on Jon’s home page!). Last but not at all least, a new trio with Jacob Felix Heule and Matt Chandler is now over a year in the birthing and starting to sound like a sound I’ve heard in my head since I was knocked over by Miles Davis’ Pangaea. The trio is called Beauty School and, no, we don’t have a website (see Links for music and vids). Our last gig of 2013 featured our guest Fred Frith.
The rest of the story, from 1977 on, can be assembled from the links below.