Michael Formanek Elusion Quartet, featuring Michael Formanek, bass, compositions, Tony Malaby, tenor and soprano saxophone, Kris Davis, piano and Ches Smith, drums. The Center for the Arts at 33 Hawley St., Northampton, MA. Tickets: $15
“The band’s organic cohesion in its debut is remarkable,” writes Howard Mandel about the Quartet’s 2018 Intakt release, Time Like This, “all four players contributing to and taking advantage of their group’s intimate and orchestral nature. Each performer remains empowered, and all together assert sympatico union.”
One marker of bassist Michael Formanek’s creativity and versatility is the range of distinguished musicians of several generations he’s worked with. While still a teenager in the 1970s he toured with drummer Tony Williams and saxophonist Joe Henderson; starting in the ’80s he played long stints with Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Fred Hersch and Freddie Hubbard. The bassist has played a pivotal role on New York’s creative jazz scene going back to the ’90s when he led his own quintet and played in Tim Berne’s barnstorming quartet Bloodcount. Currently, he is in the co-op Thumbscrew with guitarist Mary Halvorson and drummer Tomas Fujiwara.
Formanek is also a composer and leader of various bands. His principal recording and international touring vehicle is his acclaimed quartet. The Rub and Spare Change (ECM, 2010) and Small Places (ECM, 2012), featuring Tim Berne, Craig Taborn and Gerald Cleaver, both earned five-star raves in Downbeat. His occasional groups include the 18-piece all-star Ensemble Kolossus, featuring many of the New York improvisers he works with. Ensemble Kolossus recorded their first CD of all Formanek originals for ECM in December of 2014. The Distance was released in February 2016 and also received a five-star review in Downbeat.
Formanek’s other recordings as leader include Wide Open Spaces, Extended Animation, Low Profile and Nature of the Beast (all on Enja), and the solo album Am I Bothering You? (Screwgun). Formanek has also made dozens of recordings as sideman, with Dave Ballou, Jane Ira Bloom, Dave Burrell, Harold Danko, Marty Ehrlich, Gary Thomas and Jack Walrath.
As a composer, Formanek has received institutional support from Chamber Music America, the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, the Peabody Conservatory, the Maryland State Arts Council and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. As an educator, Formanek continues to teach bass, composition, and improvisation in a wide range of locations in the US as well as internationally.