monktail ten years in seattle

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Monktail Creative Music Concern – Ten Years in Seattle

SPECIAL O.P.S. Ninth Anniversary



In celebrating ten years of music and advocacy in Seattle, the Monktail Creative Music Concern will be presenting a series of concerts the weekend of 10/10/10 as well as a brief Northwest tour of their “free improvisation commando unit,” the trio SPECIAL O.P.S.


Thursday, September 23: Egan’s Ballard Jam House 1707 NW Market St, Seattle 7PM
Friday, September 24: Mississippi Pizza 3552 N Mississippi Ave, Portland, OR 9PM
Saturday, September 25: The Jazz Station 68 W. Broadway, Eugene, OR 9PM
Sunday, September 26: The Matrix 434 NW Prindle St, Chehalis, WA 8PM
Tuesday, September 28: The Comet 922 E Pike St, Seattle, WA 9PM
Friday, October 1: Molly Maguires 610 NW 65th St, Seattle, WA 10PM


Friday, October 8: Egans Ballard Jam House1707 NW Market St, Ballard 7PM
Sunday, October 10 (10/10/10): THE JOSEPHINE 608 NW 65th St N, Ballard 7PM


Organized by founder and director John Seman, Monktail represents a breadth and depth of musical experience unmatched in the region. Ensembles as diverse as their flagship improv big band NON GRATA, the overtone choir SEATTLE HARMONIC VOICES, the celebrated funk and jazz onslaught of REPTET, the bopcore trio FLOSS and chamber oriented DEAL’S NUMBER, Beth Fleenor’s shape-shifting FIGEATER, as well as death-jazz trio SPECIAL O.P.S. all have found their home under the umbrella of Monktail.


While in Seattle, Monktail has earned top honors as an arts organization, including a 2002 Earshot Jazz Golden Ear Award for Emerging Group and a 2002 Tablet Magazine Pretty Good Artist Award, as well as 2006 Golden Ear Awards for best Outside Group (Reptet) and Concert of the Year (The Monktail Raymond Scott Project). 


Monktail Records celebrated their ninth full-length release in 2010, the second Floss long player VITAMIN A, a bold mix of free jazz, psychedelic, and electronic sounds. Other MCMC releases include three acclaimed CDs from Reptet (2008 Independent Jazz Record Finalist), and releases from Non Grata, Seattle Harmonic Voices, Deal’s Number, and Special O.P.S. Four new releases are already in the hopper for release in 2011.



A Brief History…
Monktail was founded in 1990 by bassist John Seman and percussionist Mark Ostrowski,
two Philadelphia high school band musicians who sought to explore improvisation in
jazz and contemporary music. Realizing their group never contained the same players
besides themselves, the idea of a collaborative project was born and Monktail is the
result. After graduating from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Seman moved to Seattle
and Ostrowski soon followed from Boston’s Berklee School of Music. By 2000, the pair
was abducting performers, artists, and other nogoodniks from Seattle’s seedy underbelly
toward a revitalized MCMC cause.


Today Monktail musicians hail from Whidbey Island and Long Island to the UK and
beyond. The collective is a meeting place of buskers, gigging musicians, and music
educators. It serves as a community voice and outlet for people who are both professional
musicians and professionals who are also musicians.


Wanting to facilitate a creative dialogue through music, Monktail explores new avenues
of performance with its audience. SOUNDS OUTSIDE is Monktail’s annual celebration
of adventurous music and community. Since 2006, Monktail have produced this free
and all-ages multi-day festival of jazz and creative music in Cal Anderson Park’s natural
amphitheater, reaching thousands of listeners. Using a combination of community
outreach and local business support as its foundation, Monktail flexes its breadth and
strength to bring the region’s best talent to the stage at a place where the public can
experience new music in a new way.


Monktail have also hosted free, new music concerts at residencies in some of Seattle’s
most historic venues including The Pearl (2001-2002), the Coffee Messiah (2002-2005),
the Blue Moon (2002-2004), Merchant’s Café (2005-2006) the Rendezvous Jewel Box
Theater (2006-2008), and Molly Maguires (2010).


Monktail ensembles have earned a reputation as new music powerhouses up and down
the west coast, and across the country as Seattle-area music ambassadors. Their critically
acclaimed independent record catalog, Monktail Records, has garnered awards in the
nation’s top jazz periodicals and exposure through jazz radio nationwide. Monktail have
fans in Seattle as well, earning three Earshot Golden Ear Awards and numerous accolades
from local media and artist support organizations including 4Culture, Allied Arts, Artist
Trust, Jack Straw, King County, and The City of Seattle.


The flagship big band of the Monktail Creative Music Concern, NON GRATA consists
of all given members of the MCMC collective at a given point, and relies on patterns,
textures and forms developed through ensemble practice. It is new composition in a
spontaneous music combat zone. We are musicians cut from every swath of the American
musical quilt, and we don’t really play jazz, but channel surf through whatever genre or
context fits a performance. We’re a chamber orchestra that plays jazz, a jazz band that
plays metal, a metal band that plays country, a country band that plays funk, a funk band
that plays punk, a punk band that plays music, musicians having a good time. Basically,
we’re the bastard children of art music and we’re running with scissors.


Our first release, conveniently entitled NON GRATA, is available on Monktail Records.



(Mark Ostrowski, percussion; Stephen Parris, guitar; John Seman, contrabass)


Founded September 12, 2001 in Seattle, WA, SPECIAL O.P.S. is the sonic guerilla
group of the Monktail Creative Music Concern. Featuring the rhythm section of MCMC
founders John Seman on contrabass and Mark Ostrowski on percussion with electric
guitarist Stephen Parris, SPECIAL O.P.S. is a free improvisation commando unit
replete with dark regalia, sonic hand grenades and a warped sense of humor. Their
performances draw influence from contemporary chamber composition, small group jazz
improvisation, electronic experimentalism, dark metal, droll wit and sonic shenanigans
from the subtle to the scabrous. It’s black noise and white noise. It’s cross-genre
pollination boiled in ammonia, cured in bleach, dipped in battery acid and ignited with
the American flag. It’s a damn good time.


The SPECIAL O.P.S. release ARM ME is available on Monktail Records.



About Monktail Creative Music Concern
The Monktail Creative Music Concern is a collective of composers, musicians and artists
based in Seattle, WA who thrive on the atypical and exigent; the real weirdo stuff.
The MCMC exists to provide, propagate, promote, produce and preserve creative /
experimental / exploratory music and associated art forms in its community through
public performance, public and private educational forums, broadcasts, musical and
visual recordings, and any other means of documentation appropriate and/or available at
any time.


The folks involved get together under different aliases contingent on their predilection

within any situation that permits them to exist. Groups range from 2 to 10 players
generally, and have free improvisation/spontaneous composition as their underlying
principle. Curating these specialized ensembles presents the group members with the
unique opportunity to improvise in many different contexts as a performance as one
particular unit organically mutates into another, offering the listener the unparalleled, or
at least amusing, experience of live, acoustic, sonic gymnastic hallucinations. It’s a gas.


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