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Rough Takes: Olly Chalk

“all the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself” – Chuck Close

Rough Takes is a series about giving artists the space to experiment and take risks and to open the door to the creative process for audiences. We give an artist the space for a day and a performance at the end of it – what they choose to do and who they choose to work with is up to them. Audiences might see the start of a new collaboration, a meeting of old friends or a one-off, never to be repeated performance. It’s in-keeping with the history of the Vortex as a space to try out new ideas and with the joy of improvised music being an artform where the process IS the result.

Our first in this series of one-off live streamed performances comes from up-and coming pianist Olly Chalk. Having first played at the Vortex with his trio as part of the Shape of Jazz to Come concerts (curated and developed by the bassist Dave Holland and the Vortex’s Kathianne Hingwan), Olly has chosen to invite three musicians who are “amongst some of [his] favourite improvising musicians]” – Tom Challenger on tenor Saxophone, Will Glaser on Drums and Daniel Kemshell on Guitar.

In preparation for the session, Olly’s been writing a set of new compositions in response to the music of Tim Berne and Matt Mitchell. Throughout lockdown, Olly had been pouring over their music and methodically working his way through their written scores whilst spending time at his family home in Suffolk. His time in the club will be spent rehearsing the complex set of new music, but there isn’t a game plan for when the compositions open out to moments of freedom and improvisation.

Olly thrives in challenging environments – those musical settings where the normal touch points and guides become muddy or evasive, and he’s left to figure out an individual way forward. When improvising, Olly is “intoxicated by the idea of getting lost” and actively searches for opportunities to play material that’s complex and hard to follow. “Rough Takes” is no exception. The challenge of having to rehearse and perform with only one day’s preparation will yield exciting and original sounds.

Join us online on the 20th December at 8pm to listen to the results.

“It seems futile to talk about the impact that this year has had on musicians or our industry more widely (and you probably don’t need reminding). However, I do want to say that amongst the huge losses of income, work and creative fulfilment, I think that many of us in the arts have lost a sense of identity this year. In other words, I really can’t understate the personal importance of being asked to be involved in this series. For better or for worse, playing original, improvised music is part of me and it feels great to be back playing this music in one of the best venues in London.” – Olly Chalk

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