BILL ORCUTT GUITAR QUARTET
San Francisco-based guitarist and composer Bill Orcutt returns to Big Ears after a solo acoustic guitar performance in 2014 to present his latest project, an all-electric Guitar Quartet, performing the music from his 2022 LP “Music for Four Guitars,” an album which Pitchfork describes as “a rigidly structured quartet that weaves tiny rhythmic phrases into expansive tapestries, drawing on the tenets of early minimalism and New York guitar groups like Glenn Branca Ensemble.” Featuring an all-star team of guitarists Orcutt, Wendy Eisenberg, Ava Mendoza, and Shane Parish, the group will present the music in an expanded live format that will combine intricate composition with no holds barred improvisation.
Bill Orcutt is the former guitarist and founder of the notorious 90’s group Harry Pussy, and his sound is a stuttered reimagining of blues guitar, weaving looping melodic lines and angular attack into a dense, fissured landscape of American primitivism, outsider jazz, and a stripped-down re-envisioning of the possibilities of the guitar. Whether he’s playing his decrepit Kay acoustic or gutted electric Telecaster (both stripped of two of their strings, as has been Orcutt’s custom since 1985), Orcutt’s jagged sound is utterly unique and instantly recognizable, compared with equal frequency to avant-garde composers and rural bluesmen. The New York Times has called him a “powerful musician… a go-for-broke guitar improviser,” and described his sound as “articulated sprays of arpeggiated chords and dissonance.”
Wendy Eisenberg is an improviser and songwriter who uses guitar, pedals, the tenor banjo, the computer, the synthesizer and the voice. Their work spans genres, from jazz to noise to avant-rock to delicate songs; their performances span venues, from international festivals to intimate basements. Though often working solo as both a songwriter and improviser, with acclaimed releases on Tzadik, VDSQ, Out of your Head, and Garden Portal, they also perform in the rock band Editrix, and in endless other combinations of their heroes and peers including Allison Miller, Carla Kihlstedt, John Zorn, Billy Martin, and Caroline Davis. They are also a writer on music and other things, with published essays on music in Sound American, Arcana, and the Contemporary Music Review.
Settled in Brooklyn, Ava Mendoza has gained a deserved reputation in recent years for being one of the most exciting musicians on the New York scene, appearing on stages and records with John Zorn, Matana Roberts, Fred Frith, Hamid Drake, William Parkers and Mike Watt. Although also performing with the trio Unnatural Ways (with whom she appeared at Jazz in August in 2016), here Mendoza presents her beguiling solo work whose latest chapter, New Spells, released in 2021, brings together her own compositions with pieces written by Trevor Dunn, Devin Hoff and John Dikeman. Marc Ribot has described New Spells as “a beautiful, powerful and highly original solo electric guitar record – not just another record but a new sound, a new voice”.
Shane Parish devotes much of his time to developing his singular and expressive voice on the guitar. He communicates through emotion, unexpected melodicism, technical whimsy, a nuanced sense of form, and rich timbral variety, simultaneously drawing from the guitar’s history and aiming for its future. He is known for fronting the electric instrumental prog-punk band Ahleuchatistas, and for his uniquely beautiful solo acoustic finger-style work, often creating modern re-interpretations of traditional folk tunes. He has released records on Tzadik, International Anthem, Cuneiform and more.