The summation of FMRJE's musicianship amounts to more than a century of drumming and orchestral improvisations.
FMRJE was established in Boston in 1989. Currently I am brodcasting live from the fmrje factury studio on StageiT, click on fmrje live on StageIT for the upcoming live show. Recent fmrje factory performers: Todd Brunel-multi-reeds, Michael Shea-keyboard, Hilary Noble-tenor saxophone, flute, percussion, Tor Snyder-electric guitar, Jose Arroyo-congas, percussion, Carl Parks-bongos, percussion and drummer Dennis Warren who energetically strokes the music with all improv, all original, all the time drum power.
I formed FMRJE in 1989, but the roots of the Ensemble go back two decades. In 1971, Martin Gil, Raphe Malik, and I were studying music in the Black Music Division of Antioch College, directed by the legendary pianist/composer Cecil Taylor. Raphe Malik went on to record and tour with the Cecil Taylor Unit and also the Jimmy Lyons Quartet.
Beginning in 1974, I studied with Professor Graves, polyrhythmic innovator, at Bennington College. In 1980 Tor Yochai Snyder and I met in the Black Music Department of Bennington College, chaired by trumpeter/composer Bill Dixon. My course of study was in American Literature, Politics, and Performance in Black Music. After graduating from Bennington College in 1984, I returned to my hometown, Boston, Massachusetts.
In the mid -eighties Martin Gil and I renewed our percussion association with guitarist Tor Snyder to perform in various concerts and groups. Flautist Earl Grant Lawrence and I crossed musical paths at the Community Music Center of Boston, where we both were teaching in 1987. Raphe Malik and I renewed our musical connection in 1989, when he invited me to join in his new Quartet; it was in the Quartet that I met acoustic bassist Larry Roland. For the past decade Raphe's compositions have been a major component of FMRJE's repertoire.
In the 90's the FMRJE featured a horn section of Boston's multi-reedist Raqib Hassan, Bay Area's tenor saxophonist the late great Glenn Spearman, and the late great composer and trumpeter Raphe Malik, ( More on Raphe) alto saxophonist Tony Owens. Acoustic bassist Larry Roland of Boston was the featured bassist on most FMRJE recordings and concerts.
1997 was the year of dramatic changes for FMRJE with new ensemble members Mike Sealy on electric guitar and electric bassist Albey Balgochian. In 1998 FMRJE produced the compact disc 7 in One which features Raphe Malik on trumpet, Earl Grant Lawrence on flute, Mike Sealy on electric guitar, Tor Yochai Snyder on electric guitar, Albey Balgochian on electric bass, Martin Gil on congas, percussion and Dennis Warren on drums, timbales.
FMRJE was selected by Black Entertainment Television's Jazz Central as Jazz Discovery artist in 1997. Opened the NEXT WAVE SERIES of the Toronto Jazz Festival 1995 and closed the Toronto Jazz Festival's NEXT WAVE SERIES in 1996. In 1998 FMRJE has opened for the Jon Fishman Band at Club Toast in Burlington, Vermont. FMRJE has also performed at the Knitting Factory's Main Space, Alterknit Theater, NYC; Sarah Lawrence College and at the Texaco New York City Jazz Festival 98'.
See concert page for recent perfrmance dates
Current configuration of FMRJE features 2 additional personnel , conga-percussionist Jose Arroyo and conga-djembi player Stephen Kemp. Keyboardist Michael Shea who has recorded and performed with FMRJE since 1992. The orginal FMRJE members guitarist Tor Snyder and conga-percussionist Martin Gil continues to be augmented by 3 year FMRJE bassist Albey Balgochian. The FMRJE band on stage and in recordings is producing music with the collective experience of over a century of drum and orchestral improvisation.
FMRJE hs produced 5 cassette albums and 3 compact discs. All are available in compact disc through this website.
Some thoughts about
Full Metal Revolutionary Jazz Ensemble
by Stu Vandermark
Everybody talks about the jazz tradition, but FMRJE does something about it. This evolving cast of improvisers takes its inspiration from no single time and place in the jazz continuum - but from the relentless searching of John Coltrane, the soaring vision of Jimmy Lyons, the focussed passion of Archie Shepp, the hidden call of music to come, and other sources both ancient and articulate. The results is the creation of music that always is relevant to the Now.
Once during the waning months of the Reagan years it was their signature primal scream that hung in the air. In the Now of the birth of the century's last decade they took the music right off the pavement. Today the resonance of the Ensemble erases the line between the familiar and the startling.
This music of the FMRJE in mid-stride, built on the writing of Raphe Malik ( who cared enough to put aside for a time his own remarkable performing ensembles), is so sure-footed that it seems like a culmination. But because of a single essential constant - the leadership an unleashed crate-of-marbles percussion work of Dennis Warren - the music remains nothing other than what is exactly right for the moment. And that commitment to the evolving Now is what makes the music of the FMRJE durable in the truest sense of the jazz tradition.
February 14, 1996
Mr. Vandermark is a regular contributor to Cadence Magazine and writes the monthly Short Takes: Boston column
Recent /Past Concert Dates:
Live concert recording at Lily Pad, Cambridge, MA April 22, 2017 FMRJE 10.0 The Resistance via Improvisation
Live concert recording at Lily Pad, Cambridge, MA September 20, 2014
Since May 2012 and to the present, FMRJE performs live Internet concerts via StageiT.com/fmrje, click link for show times.
March 18, 2011 Quantum Trio at Zumix, East Boston, MA -Michael Shea-keyboard/piano, Hilary Noble-tenor sax, flute, congas,
Dennis Warren-drums, timbales
Quantum Trio Session 3 at Lily Pad , December 4, 2010
Live @ Brecht Forum NYC, March 21, 2010: Tor Snyder-electric guitar, Jamal Moore-flute, tenor saxophone, Ras Moshe-tenor saxophone, flute,
Vattel Cherry- acoustic bass, Dennis Warren-drums
Chris Chalfant-piano & Dennis Warren-drums :New'd Music CD Release concert @ Brecht Forum, NYC October 24, 2009
Chris Chalfant-piano & Dennis Warren-drums :New'd Music CD Release concert @ Lily Pad October 10, 2009
FMRJE in Quantum Jams II @ Lily Pad October 10, 2009
FMRJE Quartet @ 119 Gallery, Lowell, MA USA June 20, 2009
Quantum Jams Late Night at Lily Pad, April 11, 2009
FMRJE at Lilly Pad, Cambridge, MA August 2, 2008
October 5, 2007 FMRJE at Bennington College 75th Anniversary
FMRJE at Lilly Pad, Cambridge, MA March 25, 2006
FMRJE at Zeitgeist Gallery May 7 , 2005
Zeitgeist Gallery, Cambridge, MA September 19, 2004
AUDIBLE THINK Improvisation Series at Gallery X, New Bedford, MA, U.S.A. September 15, 2004
Zeitgeist Gallery, Cambridge, MA April 3, 2004 / December 3, 2003
The Uptown , Kingston, NY October 3, 2002
Autumn Uprising Music Festival @ Institute for Contemporary Arts Boston, October 5, 2002
Mama Gaia's Cafe, Central Sq. Cambridge September 12, 2002
Sky Bar, Somerville, MA January 22, 2002 / December 4, 2001
Knitting Factory Soundstage, NYC March 8, 2001
Flynn Space, Burlington, VT April 8, 2001
Johnny D's Uptown Music Club, Sommerville, MA April 18, 2001
Fly Wheel Comunity Arts Center April 21, 2001
Flynn Space, Burlington, VT November 11, 2000
Drimala Records/RI Soundtime 2000 Music Festival at ASA 220, Providence, RI September 10, 2000
"End the of Century Jams" at Johnny D's Uptown Music Club November 10, 1999
"End of the Century Jam" Series at Knitting Factory October 10 & 24 1999"
Knitting Factory Main Space, July 13, 1999
Knitting Factory Main Space, February 7, 1999
Johnny D's Uptown Music Club, Davis Square, Somerville, MA Wednesday February 10, 1999
New York City Texaco Jazz Festival, June 14, 1998
Burlington Music Conference 98' Burlington, Vermont
Knitting Factory Main Space, NYC, August 20, 1998
Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, NY, August/September 1998
The Boston Globe Friday May 30, 1997
Celebrating the free spirit of Sonny Sharrock
by Bob Blumenthal, Globe correspondent
The celebration of the guitarist Sonny Sharrock by the Full Metal Revolutionary Jazz Ensemble - which has redubbed itself "Revolutionary and Electric" for the occasion at Johnny D's on Wednesday - is exceptional on two counts. Not only will the evening be a rare tribute to a giant of free jazz, but both the band and venue are uncommonly suited to the task.
Warren "Sonny" Sharrock (1940-'94) was the rare electric guitarist among the avant-garde of the '60s and an inhabitant of early fusion's outer fringe. He worked for five years with Herbie Mann while taking wilder flights on record with Pharaoh Sanders and Wayne Shorter. His own early albums were followed by a decade of silence; then, beginning with his stunning 1985 album "Guitar" and moving through the stop-out cooperative Last Exit and his own bands, Sharrock revealed a more mature eloquence while still sustaining his earlier energy.
'I always felt that this guy was not just cool, but happy inside; that his approach might be strange, but it was him.'
Dennis Warren on Sonny Sharrock
Drummer Dennis Warren, who leads FMRJE, fondly recalls the cathartic surge of Last Exit (with Peter Brotzman's tenor, Bill Laswell's electric bass, and Shannon Jackson's drums as well as Sharrock) at Johnny D's, and the more controlled power of later visits by Sharrock's quintet. "We never played with him, but we went to all his shows," Warren says. "Our guitarist, Tor Snyder, was always a great fan, and would talk to Sonny and give him our tapes. After a set at his last Johnny D's appearance. Sonny gave us the endorsement that we quote on our CDs."
As heard most recently on "Watch Out!" (Accurate), FMRJE is indeed a keeper of the freedom flame. Like Sharrock, Warren's band has learned to shade and shape that freedom through the evocative compositions of trumpeter Raphe Malik and a collective empathy nurtured over a quarter-century. "The band goes back to Antioch College in the early '70s, where Raphe, [alto saxophonist] Tony Owens, percussionist Martin Gil, and I were students," Warren explains, "and carried over to meeting Tor at Bennington College in 1981 and [tenor saxophonist] Raqib Hassan after I returned to Boston." The colleges in question brought the FMRJE under the tutelage of Cecil Taylor, Milford Graves, and Bill Dixon, and the band now creates its own kinetic variant on its mentor's music.
"We're going to play 'Many Mansions' and another cut from 'Ask the Ages' at Johnny D's." Warren says in reference to Sharrock's classic 1990 CD with Sanders and Elvin Jones. "Sonny recorded with Milford Graves and was on the 'Memphis Underground' album with Herbie Mann. He's also supposed to be the mystery guitarist on Miles Davis's 'Jack Johnson' album, though John McLaughlin is clearly also on it."
Warren is most impressed with Sharrock's unshakable personality. "I always felt that this guy was not just cool, but happy inside; that his approach might be strange, but it was him. He told us that after playing for so long, playing had become like talking through the instrument. What you heard was Sonny Sharrock talking."
The Full Metal Revolutionary Revolutionary and Electric Jazz Ensemble celebrates the life and work of guitar innovator Sonny Sharrock at Johnny D's on Wedenesday June 4.
Boston Globe June 6,1997
FMRJE offers a deep bow to Sharrock
by Bob Blumenthal
Somerville - The Full Metal Revolutionary (and, at least for this night, Electric) Jazz ensemble took its task of honoring the late avant-garde guitarist Sonny Sharrock seriously. The first set included remarks on Sharrock's importance by critic Stu Vandermark, remembrances by band members of encounters with the guitarist when he played Johnny D's and acknowledgment of Sharrock's daughter Jasmine, who attends Northeastern . There was also some fine music in what might be called modified Full Metal style.
Guitarist Mike Sealey's inventions paid clearest homage.
Guitarist Mike Sealey and rapper-percussionist James Kelly were added to the usual FMRJE lineup, generally to good results. There was really no need for Kelly's occasional percussion inserts, since the team of drummer Dennis Warren and conga drummer Martin Gil were at their most freewheeling, with dense polyrhythms that sometimes threatened to overwhelm the horns. Sealey, however, was an ideal guest. His weighty tone and melodic inclinations contrasted with the more mobile and texturally diverse interjections of regular FMRJE guitarist Tor Yochai Snyder. Sealey's passionate inventions paid clearest homage to Sharrock, and often provided the seam running through the collective inventions of the others.
Tenor saxophonist Raqib Hassan provided a similar function in the four-horn front line, with a big sound and a measured development to his improvising that cut through the thick weave of instruments. Hassan was excellent on "D.C.," beginning with restrained anguish while the drummers and Snyder exploded around him, then growing more fluent and heated each time trumpeter Raphe Malik cued the others horns back in for brief collective improvisations.
Malik's own solos displayed precisely articulated passion, plus an attack that rivaled the drummers at times physically. Alto saxophonist Tony Owens was the group's lyricist, his lines slowing, ripening, and merging with the guitars and George Langford, Jr.'s bowed bass on "D.C." Earl Grant Lawrence, on flute and piccolo, added a gentler top layer to the collage passages that contained the harsher angles in the group's music.
"Many Mansions," the one Sharrock original played in the first set, began shakily with ragtag percussion; then Lawrence and the guitarist added a bracing texture, the full band played the theme freely and closer to the FMRJE norm, and Sealey and Snyder worked to an explosive climax with Warren in hot pursuit. Kelly did one rap, which was less memorable than the raw fusion groove that accompanied it and the confident Malik trumpet solo that followed.
While clearly a high-energy band, FMRJE might look for more ways to employ the range of its members' expressiveness. Duet and trio interludes, while admittedly not "full metal," might be one option worth further exploration.