The Michael Formanek Quartet--featuring the stellar line-up of Craig Taborn, Tim Berne, and Gerald Cleaver--stops at The Shedd on tour in support of its new ECM release, The Rub and Spare Change.
Born in San Francisco in 1958, bassist Michael Formanek got his start working with Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson, Dave Liebman, Fred Hersch, and Attila Zoller. Throughout his career he has recorded and/or performed with a wide range of artists, including Elvis Costello, Tim Berne, Uri Caine, Marty Ehrlich, Stan Getz, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Mat Maneri, Dave Burrell, Jim Black, Chris Speed, Dave Ballou, and many others. He has performed on over 100 records, and his first album as a group leader was 1990's Wide Open Spaces. Several critically acclaimed albums have followed, such as Extended Animation, Low Profile, Nature of the Beast, and Am I Bothering You? He has toured and recorded on multiple occasions with Tim Berne, in projects like Berne's Bloodcount and on many as band leader and composer. He has won many commissions and awards from Chamber Music America, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and The Peabody Conservatory for Fanfare, and in 2003 he became a full-time faculty member in John Hopkins University's Jazz Studies Department.
For this quartet he has assembled some of the best musicians working in jazz today. Frequent Formanek collaborator and saxophonist Tim Berne has had a strong presence in the contemporary jazz community for many years, founding the Screwgun label, working with a long list of the best musicians on the scene (Bill Frisell, Marilyn Crispell, Tom Rainey, Rova Saxophone Quartet, Mark Helias, John Zorn, Nels Cline, and many others) and leading some of the most engaging ensembles (Bloodcount, Science Friction, Adobe Probe, Los Totopos, Paraphrase, Big Satan, et al).
Craig Taborn is one of the most exciting and forward-thinking pianists working in the jazz idiom. He has performed and/or recorded with Susie Ibarra, Dave Douglas, The Bad Plus, Lotte Anker, Roscoe Mitchell, Mat Maneri, and has worked with several Tim Berne projects. He has appeared on dozens of recordings, and has released several albums as a group leader and solo. His most recent recording is 2009's Farmers By Nature (with William Parker and Gerald Cleaver).
Gerald Cleaver, born in Detroit in 1963, began playing drums, trumpet, and violin at an early age. In his teens, he played with Ali Muhammad Jackson, Lamont Hilton, Earl Van Riper, and Pancho Hagood. He earned a BA in music education from the University of Michigan and, while there, won a National Endowment For The Arts Jazz Study Fellowship, which led to him studying with Victor Lewis. Upon graduation he taught in the music department at both his alma mater and Michigan State University. Over the years he has worked with Roscoe Mitchell, Henry Threadgill, Hank Jones, Matthew Shipp, Reggie Workman, Joe Morris, William Parker, and Ralph Alessi, to name only a few. In 2002, Cleaver's Veil of Names group, featuring Mat Maneri, Ben Monder, Andrew Bishop, Craig Taborn, and Reid Anderson, received a Best Debut Recording nomination from the Jazz Journalists Association for their album Adjust. In addition to his many other projects, Cleaver continues to work as a band leader with Uncle June, Violet Hour, and Farmer By Nature.