ROXANA AMED/FRANK CARLBERG-La Sombra De Su Sombra CD and concerts

Roxana Amed and Frank Carlberg will make the Argentine premier of La Sombra De Su Sombra featuring Carlberg’s settings to poetry by the late great Argentine writer Alejandra Pizarnik. Also look for the new CD release of the piece on Red Piano Records.

Big Enigma at Poetry Project and upcoming CD

Frank Carlberg’s BIG ENIGMA will be performing at the Poetry Project at St Marks Church in NY, NY on Friday, October 18th. Also look for the upcoming CD Big Enigmas (Red Piano Records) which features Christine Correa, John Carlson, Jeremy Udden, Matt Moran, John Hébert, Michael Sarin and Frank Carlberg. Poetry by Ken Mikolowski.

Frank Carlberg-WORD CIRCUS, a CMA New Jazz Works Commission, premier in October

Frank Carlberg’s new piece Word Circus, a CMA New Jazz Works Commission, will be premiered in October in New York, Boston, Portland etc (check calendar for more details). The piece is a song cycle with poems by Ron Padgett, Anselm Berrigan, Jim Gustafson, Anselm Hollo, Joe Elliot and Ken Mikolowski. The band features Christine Correa, John O’Gallagher, Pascal Niggenkemper, Michael  Sarin and Frank Carlberg.

CLAZZ ENSEMBLE/FRANK CARLBERG-Federico On Broadway released on RPR!

Federico On Broadway-CLAZZ ENSEMBLE/Frank Carlberg

The Amsterdam-based CLAZZ ENSEMBLE and pianist/composer Frank Carlberg meet somewhere at the crossroads of cinema, carnivals, the circus, 20th (and 21st) century classical music, childhood remembrances and tie it all together with the spirit of jazz. CLAZZ ENSEMBLE seems like the ideal partner to navigate and realize the knotty nooks and crannies of Carlberg’s tricky scores, and they do it with great éclat.

CLAZZ ENSEMBLE, the brainchild of trumpeter Gerard Kleijn and saxophonist Dick de Graaf, is a “small” Big Band. It features many of the leading Dutch improvisers and instrumentalists, but their deeper commitment is to make music collectively which they do here splendidly. In addition to Carlberg, CLAZZ ENSEMBLE has commissioned works from luminaries in new music such as Louis Andriessen, Jacob Ter Veldhuis and Michael Moore. CLAZZ ENSEMBLE is at the forefront of European new music.

To buy go to:


uncivilized ruminations cover

Available June 14, 2011 on Red Piano Records

About Uncivilized Ruminations:

Pianist/composer Frank Carlberg continues his fecund meditations on contemporary American and European poetry with his new CD from Red Piano Records, “Uncivilized Ruminations,” featuring regular band-mates vocalist extraordinaire Christine Correa, saxophonists Chris Cheek and John O’Gallagher, bassist John Hebert and Michael Sarin on drums.

The works Mr. Carlberg has chosen for this opus are characterized by a trenchant humor that is deftly mordant albeit never arch or outright sarcastic… a series of poetic asides, if you will, just this side of aphoristic, that highlight a range of fractal truths rising out of this particular juncture of time and “the great whatever it is out there.”

In many of these poems the tongue may indeed be buried in the cheek somewhat but it sure ain’t found no home sweet home there, not by a long shot.

The tastes left in ones mouth, so to speak, behind these bittersweet reflections, are not so much “bad tastes” but rather reminders of what it takes, in terms of courage, wit, to sally forth and muddle through this selva absurda that exacerbates our focus and keeps us on our toes, “ears to the ground,” “eyes peeled,” “nose to the grind stone,” all elements of Mr. Carlberg’s insightful hermeneutic sense.

If there is an absurdist bent to Mr. Carlberg’s settings it lies not so much in an existential angst-edged psycho-drama but rather in a pure appreciation of the heft and intentions of the language: the shaded possibilities of under-meanings and a kind of poise that clarifies the poem’s postures toward reality – and in so doing he becomes the poem’s partner as opposed to the poet’s.

Available at




With bassist John Hebert and drummer Gerald Cleaver

With the release of Tivoli Trio, his remarkable new CD on the Red Piano Records label, pianist-composer Frank Carlberg has, with the incalculable support of his stellar accompanists, New Orleansian John Hebert on bass and the great Gerald Cleaver on drums, taken his place in the first rank of contemporary jazz masters, as both composer and performer.

The word “Tivoli” conjures up for many the mysteries and excitement, magic and otherworldliness of the carnival, the amusement park… be it the Tivoli Gardens in Mr. Carlberg’s native Helsinki, or the hurly-burly of the Mardi Gras in Mr. Hebert’s home town.

In these thirteen compositions Mr. Carlberg revisits the untrammeled precincts of innocence; reanimates the cusps of youthful anticipation of thrill and adventure; of facing our fears in order to discover the bittersweet perquisites of risk.

These songs are gifts from the edges of memory; intimations of “a world”, as the poet Robert Creeley wrote, “Underneath, or on top of this one- and that’s here, now.”

And it is into this world, where imagination trumps the so-called real, that Mr. Carlberg and his intensely simpatico collaborators, have provided us a glimpse and an access; frissions of the kaleidoscopic hurdy-gurdy that alternately delights and unnerves us.

The bass virtuoso John Hebert, whose unerring sense of mood and shading sets him apart from a generation of contra-bass colleagues, summons up the echoes of the Crescent City Boogaloo, from Marie Laveau to Eddie Blackwell, echoes that resonate in and around Mr. Carlberg’s compelling narratives.

Drummer Gerald Cleaver, magus of the motor city, has an uncanny ability to enter into, enhance and amplify, the compositional intentions of a range of band leaders from Ben Waltzer to Craig Taborn to, in this instance, Mr. Carlberg, against whose sonic architecture he provides a tantalizing underscore, exact and substantial.

In Tivoli Trio, Mr. Carlberg deciphers the mystique (and extents) of the Midway, from the romantic reveries of young love “on the stroll” past the barkers and shills, to the anxious, noiristic rigadoons of lost innocence and to the vast unknown onto which it opens, an unknown replete with all the possibilities and promises this remarkable music suggests and insinuates.

There are very few recordings being made these days (among many great records) of which in can be said they leave you wanting more… let’s hope this offering is the first of many by this extraordinary trio.

Frank Carlberg Tivoli Trio CD is OUT

Tivoli Trio CD available at

Tivoli Trio CD available at

Tivoli Trio CD available in March

A new release by Tivoli Trio (Red Piano Records), featuring Frank Carlberg, John Hebert and Gerald Cleaver, will be available in March. The trio have some shows scheduled in NY (March 6th, March 20th and May 22nd) as well as other dates in the works for New England and beyond. Check the Calendar section.

American Dream on some Best of 2009 lists such as George Grella’s…

Now pianist Frank Carlberg has also made jazz out of Creeley’s poetry, and the result is the tremendous “American Dream.” Carlberg doesn’t shrink from the poems, and Creeley’s lines are tougher than leather. The very first sound is vocalist Christine Correa’s wail, as gripping as anything since John Vicker’s sang “Gott! Welch Dunkel hier!” at Covent Garden. Carlberg’s band, with Chris Cheek on tenor sax, John Hebert playing bass and Michael Sarin on drums, has some qualities of Keith Jarrett’s great European quartet, but with an extra toughness to their grooves and a tastier blues/rock filling. His settings of the text are excellent, turning the lines of poetry into real songs with harmonies and contrapuntal material that give the musicians a lot of ideas to work with. The star is Correa, her powerful and expressive singing dominates the record. Her full-throated voice demands attention and her musical sense and diction convey both the text and a plangent sense of meaning. She colors the phrases and notes with the details of real thoughts – the way she clips ‘out there’ into ‘out! . . . there . . . ;’ the joy of ‘we get crazy but we have fun,’ the rueful hope of ‘no more war, dear brother’ – that show she has command of not just the notes but the meanings. The connection to Lacy’s music is mostly subtle, but clear, important and welcome. Lacy was enormously admired but so individual that his practical influence on jazz has been slight. Carlberg has his own way of setting the same poet, his lines are longer and more lyrical, but the roar in the vocals triggers immediate memories of Lacy’s wife Irene Aebi wailing out on his great live set, “The Way,” and the tune for ‘Fat Fate’ could be heard as a fast variation on Lacy’s lovely ‘Napping.’ “American Dream” is a model of what jazz and poetry can achieve together, and is one of the finest jazz records of this decade. Tough, beautiful, driving and moving, it is urgently recommended.

Cadence Interview

Here is an interview from Cadence Magazine, Oct-Nov-Dec 09

Interview conducted by Ludwig Van Trikt


CADENCE: I detect a couple of important threads in your music: a love of

poetry and a concern with national identity.

FRANK CARLBERG: For years poetry has offered me education, inspiration,

provocation, confusion and beauty. I wasn’t looking in poetry for some-

thing that I could use in my music … I was just reading … but, along the

way I’ve been setting some of it to music. I wrote a few settings. However,

Christine Correa is also an important reason why I kept on writing. In the

end I needed a voice … a specific voice to write for. She was able to sing

the melodies I dreamed up and she could give these lines emotional impact,

like an expression of the language they provided. Poetry really is a perfor-

mance art and these are our versions of the poems.

Many of the poems that I’ve chosen are masterpieces and clearly do not

need my musical settings. My wish is that through the music some of these

poets will find new readers that otherwise might have missed their work.

In terms of national identity, I never thought that I was especially con-

nected to my Finnish heritage. However, the immigrant experience has a

way of amplifying our connections to our roots. As one leaves ones cultural

environment behind there is often a need to understand ourselves more fully

through our earlier experiences. Recently, reading the works of Jhumpa

Lahiri, all of which deal with the collisions and juxtapositions of the past

with the present, I’ve realized that there are universal tendencies to the

immigrant experience. In a sense the immigrant is unable to be fully at

home anywhere. Years ago I played some folk songs at an event organized

by a Finnish-American organization and there was a poet there who spoke

about her experience growing up in America with grandparents who had

immigrated from Finland many years prior. Even though she had never set

foot in Finland she had grown to have this intense longing for the old coun-

try through her grandparents’ stories.


CADENCE: You became interested in Jazz by listening to your father’s very traditional

record collection,—which was very traditional—yet you became a Jazz


FRANK CARLBERG: The recordings that made the biggest impact back then were by Duke, Wes Montgomery, Louis, and especially the great singers such as Sarah, Ella,

Billie, etc. I also listened to people such as Oscar Peterson, Tatum, and

Erroll Garner although they never had the same kind of influence on me.

In addition to the vocalists I was drawn, even early on, to musical

“organizers”; composers, conceptualists, leaders of men … and Duke has

to be one of the greatest of all time. Well, to me Duke is a modernist! His

music (I’m also including Billy Strayhorn here—fair or not) still blows me

away consistently. Of course it is a product of its time but it is not dated.

And then from Duke one keeps moving quite naturally to Monk, Mingus,

Gil Evans, Steve Lacy, and there you have many lifetimes’ worth of things to

study. In many ways I feel that I am quite a Jazz traditionalist. During a time

when it seems increasingly common for people to downplay their Jazz roots,

I feel first and foremost like a Jazz musician …. I’ll leave it to others to

decide whether that is reflected in the way my music sounds.


CADENCE: When did you first start playing the piano?

FRANK CARLBERG: I started when I was around four or five. My first teacher was Alice Pacius. She was the great granddaughter of Fredrik Pacius, the composer of the

Finnish national anthem (useless trivia info, I know) … and no, I’m not

influenced by our national anthem! As a child, she seemed scary to me but

I think she was a decent teacher. I had a couple of other Classical teachers

after Ms. Pacius. In terms of Jazz I took occasional lessons from a Russian

pianist, Vova Shafranov, who lived in Helsinki at the time. I also took a few

lessons from Jarmo Savolainen, who had spent some time at Berklee in

Boston. However, as far as Jazz is concerned I was pretty much self-taught

early on. I mostly just listened to records and tried to piece some stuff

together from the bits of information that I had received.


CADENCE: What was it about Berklee College of Music that made you want to study


FRANK CARLBERG: I think my main motivation really was to come to the U.S., any way I could. I wanted to learn about Jazz in its own environment, so to speak. I certainly

also had a case of wanderlust … I had already spent some time bouncing

around Europe fairly aimlessly.

In order to come to the U.S. and stay for any extended period of time

one needed a visa in those days. So I applied to Berklee, which was the only

Jazz school in the U.S. that I had heard of, got my student visa, packed a

suitcase and came over. I was going to stay for one year. Oh well ….


CADENCE: The Class of 1984, of which you were a part, included some heavy hitters

(Jim Black, Chris Cheek, Antonio Hart, Sam Newsome, Chris Speed, and Ben

Street). Was there a sense that this was a new generation of important

players coming on the scene?

FRANK CARLBERG: It’s true that there were many great young players around Boston during that time. In addition to the people you mentioned, Danilo Perez, Roy Hargrove,

Edsel Gomez, Christian Jacob, Andrew D’Angelo, Matt Wilson, Julian Joseph,

Aydin Esen, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Joshua Redman, and John Carlson come to

mind. I am forgetting many names, I’m sure. It certainly was a great period

but Boston was my first destination when I came to the U.S., so I really did

not have anything to compare it with, except Helsinki. I was quite blown

away and inspired by the music that all these young guys were making

already then. They have all, of course, continued to grow and have all cre-

ated a lot of great music.


CADENCE: You continued your studies at the New England Conservatory of Music to

pursue a master’s degree. Why is receiving higher education now appar-

ently so necessary in Jazz? And why was it necessary for your own needs?

FRANK CARLBERG: Well, I actually applied to New England Conservatory because I needed a visa. My visa had expired but I wanted to stay in the U.S. I was frequently

going over to Europe to play but in order to re-enter the country I needed

to have a valid visa. Going to school would get me a visa. So my initial rea-

son for pursuing my master’s was not really all that noble. However, once

I got to NEC I came in close contact with people like Jimmy Giuffre, Ran

Blake, Geri Allen, and Paul Bley and they all made quite an impression on

me. Especially Jimmy was just an enormous influence. He lived in western

Mass but would stay over in Boston on Monday nights. We ended up having

dinner together quite often on Mondays and, after, he felt like playing. We

would play duets. I had listened quite a bit, both live and recordings, to the

trio he had with Bley and Swallow (sometimes with Peacock subbing) and

felt that I kind of understood what was going on and thought I’d be com-

fortable in that environment. However, the first time we played duo, Jimmy

started out playing this amazingly beautiful and crystal clear melody which

was completely Free yet so exquisitely sculpted, and I had no idea what to

do! I suddenly really realized how heavy the trio with Bley and Swallow was.

They made it sound so easy … and natural, and it seemed like Paul always

knew exactly what to do—bastard! But Jimmy was extremely generous. We

kept on playing and he never showed any signs of frustration although I kept

on scuffling and stepping all over his stuff. Jimmy was just a beautiful human

being. Always honest and very giving … musically and otherwise. Man, just

talking about this I realize how much I miss him.

What really impressed me with Jimmy, Ran, Geri, and Paul was their

musical integrity and commitment. It wasn’t about a pedagogical system

(whether they had one, I’m not sure) but rather about personal expression

and beautiful, powerful music. I understood later that my experience at

Berklee was primarily about my fellow students while my NEC experience

was mostly formed by some of the faculty … I am glad I needed a visa ….


CADENCE: Was there any difference in the level of instruction between both institutions?

FRANK CARLBERG: The two schools have quite different philosophies. Berklee was more about a system of organizing information that is fairly consistently followed

throughout the curriculum with its set terminology, notation, etc., while NEC

was about embracing the diversity in creative improvised music and with

emphasis on searching for your own voice. It was more about these differ-

ences rather than a question about levels per se.


CADENCE: While you were pursuing your education, did you have a chance to perform

either as a sideman or leading your own bands?

FRANK CARLBERG:I had started performing in Europe already, before I started my “formal”Jazz education. During my Boston studies I played a fair amount in the U.S.

as well as in Europe. Much of the work was as a sideman but gradually I

had more gigs as a leader. As I kept writing music I felt the need to organize

my own groups.


CADENCE: In 1992 you released your recording debut, Blind Drive (Accurate Records).

Did this help establish you as a working artist?

FRANK CARLBERG: After the release of Blind Drive I did receive some of my first reviews in major publications such as Down Beat, Billboard, Jazz Times, etc., but

I can’t really say that it established me in any significant way. I had really

wanted to have a trio for quite a while but after Blind Drive (a trio record-

ing) I was completely broke and unable to generate enough work to keep a

band together, so whatever potential momentum there could have been after

the CD fizzled quickly. I was also getting increasingly interested in (for me)

new instrumental combinations. However, with no money and no label inter-

ested in sponsoring another project, I had to wait for a bit.


CADENCE: When and how did you get to a place that your music and life were on bet-

ter economic footing?

FRANK CARLBERG: During the ‘90s things gradually changed. I received some grants and prizes, the number of concerts increased (and some of them better paid), I was

getting more commissions, and in ‘98 or ‘99 I started teaching on a regular

basis, which meant there was some steady income for the first time in my life.


CADENCE:More and more of the artists I speak with say that, at least in America,

teaching is an absolute necessity since most musicians could not survive

solely by performing.

FRANK CARLBERG: The structure in Jazz and improvised music has changed in terms of the  professional picture. There are fewer steady working groups now than in the

past. There used to be more mentoring type relationships in those bands,

originally with big bands and later with many smaller groups such as the

bands led by Miles, Art Blakey, Horace Silver, and numerous lesser-known

leaders. These changes have meant that more musicians have had to look

for alternatives to solely performance-based work. The proliferation of Jazz

programs at colleges and universities has served a two-fold purpose. On

one hand they have filled the need for young musicians and students to find

guidance and mentors previously supplied by working groups. On the other

hand these programs have presented professional musicians with opportuni-

ties to supplement their income. The schools do provide an opportunity for

musicians of different generations to interact and share information and


The lack of subsidies and public support for arts in America makes

it very difficult for most artists to survive without teaching in some way or

form. It is unfortunate that most arts in the U.S. need to cater to the mar-

ketplace in some way. The colleges and universities can sometimes provide

an exception to this rule. I remember, for instance, some years back at NEC

that George Russell was able to create a piece, “Time Line,” that featured an

orchestra, a big band, a chorus, a klezmer group, small Jazz groups, and

many soloists for the school’s centennial celebration. It was a glorious event

in Jordan Hall with performers nearly outnumbering the audience of the

packed hall. Something like that would be completely impossible to pull off

if only market forces and profitability were considered.

The situation in Europe is a bit different. It seems that European societ-

ies accept much more willingly the use of public resources for arts. Cultural

events, including experimental projects, are seen as a natural part of society.

I think the educational system over there also places more emphasis on the

value of experiences through art. In the U.S. we tend to consider art more

based on whether we “like” something or not rather than as an experience

with an inherent value. This all starts from how we guide our young people.

It also seems to me that there is a certain dominance by some institu-

tions in Jazz in the U.S. For instance, The Lincoln Jazz Center, which in and

of itself might be a good thing, has to a large extent become the public face

of Jazz. It receives a large part of whatever funding there might be for Jazz.

At the same time it certainly only represents a small part of the actual range

of the music.


CADENCE: In some ways the overriding theme of some of your work seems to deal

with the American experience.

FRANK CARLBERG: The move to the U.S. years ago turned out to be a significant event in my life.  After going through the different stages of “culture shock,” such as from

idealizing the new culture to resenting it, one tends to develop a more rela-

tive view of both the new and the old. I am still constantly intrigued by the

differences and similarities of American and European cultures. There also

seems to be an incredible amount of delusional self-views of the cultures

on both sides of the Atlantic. Many of these issues are highly ironic. The

early immigrants to America came looking for a new order without class

distinctions yet the U.S. seems increasingly mired in a society characterized

by class divisions while Europe might be a bit less so … certainly if one

considers education the great equalizer.

It is also shocking to note the complete lack of moral outrage that we

exhibit in cases such as Guantanamo, where people are kept without due

process in open-ended incarceration. Where are the protests? Where is the


America was also built on the idea of free speech but what happens

now is that anyone can step on their little soapbox but no one is actually

listening. This seems so strange to me, partially maybe because, growing up

in the shadow of the Soviet Union, many opinions or thoughts could not be

expressed publicly. The American political arena has been greatly homog-

enized. A while back, when I was visiting Finland, they were preparing for

parliamentary elections and had a television debate with representatives

from 13 different parties. The smaller parties would raise issues that the

more powerful parties would never had addressed voluntarily. Here the

debate is basically between two very powerful political forces … one of

which at any given moment has a bit more power than the other … at least

until the next election when they trade places. There is no real political

opposition here.

On the other hand, Europeans have been fond of pointing to America’s

problems regarding race and religion while being quite blind to their own

glaring problems of social injustice and racial prejudice. With the election

of Obama there was a brief moment of reflection in some European coun-

tries whether what happened in the U.S. could actually happen there …

the conclusion drawn by most that the time is not yet for a French/Algerian

president … or German/Turkish chancellor …

When I came to the U.S. I have to admit that except for Jazz and cinema,

I was fairly ignorant of American culture. Having discovered the richness of

the artistic range here, be it in music or literature or visual arts or archi-

tecture and design, I feel continually nurtured by the creative energy in the

U.S., which happens against all odds with scant public support.


CADENCE: Your second recording, Ugly Beauty (Northeastern Records, 1994) in duet

with vocalist Christine Correa, marks your love of using vocalists. In other

instances you have created voluminous texts for everything from songs

based on 20th Century poets to “song cycles” based on the work of Robert

Creeley. What is it about the human voice (both in the voice of the poet

and actual singing) that so intrigues you?

FRANK CARLBERG: The human voice is one of the very fundamental musical instruments (along-

side drums/percussion) that always seems to have existed. Many dream of

becoming singers but only a few of us have the gift … the sound … the

control … the physical attributes that make a voice possible. I sure didn’t.

Nothing compares to the impact of the voice of, say, a Billie Holiday, Abbey

Lincoln, Edith Piaf, or Stevie Wonder. It is something direct, something

non-intellectual yet very complex. It is something universal yet each voice is

unique. It is something completely human yet otherworldly at the same time.

So the human voice was something very fascinating to me already early on

and this fascination continues to this day. I remember hearing Abbey Lincoln

live for the first time. I was way in the back of a packed club with compro-

mised sight lines and poor sound yet I was completely mesmerized by her

singing, convinced of every word she sang. Then, years later, I was lucky

when I had a chance to work with Christine Correa as she was able to sing

the kind of music that I was interested in. This work continues to this day

and I do not expect it to stop anytime soon.

Working with poetry is related to these vocal fascinations, yet different

as well. As I said before I wasn’t exactly looking for poems to set to music,

but, as I was reading, one thing led to another. There were also some Jazz

musicians and recordings that helped show me the way. Charles Mingus had

written some lyrics and music that made for compelling songs. The Abbey

Lincoln recording Straight Ahead, with music and texts by various writers,

was quite powerful as was Max Roach’s work with Abbey, mainly Freedom

Now Suite. These were songs with powerful messages, not just the “I’ll

scratch your back if you scratch mine”-type of stuff that was prevalent in the

older show tunes. Duke and Strayhorn, of course, also wrote great songs.

Strayhorn’s “Lush Life” is really kind of a miracle. It is a love song but with

such richness in the music as well as in the words and their sounds—and

Strayhorn wrote it when he was 16 or 17! Unbelievable!

However, for me the most influential composer of Jazz songs (or art-

songs as he preferred to call them) was Steve Lacy. He created an organic

fusion combining poetry and Jazz. Steve’s music just blew my mind—and

still does. It is a music where melody is central. Lacy’s work can teach you

many things yet never in a pedantic way. The texts he uses are powerful,

illuminating, playful, funny, serious, whimsical, etc. Just like life itself. On

the other hand, many poets have been deeply inspirational, such as Anselm

Hollo, Robert Creeley, Gertrude Stein, The Beats, etc. And this all leads to

the foundation of the work. Poets speak, musicians play, and together they

make songs.


Brooklyn, New York

April 12, 2009

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