With a rigorous and pan-idiomatic approach to both composition and improvisation, guitarist Ken Aldcroft is a key practitioner in Toronto's dynamic creative music scene. After establishing himself as a compelling new voice in the jazz scene of his hometown, Vancouver, Ken moved to Toronto in 2001 and quickly made connections with like-minded collaborators. Since then, his own multi-faceted development as an improvising guitarist, bandleader, composer, producer, and organizer has corresponded with the re-emergence of Toronto as an important centre for creative improvised music-making.
As a guitarist, Ken extends the jazz tradition that lies at the core of his music education. Through his commitment to a wide-open field of musical influence and to forging new collaborative ties, Ken has systematically sought new and challenging contexts in which to improvise. As a result, his playing reflects the breadth of his interests, from the extended bebop of a jazz repertory project like Hat and Beard to the languages of European improvisation and noise music that he explores in collective improvisation settings like Aldcroft/Oswald/Snow/Valdivia. This variety comes into its fullest view on Ken's brand-new solo project, Vocabulary (TRP-SS01-008), a passionate musical reflection on his ongoing development as an improvising guitarist.
Ken's solo music, as documented on Vocabulary, makes stylistic reference to several traditions that are key components of his composite sound-world: Especially, classic electric blues, modern jazz, and Derek Bailey-inspired free improvisation. He filters these through two key characteristics that are at the core of his improvising language: Tightly dissonant middle-register chording and a provocative tension between 'speaking style' parlando rubato phrasing (of both single lines and chording) and groove (whether implicit or explicit). Though working primarily with a relatively clean tone of his electric hollow-body instrument, Ken judiciously exploits the possibilities of distortion and, with various looping and processing devices, can create spidery, multidimensional lattices of sound, as on the Vocabulary track, "Pre-am-ble."
All told, Ken's solo music is a clear distillation (or, perhaps, the generative seed) of his entire musical output, and his concerns as a composer and bandleader are drawn logically and fundamentally from his seminal work as an improvising guitarist. As a bandleader, Ken's projects have provided increasingly nuanced contexts in which his compositional and ensemblerelated ideas find voice. The evolution of the Ken Aldcroft Convergence Ensemble reflects his development in these regards as well as the expanding scope of music played by groups under his leadership. While his Group, Quartet and Trio + 1, his trio of projects during the early 2000s, synthesized models from jazz and derivative musical traditions, the Convergence Ensemble expands the frame of stylistic reference and conceptual depth considerably. Three recordings by the Convergence Ensemble, The Great Divide (2006), Trolleys (2008), and Our Hosptality (2009), all on Trio Records, are clear testimony to this fact.
Concurrent with this trajectory as a performing musician is Ken's commitment to supporting the scene of creative music in Toronto as an organizer and producer. He was a founding Board member and the first President of the Association of Improvising Musicians Toronto. AIMToronto's formation in 2005 was instigated in part by concert and series programming that Ken had been doing with Joe Sorbara, with whom he founded the Leftover Daylight Series, a weekly series of creative music that is approaching its fifth anniversary in late 2008. Since then, AIMToronto has helped to bolster the reputation of Toronto's creative music scene locally, nationally, and internationally. For his integral role in organizing AIMToronto collaborations with artists like Anthony Braxton, William Parker, Jean Derome, Joe McPhee, Eddie Prévost, Michael Moore, and Malcolm Goldstein, Ken has ensured that the world-class calibre of Toronto musicians has gained considerably wider recognition.