Tin Hat (formerly Tin Hat Trio) | Biography
Forging a new acoustic sound that defies categorization while striking universal chords, Tin Hat makes freewheeling chamber music for the 21st century. Garnering widespread critical acclaim for its five CDs , the group has also earned high marks for their captivating performances, sometimes including original soundtracks for classic silent film animation from Russia. Tin Hat's international audiences have grown over the years through many concert tours in the United States and in Europe. Hailed by the press for "interweaving Old World Europe with post-modern America, south-of-the-border sensuality with concert-hall propriety, and odd-metered syncopation with deeply soulful grooves" (The New York Press), the ensemble has created an original American ethnic music of its own device.
Other reviewers note that "the group blends elements of jazz, folk and classical chamber music to create unique, yet often eerie compositions that seem like the perfect movie score." (Billboard); "Their haunting and strangely familiar music... is a soundtrack for the kind of puzzling dream which leaves you sitting awake in the middle of the night..." (The New Yorker); "Forget the definitions, and simply think of their music as compelling entertainment, rich with whimsy, imagination and intelligence." (Los Angeles Times); and "They make music that blends contemporary classical, Eastern European folk, tango, bossa nova and bluegrass, all with a jazz-improvisation sensibility. What comes out of that mix isn't quite like anything else you've heard - and better than that, it's fun to listen to." (New York Daily News).
Founded in 1997 in San Francisco by violinist Carla Kihlstedt, guitarist Mark Orton, and accordionist and pianist Rob Burger, the original Tin Hat Trio was formed as a composer’s collective, committed to creating a purely acoustic music that blurred the lines between composition and improvisation. The group often invited other musicians to join them for special occasions. All of their recordings feature special guests, among them such luminaries as Tom Waits and Willie Nelson, as well as their luminescent friends like clarinetist Ben Goldberg and harpist Zeena Parkins. After Rob Burger left the group in late 2004, Goldberg became a permanent member, along with multi-instrumentalist Ara Anderson, a San Francisco native. Parkins often guests with the new formation and also performs on their latest recording, The Sad Machinery of Spring (Hannibal/Rykodisc-2007). These new musicians fit easily into the Tin Hat mold as evocative performers, adding new colors, strokes, and textures to the already large canvas that is the ensemble's sound.
Outside the recording studio, Tin Hat pursues an active touring schedule both in America and Europe, as well as a number of special projects. The original trio performed as a quartet (with tuba), with a brass ensemble, and with a 12-piece ensemble of strings and winds. In 2003, they performed Orton’s triple concerto for trio and 21 strings, commissioned by The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia. Tin Hat has also accompanied the silent insect animations of Ladislaw Starewicz with a series of original scores which are performed live with these groundbreaking films - made in Russia and Paris in the early 20th century, they feature a number of animated insects, frogs and rats, dressed for roles in decidedly surreal tellings of Aesop's fables and Grimm's fairy tales.
Attesting further to their cinematic qualities, Tin Hat’s compositions are featured on a number of film soundtracks, including "The Good Girl," "The Real Dirt on Farmer John," "Sweet Land,” “Everything is Illuminated,” “La Giusta Distanza,” and the upcoming release “The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond.” Prominent dance and theater companies have used their music to enhance choreography and for dramatic effect, e.g. Pilobolus, Les 7 Doigts de la Main, Koresh Dance and Spectrum Dance Theater/Donald Byrd, BigManArts/Lawrence Goldhuber, the Berkeley Repertory Theater, and the Pickle Family Circus.
Individual Biographies of the Musicians
Ara Anderson is a performer, bandleader, and composer from San Francisco. He performs mainly on trumpet, but also plays bass trumpet, sousaphone, piano, pump organ, celesta, and glockenspiel. He is known for his own bands Iron & the Albatross and Boostamonte!, as well as his sideman work with Tom Waits, Sean Hayes, and Jonathan Richman. Ara's compositions (along with others by his Tin Hat band mates) are featured in the film "La Giusta Distanza" (directed by Carlo Mazzacurati) and a soon-to-be released film production of Tennessee Williams' screenplay "The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond."
Clarinetist/Composer Ben Goldberg, whom John Zorn has called “one of the greatest clarinetists I have ever heard,” grew up in Denver, Colorado, and received degrees from the University of California and Mills College. He was a pupil of the eminent clarinetist Rosario Mazzeo, and studied with Steve Lacy and Joe Lovano. Ben’s group New Klezmer Trio "kicked open the door for radical experiments with Ashkenazi roots music." (San Francisco Chronicle). In addition to composing for and playing in the Ben Goldberg Quintet, he currently performs in the several groups: Tin Hat; plays monk (a trio with Scott Amendola and Devin Hoff); Myra Melford’s Be Bread; Nels Cline’s New Monastery; and Go Home (with Charlie Hunter, Ron Miles, and Scott Amendola.) A new CD of Ben’s compositions featuring Joshua Redman will be released in 2009. He has performed with, among others, John Zorn, Bill Frisell, Roswell Rudd, Don Byron, Mark Feldman, Ellery Eskelin, Zeena Parkins, Mark Dresser, Vijay Iyer, and Jenny Scheinman.
Carla Kihlstedt plays the violin, sings and composes in an incredibly wide variety of musical circumstances, from the rich and subtle Tin Hat to the dramatic and alarming Sleepytime Gorilla Museum to the intimate and disarming 2 Foot Yard. She has been lucky enough to work with many of her favorite musicians, including Fred Frith, Satoko Fujii, Tom Waits, and Carla Bozulich. She has written music for choreographers Shinichi Iova Koga, Jo Kreiter, and Joe Goode, and recently, together with poet Rafael Oses and theater director Paul Bargetto, she has created a staged song cycle called Necessary Monsters based loosely on Jorge Luis Borges' Book of Imaginary Beings. She has also returned to her classical roots through her long-time friendship with composer Lisa Bielawa whose Double Violin Concerto she just premiered in Boston and New York with violinist Colin Jacobsen (Silk Road Ensemble). She is currently writing a new piece for the ROVA Saxophone Quartet, and a new trio with Matthias Bossi and Shahzad Ismaily called Causing a Tiger, combining music and field recordings from her travels. Look out next year for her new record label: Twelve Cups Records. www.myspace.com/carlakihlstedt
Founding Tin Hat member Mark Orton is a composer/guitarist based in Portland, Oregon. Having grown up in a musical family, he is a multi-instrumentalist as well, performing on all manner of keyboards, strings, and percussion. He has written soundtracks for or contributed music to many films, both feature and documentary, including "The Good Girl," "The Real Dirt on Farmer John," "Everything Is Illuminated," "Sweet Land," and "Comrades in Dreams," along with the upcoming release "The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond". His score for an experimental film by choreographer Laurie McLeod was featured in a Mass MOCA installation entitled "Waterhaven #1 (LuoYong's Dream)". Orton is busy as an arranger as well, working alongside producer Larry Klein while arranging strings for Madeleine Peyroux and Vienna Teng, among others. Outside of Tin Hat, Orton performs with his Aurora Septet and Lap Steel Trio as well as with the alt-country band The Old Joe Clarks. Additionally, he is a founding member of "Famous Last Words And Music", an artist collective devoted to the production and live performance of experimental radio theatre.