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Michael Vlatkovich (O2)

April 11

Michael Vlatkovich, trombone/compositions with Tom McNalley, guitar; Michael Alvidrez, bass; and Bert Karl, drums.

Note: Originally, the April 11 Concert Hour was to feature Michael Munson on Palomar’s Pipe Organ in D5. Michael Munson will now instead be playing at the April 18 Concert Hour in D5, and the April 11 Concert Hour will feature Michael Vlatkovich and will be held in the O2 Performance Studio (next to the dome, adjacent to the tennis courts).


Michael Vlatkovich, trombonist, composer, and arranger, is one of the leading talents among Los Angeles improvisational players. Located on the West Coast since 1973, he is an emotionally charged performer, comfortable in a variety of jazz and world music styles. Vlatkovich has performed extensively in the United States, Canada, and Europe. His improvisionally-free music expresses raw power and beauty in a minimally structured format. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Vlatkovich began studying music with the school band in the third grade. He distinguished himself in high school and was awarded a music scholarship to attend the St. Louis Institute of Music. Prior to his education at the Institute, Michael took part in an intensive six-week workshop with internationally-acclaimed saxophonist Oliver Nelson and guest soloists Thad Jones, Mel Lewis, Roland Hanna, Ron Carter, and Phil Woods. Among his fellow students were Hamiett Bluett, Joe Bowie, Julius Hemphill, and Oliver Lake. In addition to leading his own diverse, imaginative ensembles, Vlatkovich has performed with a wide array of singers and instrumentalists including Peggy Lee, Brian Setzer, Bryan Adams, Bobby Bradford, Gerry Hemingway, Rob Blakeslee, and Rich Halley, among many others. The trombonist has also performed on sound tracks for a variety of television and film projects including The Mask, Jingle All The Way, and the critically-acclaimed John Cassavette film The Tempest. In 1981, the composer formed Thankyou Records in order to document the truly unique forward-thinking musical concepts and ideas of both himself and his music collaborators. (These recordings have received critical acclaim in music publications and periodicals throughout the United States and Europe. Many of them have been selected for the lists of ten best jazz recordings.) Most recently the trombonist has been performing with his own ensembles, and co-leading Transvalue with poet Charles Britt. Vlatkovich is also a regular member with the Vinny Golia Large Ensemble and Rob Blakeslee Quartet.

Listen Here!


“Vlatkovich plays a muscular trombone that would have been a great asset to a Charles Mingus ensemble. His extensive vocabulary includes stentorian pronouncements, lyrical commentary, hysterical circus smears, and smooth glissandi. His bands can roar along like small juggernauts or navigate thoughtful, poignantly angular written passages. Then there are the floating, almost fragile, multiphonic clouds of sound that magically congeal in a Vlatkovich ensemble. He seems to welcome the aleatory abilities of his players as much as having his compositions played. ” DOWNBEAT

“Michael Vlatkovich isn’t your average trombonist. He squeaks, soars, and sears and tears sonic pieces of paper much like a saxophonist. Quite simply, and with all due respect to players like Jed Bishop, Joe Fiedler, Masahiko Kono, Steve Swell, and even my all time favorite Roswell Rudd, Vlatkovich is the finest trombonist improvising today. While this music isn’t exactly “out there,” it is far from the “mainstream.” There isn’t a “blow out” or antagonistic section on this disc and yet all of the cuts have a smidgen of unpredictability that makes them challenging. In the end, it doesn’t matter as this music shines in or outside of any context.” JAZZREVIEW.COM

“A commanding improvisational trombonist, Vlatkovich is also a devisor of challenging structures for his bandmates. Vlatkovich loves using word and numerical games to determine compositional structures. There are seldom “themes” as such but, rather, motifs collectively essayed. Around these guideposts, Vlatkovich leaves lot of room in which soloists can navigate. The raucous assembled horn passages have ancestral ties to early New Orleans jazz and Vlatkovich often writes short, concentrated ensemble bursts that hit like sound grenades.” JAZZIZ

“Michael Pierre Vlatkovich may not be a household name…. yet he still manages to be one of the most extraordinary improvising trombonists in this country as well as overseas. Also a gifted composer and arranger, Vlatkovich is one of the leading talents among Los Angeles improvisational players. Working from the Left Coast since 1973, he is well known for tireless touring, bringing his music all over the United States, Canada, and Europe. A daring and emotionally charged performer, Vlatkovich takes delight in blending a broad variety of jazz and world music styles into his own brand of engaging and unpredictable music. His approach manages to express a raw power and beauty within a minimally structured format that allows extensive group improvisations to lead the way.” ARTVOICE

“Vlatkovich is an arresting writer who works with many different forms – numerical compositions, tangos, waltzes, big band swingers, and more. He also assembles musicians accomplished enough to interpret his pieces with verve and imagination.” L.A. NEW TIMES

“Trombonist Michael Vlatkovich served up a more animated mix of gutbucket grooves and extended form at his Knitting Factory set…His multi-theme pieces flow in ways that feel right to the ear, so they don’t feel like patchwork or even suite-like. They also leave lots of room for broad brush blowing.” CODA

“Maybe its the similarity to the slide whistle, but something about the trombone seems to attract musicians who, despite their amazing virtuosity, still retain a mischievous sense of humor. Vlatkovich and his ensemble play thoughtful, melodic free jazz with a wry air…..a little marvel of joyous, minimalist improvisation – consistently swinging but never confined by time”. SEATTLE WEEKLY

“With its blustery, swaggering and bluesy Mingus -like rag-tag amalgam of structure (including interesting support for soloists) and open-ended improvisation, buoyed by periodic rock rhythm underpinning which, amazingly enough, avoids any concession to fusion or pop, and odd striking percussion textures, it’s a sprawling, spirited freewheeling set.” CADENCE JAZZ MAGAZINE

“The band is notable for its unusual instrumentation, encouraging pallet, repertoire of originals, and its good intentions…Vlatkovich’s resourceful writing provided a framework fro his gritty, muffled-toned trombone.” LOS ANGELES TIMES

“The Michael Vlatkovich Quartet, specializes in tautly constructed group improvisations that provide lost of nourishing food for musical thought; their combinded sounds swing effortlessly yet solidly. From ’20′s style gutbucket testifying to ’60′s like “outside” musings and beyond, most of the passing century’s musical innovations are encompassed. Blend in a healthy dose of humor and a bit of underlying irreverence and you’ve the makings of an enthralling evening.” SANTA FE REPORTER

“Trombonist/composer Michel Vlatkovich has a knack for leaving just the right loose ends loose and weaving others into knots that are almost impossible to unravel. His arrangements are characteristically sparse – sometimes startingly so- but the depths of his imagination are so densely packed with the new and the fresh that listening to Vlatkovich blow is to hear improvisational jazz for the first time, every time. The St. Louis born, musician is considered among the top musical and compositional minds on the Left Coast. That’s at least in part because Vlatkovich, is almost entirely fearless when it comes to stretching the limits of jazz well beyond the accepted stratosphere of improvisation. Never timid, shy or subtle, Vlatkovich wrings melodies out of his trombone with brute force, nailing together a wide variety of jazz styles to miscellaneous scraps of world music and jackhammer rhythms. His music is brash, bold and exciting-the way improv ought to be.” THE WEEKLY ALIBI

“The skeletal compositions generate an organized spontaniety that is quite striking because the music is allowed to develop in an atmosphere of considerable freedom.”JAZZ FORUM

“In the spirit of Ornette Coleman, Vlatkovich compositions are often jagged and humorous…Vlatkovich’s trombone ranges over as wide a terrain as his tunes, progressing form funky bop to slippery high register pranks to walking bass lines to frog-like croaks” “With its blustery, swaggering and bluesy Mingus-like rag tag amalgam of structure(including interesting support for soloists) and open-ended improvisations, buoyed by periodic rock rhythm underpinning which, amazingly enough, avoids any concession to fusion or pop, and odd striking percussion textures, it’s a sprawling, spirited,free-wheeling set.” THE NEWS AND OBSERVER