For Jon Katz, the 2008 dance recital at Temple University was just another gig. In his senior year, the saxophonist was simply there to play his part for a dance student’s performance. But then things went wrong, and as often happens in jazz, a mistake opened the door to inspiration.
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Another dancer was performing a choreographed number set to a piece of recorded music. “During her recital the CD started skipping,” Katz recalls. “The curtains were about to close and this girl was in the corner about to cry. But as a jazz musician I was able to just go onstage and wing it, so I went out there and improvised with the dancers.”
For Katz, that experience spotlighted the fact that while both jazz musicians and dancers are comfortable with improvisation within their own fields, they don’t often cross paths with one another. On Sept. 27, Little Berlin will host the first performance by States of Matter, Katz’ new group dedicated to the intersection of jazz and dance. He’s working with choreographer Emma MacDonald on the project, which will feature two dancers along with a six-piece band. At the end of the performance, musicians and dancers will be invited to join in for an open improv session.
“I wanted to put together a group of very reactive and emotionally charged musicians,” Katz says. “I was less focused on the instrumentation than I was on their ability to react visually. Some musicians struggle with it; it can be hard to concentrate on the music and the visuals at the same time.”
States of Matter’s repertoire will draw from renowned jazz composers as well as more contemporary music including Bjork and St. Vincent, and reach back to classical repertoire by Bach and Debussy. The group will begin with compositions and choreography before venturing into improvisation.
The group’s name was inspired by the varied forms that matter can take in the science world, Katz says. “Water can be liquid, solid or gas, but in the end it’s still made up from the same materials. I think with this project there’s an emotional aspect that I find common in all the different fields of art. I’m just trying to break down the barriers and see the connections between all of them.”
States of Matter
Sept. 27, 8 p.m.
2430 Coral St.
$5 suggested donation