The Renga Ensemble was convened by clarinetist and composer James for a series of concerts and a recording in April, 2013 in Chicago. The ensemble was handpicked by Falzone, drawing together some of the most diverse and adventurous clarinet and saxophone players working in jazz and improvised music today:

James Falzone: Bb and Eb clarinets
Ken Vandermark: Bb clarinet, bass clarinet, baritone saxophone
Keefe Jackson: tenor saxophone, bass clarinet, contra Bb bass clarinet
Jason Stein: bass clarinet
Ben Goldberg: Bb clarinet, contra Eb alto clarinet
Ned Rothenberg: Bb clarinet, alto saxophone

The project is rooted in persona: how do diverse musical voices converge and find common ground, especially in a setting where composed and improvised elements coalesce? The intention in assembling such diverse players, most of whom had never played together before, was to allow space for each voice to be heard yet challenged and shaped by another, equally strong voice. The concerts in Chicago took place at The Chicago Cultural Center, The Hideout, and the Elastic Arts Foundation and received preview articles in The Chicago Tribune, Chicago Reader, and Chicago Music.

James named the group Renga after a centuries-old form of collaborative Japanese poetry, where two or three poets blend their words into a single meditative work. James' compositions, written especially for this project, were conceived around a haiku by American poet Anita Virgil. The titles of many of the compositions make up her brazenly clear yet emotionally compelling poem:

    not seeing
    the room is white
    until that red apple



The ensemble entered Electrical Audio Studios in Chicago to document the music in a very direct and organic way: 6 musicians sitting in a circle, tapes rolling, no overdubs and just a few post production edits. The resultant recording, "The Room Is", is a focused document of music made in the moment and released on James' Allos Documents label. Read more HERE
Samples Below