CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE - photo credits (L to R): Katerina Evangelista, Carly Hoopes, Lauren Miyake (3 & 4)
Filipino-American guitarist/composer Karl Evangelista (b.1986) ranks among a new wave of creative musicians grounded in jazz, 20th century experimentalism, and popular song, exploring the place of multiculturalism and ethnic co-existence in an increasingly post-cultural, trans-idiomatic cultural space. Signal to Noise magazine hails Evangelista as "one of the most original instrumentalists and composers of his generation," and as the creative force behind boundary breaking group Grex, Evangelista has been called "essential current-and-future listening," his music "a near-seamless blend of modern jazz, contemporary structuralist composition, indie rock, and blues rock” (Tiny Mix Tapes). This complex, powerful aesthetic fosters an “otherworldly experience” that is “completely original” (Eugene Weekly).
Evangelista has explored the possibilities of intercultural dialogues across a vast spectrum of academic and professional situations. Evangelista has worked in a wide variety of ensembles with or under the direction of, among others, Achyutan (Marvin Patillo), Scott Amendola, Tatsu Aoki, Steve Berlin (Los Lobos), India Cooke, Fred Frith, Eddie Gale, Ben Goldberg, Matthew Goodheart, Phillip Greenlief, Jong Jang, Darren Johnston, Lewis Jordan, Oliver Lake, Myra Melford, Hafez Modirzadeh, Bill Noertker, James Norton, Zeena Parkins, John-Carlos Perea, Gino Robair, Daniel Schmidt, Marcus Shelby, Aram Shelton, David Slusser, Damon Smith, Karen Stackpole, Moe Staiano, Melody Takata, Wayne Wallace, and AIR co-founder Francis Wong, and has performed in new arrangements of works by Luciano Chessa, Christian Jendreiko, Polly Moller, AACM co-founder Muhal Richard Abrams, and Art Ensemble of Chicago co-founder Roscoe Mitchell. Evangelista’s interest in fostering cross-cultural musical dialogues has also led to grant-based research (’08) on the Blue Notes, a group of South African exile musicians (paper presented at the Guelph Jazz Festival, ’08), multiple guest lectures at UC Berkeley, and continued work at the community-based East Bay Center for the Performing Arts. Via Asian Improv aRts, Evangelista was awarded a 2011 Zellebach Grant for the composition of Taglish, a suite centered on Filipino-American culture; an album of the composition was successfully funded via Kickstarter and released in late 2012. Evangelista holds a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies from UC Berkeley (’06) and an MFA in Improvised Music from Mills College (’09).
"True Genre Warping music..." (KFJC)
"Evangelista is quite a versatile guitarist... fast-paced and virtuosic" (CatSynth)
"[Karl Evangelista and Grex take] their cue from farther back, when art-college-gestated bands like Genesis and Henry Cow were musically voracious, ridiculously intense, and technically adventurous." (Foxy Digitalis)
"The striking thing about [Evangelista's musc] was its stubborn refusal to eschew any element in favor of another... Each offered with a headlong creative urge that made the unexpected turns and sequences into a joyful expression." (HurdAudio)
My music speaks to the notion that life is inextricably connected to art, and that one’s experiences both shape and partly determine the nature of an individual’s creative perspective. I arrived at this conception as a Filipino American deeply engaged with the culture and history of jazz and improvised music; I grew up enmeshed in dualities, raised as a Filipino in America, learning to love art that was generated by “foreign” cultures--African American, African, and European. Ultimately, I’ve found my musical voice in the interstices of my multicultural upbringing. My compositional and improvisational aesthetic blends jazz, rock, western art music, contemporary sound and “noise” based art, and Filipino folk melody into an aesthetic that is, like me, a unique amalgamation and summation of, as well as commentary on, its parts.
Most of my work over the past few years has involved developing environments for improvising musicians and musicians more versed in “closed” performance practices (e.g., pre-20th century “classical” repertoire and modern pop music) to fruitfully coexist in. This emphasis may be traced back to the genesis of my primary group, Grex--a collaboration between me and my wife, a formally trained classical pianist. Grex forced me to confront the technical limitations fostered by the “linguistic” disconnect between musicians from different backgrounds; in this case, my wife favored rhythmic complexity but was reluctant to improvise, whereas I leaned toward improvisation at the sacrifice of structural elements. Grex found a happy medium wherein each member adopted elements of the other’s style. This band was, and remains, a microcosm of my larger creative inquiry: how can one reconcile disparate elements, and at the same time create a unity that is greater than the sum of its parts?
If there is any value in my art, it is as a mode for how I wish to live in the world and, for that matter, as a model for emerging 21st century performance practices. I realized early on as a musician that, while I could never quite “be” the artists I admired, the art I was making through their example was itself an expression of my personhood. Similarly, though I could never be the the same sort of Filipino my parents are, I could carve out my own path and make it, quite possibly, something better. My music is not “eclectic” for the sole purpose of creating collage; rather, I draw from multiple influences as if they are colors on a paint palette, the final work both paying tribute to its source material and hoping to surpass those sources as something genuinely new and “apart” from them.
2013, Review of Karl Evangelista/Grex: Taglish in Signal to Noise (not available)