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Iyer, Vijay & Mike Ladd

Holding It Down: The Veterans' Dreams Project

Iyer, Vijay & Mike Ladd: Holding It Down: The Veterans' Dreams Project (Pi Recordings)

An intense look at veterans of color from the last decade's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan performed with lyricist Mike Ladd, Maurice Decaul, Lynn Hill, Guillermo & Pamela Z, plus the band of Liberty Ellman (guitar), Kassa Overall (drums) and Okkyung Lee (cello).

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product information:

UPC: 808713004928

Label: Pi Recordings
Catalog ID: Pi 49
Squidco Product Code: 18109

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2013
Country: USA
Packaging: Cardstock gatefold foldover
Recorded on June 21st and 22nd, 2012 at The Bunker, Brooklyn, NY by Aaron Nevezie.


Vijay Iyer-compositions, piano, Fender Rhodes, programming, live electronics

Mike Ladd-lyrics, vocals, analog synthesizer

Maurice Decaul-lyrics, vocals

Lynn Hill-lyrics, vocals

Pamela Z-vocals, live processing, composition

Guillermo E. Brown-vocals, effects

Liberty Ellman-guitar

Okkyung Lee-cello

Kassa Overall-drums

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Artist Biographies:

"Based in Brooklyn New York, guitarist / composer Liberty Ellman has performed and or recorded with a host of stand out creative artists including: Joe Lovano, Myra Melford, Wadada Leo Smith, Butch Morris, Vijay Iyer, Steve Lehman, Greg Osby, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Nels Cline, Somi, Matana Roberts, Ledisi, Michele Rosewoman, Adam Rudolph, Josh Roseman, Barney McAll, Okkyung Lee, Steven Bernstein, Ben Goldberg and John Zorn. In 2014 Ellman worked with Jason Moran on Luanda Kinshasa, a video installation by visionary filmmaker Stan Douglas.

Mr. Ellman is perhaps best known for his long tenure in Henry Threadgill's groundbreaking ensemble, Zooid. The group has recorded several critically lauded albums. Their most recent recording "In For A Penny, In For A Pound" earned a Pulitzer prize for Mr. Threadgill. In addition to playing guitar, Mr. Ellman is credited as producer and mixing engineer on that recording. He has mixed and mastered many other recordings as well, including Gregory Porter's "Be Good," which was nominated for a Grammy.

Ellman has released 4 of his own critically acclaimed albums: Orthodoxy, Tactiles, Ophiuchus Butterfly, and 2015's Radiate on Pi Recordings. His compositional style has been described as "At once highly controlled and recklessly inventive," and the Wall Street Journal said: "Ellman, along with his peers, is helping to define post millennial jazz." Voted #1 Rising Star Guitarist in the 2016 Downbeat Critics Poll, he was also honored in the 2015 Jazz Times expanded critics poll, as one of the four guitarists of the year alongside Bill Frisell, John Scofield and Julian Lage.

Liberty Ellman has also worked beyond the jazz world: hip hop artists Midnight Voices, and The Coup, dance producer DJ Joe Claussell, and worked on remixes of N'Dea Davenport, Chico Freeman, Ann Dyer, Ayo and others. He also made an appearance on the Grammy nominated Groove Collective record, People People Music Music."

-Liberty Ellman Website (

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"Okkyung Lee, a New York-based artist and South Korea native, has created a body of work blurring genre boundaries through collaborations and compositions while pushing the limitation of contemporary cello performance techniques. Her music draws from noise and extended techniques, jazz, Western classical, and Korean traditional and popular music.

Since moving to New York in 2000, She has released more than 20 albums including the latest solo record Ghil produced by Lasse Marhaug on EditionsMego/Ideologic Organ, Noisy Love Songs (for George Dyer) on Tzadik.She has performed and recorded with numerous artists from wide ranges such as Laurie Anderson, David Behrman, Mark Fell, Douglas Gordon, Jenny Hval, Vijay Iyer, Christian Marclay, Ikue Mori, Lawrence D "Butch" Morris, Marina Rosenfeld, Jim o'Rourke, Evan Parker, Wadada Leo Smith, C Spencer Yeh and John Zorn to name just a few.

Since 2010, she has been developing a site-specific duo project with New York based dancer/choreographer Michelle Boulé. They have performed at Issue Project Room, Mount Tremper Art Center and send+receive fesival in Winnipeg, Canada and scheduled perform at The Met Breuer Building on March 12th, 2016 as a part of the inaugural program, curated by pianist/composer Vijay Iyer. She opened for a legendary experimental rock group Swans in May, 2015 in Northern Europe and UK. In early 2015, Okkyung presented new compositions commissioned by London Sinfonietta as a part of Christian Marclay's exhibit at White Cube Gallery in London.

Okkyung was rewarded with prestigious Doris Duke Performing Artist Award in 2015 and received Foundation For Contemporary Arts Grant in 2010.

She received a dual bachelor's degree in Contemporary Writing & Production and Film Scoring from Berklee College of Music in 1998 and a master's degree in Contemporary Improvisation from New England Conservatory of Music in 2000."

-Okkyung Lee Website (

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track listing:

1. Here (Mike, Cambridge) 3:08

2. Derelict Poetry (Maurice, Brooklyn) 4:16

3. Capacity (Lynn,Bronx) 3:57

4. Walking with the Duppy (Rashan, Queens) 3:42

5. There Is a Man Slouching in the Stairway (Maurice, Brooklyn) 3:59

6. My Fire (Brad, Chester, Nc) 3:09

7. On Patrol (Maurice, Brooklyn) 4:54

8. Dream of an Ex-Ranger (William, Newton, Ma) 3:10

9. Name (Lynn, Bronx) 3:38

10. Costume (Mike, Cambridge) 4:08

11. Tormented Star of Morning (Maurice, Brooklyn) 5:09

12. Patton (Calvin, Massapequa, NY) 4:58

13. Sush (Maurice, Brooklyn) 4:07

14. Rem Killer (Kirk, Lexington, Ky) 3:48

15. Requiem for an Insomniac (Maurice, Brooklyn) 5:14

16. Dreams in Color (Lynn, Bronx) 2:39

17. Mess Hall (Merrin, San Diego) 6:16
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descriptions, reviews, &c.

"Holding It Down: The Veterans' Dreams Project is the latest astonishing album to emerge from the longtime collaboration of Grammy-nominated pianist / composer Vijay Iyer and poet / performer / librettist / emcee Mike Ladd. Three years in the making, the new work focuses on veterans of color from the last decade's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Holding It Down is a thought-provoking, sometimes frightening, and ultimately exhilarating combination of music, poetry and song, created from the actual dreams of young veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The new album continues in the groundbreaking, politically searing, stylistically omnivorous fashion of their previous works (the award-winning In What Language? (Pi 2004), based on interviews with people of color in airports, and the acclaimed Still Life with Commentator (2007), an oratorio about 24-hour news culture). These earlier projects were described by The Boston Globe as "a triumph of a genre that doesn't exist," hailed by JazzTimes as "unfailingly imaginative and significant," and praised for their "powerful narrative invention and ravishing trance-jazz... an eloquent tribute to the stubborn, regenerative powers of the human spirit" in Rolling Stone. Together with the earlier Iyer-Ladd creations, Holding It Down rounds out a wide-ranging trilogy about American life over a decade of war.

In Holding It Down, Iyer and Ladd explore the experiences of American veterans of color of these post-9/11 wars through the medium of dreams. For the project, which was commissioned and premiered at Harlem Stage in New York City, Ladd (along with theater director Patricia McGregor) interviewed scores of veterans - both their aspirations and the visions they experience while sleeping, which are by turns disturbing and mundane, ranging from combat-related nightmares and stress dreams to comically surreal fantasies. Ladd's lyrical adaptations of these accounts are juxtaposed with Iyer's lush, potent music, and with first-person poetic contributions from Maurice Decaul, a writer who served with the Marines in Iraq, and Lynn Hill, who served in the Air Force and was tasked with piloting drones over Afghanistan from a base in Las Vegas. Decaul and Hill's original, brave, from-the-gut contributions and performances became the soul of this project.

As Iyer said in a 2012 interview for the NEA's blog, "When you're dealing with veterans in a performing arts environment, it's not just a project that's about them, or that's depicting them... it is them. So you have the reality of their presence erupting into the work, intervening in this artistic experience." Decaul says about his participation in the project: "At that time, I was just beginning to come to terms with my memories and dreams related to my deployment. I knew that the best way to move forward with my life was to engage with them directly and to learn to manage and accept them as part of the cost of war. I alsobelieve it is my duty to write about the war so we don't forget about its effect on those who have served."

Today's soldiers of color often enlist out of need or perceived need; are rapidly deployed into an international arena of war and imperialism; and come home to face indifference, bureaucracy, and disproportionately high unemployment. How do soldiers battle with the psychological remnants of war after returning home? How does the new breed of war veterans go about their irreversibly altered lives? How do they move from the unspeakable back to the speakable? What are they able to dream about? How are they able to hold it down? The songs in this project contain some of their very real and complicated answers."-Pi Recordings

Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
NY Downtown & Jazz/Improv
Spoken Word
Pi Records

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