Ken Field

Our third entry for the Living on the Earth Award, Ken Field, raises the spirits of the dead and the living through the magic of his saxophone and flute.

I first met Ken in January 1994 when I was visiting Kalani Honua Oceanside Retreat as they were hosting avant garde ensemble Birdsongs of the Mesozoic as artists in residence. Ken brings a jazz sensibility to the group, which includes rock guitarist Michael Bierylo, classical pianist Erik Lindgren, and pop keyboardist Rick Scott. The four composers divided a trap drum set amonst them, and all four played percussion in addition to their melodic instruments. I worked as ticket taker for the standing ovation/standing room only performance, and, mind you, Kalani Honua is fifteen miles from the nearest small town.

I stayed in touch with Ken and his animation artist wife and sometime collaborator Karen Aqua (to be the subject of an upcoming blog!) from then on, and, in August 2000, visited them while I was in Boston to do a show and sign books at the local Barnes and Noble. On that trip, I got to experience Ken’s improvisational funk band Board of Education at the Middle East Cafe in Cambridge. The rhythm section would start a groove, the melodic instrumentalists would take turns soloing over it, and everyone else would dance. Everyone! No actual songs, and no two shows alike, ever. Fresh!

When I visited them next, in September 2005, Ken had just returned from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where he had been playing an original composition, "Under the Skin," for Bridgman/Packer Dance, a dance ensemble from New York.  Last night, April 22, 2006, Ken and the dance group repeated the performance in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  "Under the Skin" will be released on Innova Recordings later this year.

Ken hosts The New Edge, a two-hour weekly radio program broadcasting and webcasting Tuesday afternoons from 2-4pm Boston time on WMBR, 88.1FM in Cambridge. The show features innovative and creative mostly instrumental music at the boundaries of classical, jazz, and world styles.

Ken’s latest project, a 21st century New Orleans style brass band, The Revolutionary Snake Ensemble, has marched and played in the New Orleans Mardi Gras, and made a fantastic CD, Year of the Snake, guaranteed to get your party off the couch. They will have a new CD out by the end of 2006.