Thollem McDonas describes himself as “a perpetually traveling pianist, keyboardist, composer, improviser, singer-songwriter, activist, author and teacher.” Undeniably busy and prolific — he has collaborated with more than 100 artists — McDonas has performed more than a dozen times so far this year, mostly on a tour of Italy and Greece. And on Thursday, July 11, he kicks off a six-month U.S. tour, performing solo piano and in various ensembles at Littleglobe, a collaborative art nonprofit.
The concert at Littleglobe (2350 Fox Road, Ste. 200; 505-670-4364) features his ever-changing Everywhere Quintet and his Silver Ochre duo, with video artist ACVilla. This time around, the quintet includes Thollem on the synthesizer, improvising with saxophonists Tiffany DeFoe and Chris Jonas, violinist Rosie Hutchinson, and bassist Carlos Santistevan. Not counting a rehearsal before the concert, this will be the first time the five play together.
“I do have some specific directions that I give to the musicians, ways to avoid certain kinds of pitfalls,” McDonas said. “This is a little bit different than completely free improvisation, and I think a way to explore being even more free in an improvised setting, and of course, with sensitivity to each other, listening and creating something together in the moment.”
The Silver Ochre performance kicks off the duo’s second multimedia experience. In 2016, McDonas and ACVilla toured every state in the continental United States, filming a multidimensional montage of people and landscapes entitled “Who are US.” For the Thursday event, they offer a first take of “The Now of US,” featuring a profile of Nani Chacon, a Navajo (Diné) and Chicana mural artist based in Albuquerque.
“The overall project is going to include profiles like we’re doing with Nani and will include some music, but then also multimedia pieces that will be creative documentations of murals [and] videos of ACVilla’s,” McDonas said. The pieces will be paired “with recordings of improvised music as I travel, which then can be presented in a variety of ways, from installations to viewings,” he added.
“We wanted to facilitate dialogue that perhaps might be different from other types of discourse — political discourse — in our country.”
The Littleglobe event begins at 7 p.m. Admission is $10 at the door.