Venue Details

Alberta Rose Theatre
at the corner of NE Alberta and NE 30th Ave. 3000 NE Alberta Street Portland, OR 97211
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Quotes & Highlights

Check out a "video ": a performance by Polarity Taskmasters.


Minors are welcome at this show, if accompanied by a parent or guardian.

About Polarity Taskmasters

Flutist/vocalist Emily Hay, pianist Motoko Honda, and percussionist Brad Dutz are all major players in the Los Angeles experimental/improvised music scene. As the trio Polarity Taskmasters they create abstract experimental soundscapes through intense improvised ensemble interaction combined with electronic effects, jazz idioms, extended classical techniques, primal vocals, and stories from the id.

Based in Los Angeles, Emily Hay has been a figure on the left coast music scene for years and is known for her work both as an improviser and new music performer in groups such as U Totem, The Motor Totemist Guild, The Vinny Golia Large Ensemble, Rich West Ensemble, Go: Organic Orchestra, The Jeff Kaiser Okodektet and others. She records and tours around the world and is featured on record labels such as Cuneiform, Public Eyesore, Meta, pfMentum, and a host of others.

In addition to his work as a top studio session musician, Brad Dutz has released numerous solo and collaborative CDs and is a featured sideman on releases by top-name experimental, jazz and pop artists. On the faculty at Cal State Long Beach, Brad also teaches and gives workshops on world percussion techniques and has written several books on drumming.   Originally from Sendai, Japan, Motoko Honda studied piano and improvisation at CalArts with Wadada Leo Smith and is a well-known composer, improvisor and sound artist, performing in numerous ensembles in Los Angeles and the Bay Area. She combines virtuoso piano technique with unusual electronic effects both in and outside of the instrument.

From The Wire, April 2011

Emily Hay’s music always makes me laugh – in pure pleasure, but also because it avoids the agonised Schrei of so much vocal improvisation in favour of light, witty syllabizing that flirts with meaning even as it celebrates delightful nonsense. It wouldn’t surprise me to find her one day voicing a range of characters for Pixar or, like Polarity Taskmasters’s producer/guest organist Wayne Peet, turning out sardonic soundtracks for mainstream movies. She’s well placed for Hollywood, having co-presented the admired Trilogy strand for LA station KXLU-FM.    Previous CDs for pfMENTUM and Public Eyesore saw Hay strike a nice balance between her personalised form of post-Joan La Barbara vocal acrobatics and a highly vocalised approach to flute playing that often flirts with impressionist and high modernist classical models. There’s a virtual quote from Prelude a L’Apres-Midi D’Un Faune near the start of Polarity Taskmasters. The new disc is pretty much a follow-up to 2007’s trio recording with Peet and percussionist Brad Dutz, whose small-scale struck objects always sound like part of a consistent instrumental voice, a kind of mini-Californian gamelan. Complementing that impression here is pianist/FX collaborator Motoko Honda, whose duo work with Hay is always particularly close and empathetic.

Though there’s nothing here that quite matches the heights of “Hot Japanese Water”, “A Lotta T’s” and “Possum” on the trio date, or the sheer bravura of 2005’s “We Are” with Marcos Fernandes, but it’s a more consistently satisfying record than either, perhaps because Honda stitches together the sound in a new way. Peet’s organ and theremin parts tend to prettify. Honda keeps things edgy and uncertain. Hay’s gift is that she can use the well-established cliches of ‘extended’ vocal performance – Queen of the Night top notes, dressing room warm-up routines, ‘mad scenes’ and invented languages – and not just turn them to generously satiric purpose but also reinvest them with both technical authority and considerable warmth. More than ever, there is an easy continuity between her singing and her flute playing. Elisions and transitions are blurred. And as the record progresses, the group functions ever more confidently as a single voice, enforcing a common idiom for its East/West, classical/free polarities. The Southern Californian avant garde has never sounded quite so communicative. 

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