Two Hearts, One Soul

Ken and Iraida

By Tim Hazell

Iraida Noriega and Ken Bichel will launch their new musical partnership, “Heart to Heart,” in concert on Thursday, August 27, at 7pm at Bellas Artes. I asked Ken about the alchemy that can exist between two artists who happen to be able to think as one.

Concert
Iraida Noriega and Ken Bichel
Thu, Aug 27, 7pm
Bellas Artes
Hernández Macias 75
250 pesos

Tim Hazell: Describe how you evaluate a great collaborative partnership and why you feel that Iraida’s creative energies are so in sync with your own.

Ken Bichel: One is lucky to find one collaboration in a career where two people breathe as one, phrase as one, intuit each other’s next move, and soar above the usual duet performance energy. I have had four such relationships, and now an unexpected fifth has presented itself! I consider Iraida Noriega to be the finest female jazz singer alive today. Her expressive range is broad and deep beyond imagining, and her improvisational abilities border on staggering.

TH: Tell me a bit about your upcoming “Heart to Heart” concert.

KB: I’ve never attempted pure, free, unbridled improvisation with a vocalist. Enter Iraida Noriega, the unexpected ángel, bruja, goddess, and soul creature. It works, seamlessly, and we’re going to do it live, along with a selection of extant songs in Spanish and English, with arrangements specially crafted for this maiden voyage. It’s a high-voltage, high wire experience and we invite you to come along for the ride!

The skills of improvisation can apply to many different faculties, crossing artistic, scientific, physical, cognitive, academic, and non-academic disciplines. The art of music improvisation can be understood as composing music “on the fly.” Improvisation may take place as a solo performance or interdependently with other players. When done well, it engages audiences to the point where disbelief is suspended and we are all brought to the very edge of a precipice. Following a daring high-wire display of virtuosity, aficionados of impromptu express their feelings of relief when being transported safely back to tierra firme by jumping to their feet in spontaneous applause!

Iraida Noriega began singing with her dad when she was 14 years old. She attended music school at City College in New York City and discovered a genuine fascination there for improvisation. It felt very much like life processes. As she puts it, “We don’t really know exactly where we are going. We follow a path, discovering each step. Basically, we are guided by our intuition and heart. In making the leap with musical improv, I’ve discovered sounds and possibilities I didn’t know existed within me. I’m usually exhilarated and surprised during the process.”

 

 

The acclaimed vocalist and composer has an extensive discography to her credit, including various solo projects and collaborations. Albums include vocal ensembles, jazz trios, big band, and other formats such as music for children. Her versatility has garnered her opportunities in theater and television. Collaborations with other artists of note include Magos Herrera, a long- time favorite of San Miguel audiences at the International Jazz Festival. Iraida has performed internationally at music festivals in Los Angeles, Boston, New York, Colombia, Spain, and Mexico.

Recently, in a casual get-together at Ken’s home, Iraida and Ken attempted some informal improvisations and realized before long that they were on a magic carpet journey. Encouraged by the results, they agreed to try to duplicate the roller coaster ride in public, with the same thrilling outcome.

Audiences have a long history of appreciation for Ken Bichel’s uncanny sensibility, deep understanding and appreciation of musical culture, together with an inner “stillness” that comes from years of paring down to essentials. Ken’s background is eclectic, with roots in classical music, yet he lives for artistic challenges where anything is possible. He has performed at the La Scala opera house in Milan, the American Music Festival in Geneva, with the Bavarian Radio Orchestra in Munich, and repeatedly at Carnegie Hall and the Lincoln Center in New York City.

A pioneer in the field of electronic music and an Emmy award-winning composer, Bichel’s performance and recording credits include the likes of Aretha Franklin, Placido Domingo, Stevie Wonder, Judy Collins, the American Symphony Orchestra, and numerous Hollywood feature films.

When Ken and Iraida improvise together, it’s as if one soul is expressing itself. Both artists reveal a trove of shared styles and influences with surprising coherence and unified intent; always fresh, sometimes startling, charged with passion and imagination.

The “Heart to Heart” concert will also feature unusual treatments of traditional songs, including a starship rendering of “Bésame Mucho,” Chopin’s version of  “Insensatez,” the traditional Bolero “Quizás, Quizás, Quizás” (in anything but a traditional Bolero style), and a journey through the startling range of grief, obsession, and insanity that can accompany losing a lover, presented in a medley of “Losing My Mind” and “Black Coffee.”

Both artists feel blessed to be able to share this experience with anyone who wishes to be a part of the “Heart to Heart” creative exodus on Thursday, August 27, at 7pm. All seats are 250 pesos. A percentage of the proceeds will help fund Apoyo a Gente Emprendedora A.C. Tickets are on sale at Solutions (Recreo 11), La Conexion (Aldama 3), and Los Milagros (Reloj 17).

 

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