Young jazz composer unveils adventurous project at museum concert


BG Independent News

Jazz from a new generation will be featured at the Toledo Museum of Art Friday when Bowling Green State University grad Galen Bundy presents his Project 206 in concert.

The concert will mark the release of composer and keyboardist Bundy’s first recording “Struggle is Joy.” The show is Friday from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in the museum’s Glass Pavilion. Bundy, 24, will be joined on stage by some of his peers from the area Ben Wolkins, trumpet,  David Mirarchi, alto and baritone saxophones, Johannes Ronquillo, bass, and Travis Aukerman, drums.

Together they explore free jazz within an electronic soundscape. Some of the music, Bundy said, is highly structured, and through composed. Other pieces adhere to the traditional heads-solo format typical of mainstream jazz. He was influenced by the use of electronics by jazz artists Donny McCaslin and David Binney.

The sound of Project 206 has echoes of Miles Davis’ early electronic experiments, the free jazz of Ornette Coleman, and the genre-defying work of Flying Lotus.

They grow out of Bundy’s experience at BGSU where some of these pieces were conceived. A jazz piano major he did collaborate with musicians in the university’s fertile new music scene.

The Project 206 also reflects his love of film music, particularly that of Hans Zimmer that “mirrors live action with a lot of fast changes.”

Bundy selected his fellow musicians for this project who could handle the musical and technical challenges. That includes Mirarchi, currently a student at BGSU. He and Bundy played in the university’s top big band and in small ensembles.

Aukerman and Ronquillo are products of the University of Toledo’s jazz program where they studied with pianist Tad Weed, who was also Bundy’s teacher at BGSU. Wolkins is a second-generation trumpet virtuoso on the Toledo scene.

Project 206 is just one of the groups Bundy, who lives in southeast Michigan, performs with or leads. As with any young musician trying to make a living, he takes on a wide range of jobs.

On Sunday morning, he plays at Hope United Methodist in Toledo, later in the evening he can regularly be heard playing jazz standards with the Bob Rex Quartet joining three veterans of the local scene at the Village Idiot in Maumee. He also accompanies several singers.

In addition to Project 206, he leads other ensembles including a piano trio, an organ trio, and the duo Groove Plexus.  They all represent aspects of his musical aspirations, and “they’re all very different,” he said.

The range from groove oriented organ trio to electronic soundscapes seems musically schizophrenic. “That’s exactly how Bixler described my playing,” Bundy said, referring to David Bixler, who directs the jazz studies program at BGSU.

Bundy started listening to the jazz masters while growing up in Georgia. He tapped into the record collection of his parents, who came from Massachusetts, and listened to a local radio show. What captured his attention was “the spirit of improvisation.” He started taking lessons on keyboard at 13. He was able to pick up enough from his listening to get a start on learning to improvise. What followed were many learning moments “each one continued to supersede the last and continue the learning process.”

Within a few years he was playing publicly. Despite reservations about music being an unreliable career, he decide to pursue it as a major. He auditioned at a number of schools.

The willingness of the faculty at BGSU to let him explore those various aspects, he said, is what led him to enroll there. Weed was the piano instructor at the time. “I could tell he was open minded.”

During his time at BGSU, the 2015 graduate was able to work with a string of visiting artists, including drummer Brian Blade and guitarist Mike Stern among others. “Just getting to talk with them and play with them” was important, Bundy said.