1. Fluxus V5T 1S1
4. Damon and Pythias
A radiant manifesto of artistic freedom, fLuXkit Vancouver (i̶t̶s suite but sacred) brings together a composition in four movements written and performed by Darius Jones on alto saxophone, long-time collaborator Gerald Cleaver on drums, and four Vancouver-based string musicians: violinists Jesse Zubot and Josh Zubot, cellist Peggy Lee and bassist James Meger; with original artwork by Stan Douglas and liner notes by poet Harmony Holiday.
Commissioned by Western Front, an artist-run center for multidisciplinary experimentation and the historic home of the avant-garde in Vancouver, Jones drew inspiration from Western Front’s art is life ethos and its legacy of exchange with creative musicians such as George Lewis and Ornette Coleman. Composed across a series of residencies beginning in 2019 and recorded in June 2022 at Western Front’s iconic Grand Luxe Hall, fLuXkit Vancouver (i̶t̶s suite but sacred) is the first collaborative release with Brooklyn-based Northern Spy and Helsinki-based We Jazz Records.
The album’s spirited first movement, Fluxus V5T 1S1, reveals a compositional universe as penetrating as it is expansive. For Fluxus artists, art can exist anywhere. This can take the physical form of a fluxkit, a collection of artworks and everyday objects placed in a small container or box. By challenging definitions and pushing artistic boundaries, anyone who opens a fluxkit can experience an art event. Jones presents us with a fluxkit that we want to reopen again and again.
The cover art for fLuXkit Vancouver was contributed by internationally acclaimed Vancouver-based artist Stan Douglas. Part of Douglas’ DCT series (2016 - ongoing), Occ6 is a brightly colored abstraction created through manipulating frequencies, amplitudes, and color values at the point in the digitization process where a photographic image is only represented by code. Occ6 mesmerizes and in turn offers a visual language that is untethered from conventional notions of the art form. “Stan found this world inside of a machine. Is this a photo?” Jones asks. “Is it a painting? What am I looking at? Maybe something that doesn’t exist anywhere else.”
The music of fLuXkit Vancouver also exists in between worlds: Is this a compositional suite? Is it sacred music? Or is it simply art? Jones’ score includes visual components — a 25 unique graphics key for extended technique on strings — alongside standard musical notation. “I wanted the musicians to respond in a way that was unique to them, to explore the relationship between what we hear and how we see, where sound becomes visual, emotional, and visceral.” That relationship is seen in the second movement Zubot, a bopping earthy elixir, and in the third movement Rainbow, an alluring and sultry ballad. “The music has a cinematic quality. Like Duke Ellington’s Far East Suite, I wanted to tell a story about a place,” Jones says.
The album’s fourth and final movement, Damon & Pythias, marks Jones’ chrysalis as a sonic painter. The 100-year-old building that houses Western Front was originally a fraternal lodge of the Knights of Pythias. When Jones arrived in 2019, he encountered a multidisciplinary space that had fully integrated art practice into daily life. Between composing, Jones spent time with Fluxus artist and Western Front founder Eric Metcalfe and explored their historical archive. “I was able to sit and converse frequently with Metcalfe about why he and other artists created Western Front and how they were influenced by a movement called Fluxus. Being there helped me remember the importance of art existing together, music alongside visual art, writing, and dance, as a way to influence one’s process and perspective.”