Travel across sonic landscapes with Philly experimental guitarist Tim Motzer’s new project Orion Tango

Orion Tango performing at the NJProghouse Progressive Music Series | Photo by Bill Fox
Orion Tango performing at the NJProghouse Progressive Music Series | Photo by Bill Fox

Experimental guitarist Tim Motzer has proven that there is no genre of music he’s unwilling to explore. The adventurous and innovative Philadelphian has collaborated with a diverse range of figures over the years, ranging from jazz guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel to spoken-word poet Ursula Rucker. The result is a catalog of music under Motzer’s 1K Recordings label that is as unique as it is unpredictable.

HIs newest project is Orion Tango, a three-piece featuring Motzer on guitar, Jeremy Carlstedt on drums, and Barry Meehan on bass. The band just released their self-titled debut album, a deceptively large collection of five tracks that clocks in at nearly fifty minutes long. Continue reading →


Tim Motzer celebrates improvisational Live From Stars End at Johnny Brenda’s

Tim Motzer
Tim Motzer | photo courtesy of the artist

Tim Motzer’s guitar is an infinitely adaptable piece of machinery. He regularly wields the instrument in a staggering variety of contexts, always fitting in with whatever genre he finds himself recruited for, while also warping it just the right amount to spotlight his inventive individuality without muscling his way into the spotlight. Of course, it helps that the artists he chooses to collaborate with are all on the eccentric or at least envelope-pushing end of the spectrum in their own fields, from Ursula Rucker to King Britt to Kurt Rosenwinkel.

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Two Guitarists Exploring Together: Tim Motzer and Kurt Rosenwinkel launch Bandit 65 tonight at Underground Arts

Bandit 65 | courtesy of the artist

Guitarist Tim Motzer was trying to make his way offstage at a club in Zurich, Switzerland, weaving through a crowd of people after a 2008 gig with hip-hop and spoken word artist Ursula Rucker, when a persistent voice kept calling his name. “Finally, somebody grabbed the back of my shirt,” Motzer recalls.

Motzer turned and found an enthusiastic audience member whom he didn’t immediately recognize, still intent on relaxing backstage. As it turned out, the man complimenting his guitar playing was not just any fan, but jazz guitar great Kurt Rosenwinkel. The two axemen quickly formed a friendship and spent the next several years discussing the possibility of a project together.

Those conversations eventually took them into a Brooklyn studio, where they recorded the self-titled debut of Bandit 65, their new trio with drummer Gintas Janusonis (who was also on that gig in Switzerland). The three will reform for their first ever live show on tonight at Underground Arts with visuals by Motzer’s longtime collaborator, multi-media artist Dejha Ti.

Writing via email, Rosenwinkel calls Bandit 65 “a free improvisational experimental soundscape multidimensional textural psychedelic groove monster… with soul!” That about captures the range of mesmerizing sonic territory covered by the album’s half-dozen lengthy excursions, culled from nearly six hours of music recorded in that one day’s session. The music varies from the album’s most jazz-like track, the fusion haze of opener “Ever the Horizon,” to the dub-accented psychedelic haze of “The Cycle,” through the evocative, sinuous 17-minute “Lost Temple” and the wall of sheer noise that envelopes “Racing the Precipice.”

The trio may come as a surprise to fans of Rosenwinkel’s sleeker, tighter jazz playing. (He’ll be in more familiar territory the following night, when he guests with Orrin Evans’ Captain Black Big Band at World Café Live. According to Motzer, “Kurt has a massive jazz audience and we’ll certainly be getting into that kind of thing, but I think we’ll be exploring some other realms as well.”

Exploring multiple realms is familiar territory for Motzer, whose restless imagination and inventive guitar playing takes him from electronic soundscapes to sharp-edged hip-hop and raucous jazz-funk, among various others. He also regularly collaborates with dancers and choreographers at the University of the Arts. Continue reading →


Tonight’s Concert Picks: The Shining Backwards and Forwards w/ live score by Psychic Teens, Tim Motzer and Bart Miltenberger Duo at Boot and Saddle

Photo by John Berry via
Photo by John Berry via

Just when you thought The Shining couldn’t get anymore classically creepy, it does. Tonight at PhilaMOCA as part of the Cinedelphia Film Festival, the 1980 horror classic will be projected forwards and backwards simultaneously on one screen creating an even more chilling experience for the audience. This idea originally comes from John Fell Ryan’s work with Brooklyn’s Spectacle Theater and later from a 2012 documentary Room 237. To top things off, Philly goth punks Psychic Teens will perform a live score to accompany the film. Watch their video for “LESS” below and get tickets here.

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What’s happening at The Living Room at 35 East? We discussed the burgeoning venue with owner Laura Mann

The Living Room | photo courtesy of Laura Mann

In early 2018, The Living Room at 35 East opened on Ardmore’s Lancaster Avenue. Since that time, the intimate forty-seat venue has grown widely popular for its eclectic mix of events: rock shows, acoustic shows, classical and jazz performances, poetry readings, film screenings and more. Earlier this summer, Philadelphia Magazine named The Living Room the area’s Best Small Music Venue in its Best of 2019 issue. The venue has also recently announced a Grand Re-Opening on September 8th, new weekly hours and the opening of a new café.

To hear about the evolution that has been taking place at The Living Room in the past year, we spoke to the venue’s owner Laura Mann — who is also a singer-songwriter with an album release show at World Café Live coming up this October — and publicity director Fern Brodkin. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity. Continue reading →


Philly Jazz Guide: Top picks for live music around town in June

Sun Ra Arkestra | photo by Christopher Andrew McDonald | courtesy of Ars Nova Workshop

The Kimmel Center’s Jazz Residency program is now in its sixth year of presenting new music from local composers. As tends to be the case with commissioned works, the end results have sometimes been overwhelmed by the conceptual frameworks of the pieces. But at their best – the Fresh Cut Orchestra’s multi-media suite, Joanna Pascale’s exploration of Victorian flower codes, Francois Zayas’ melding of Cuban and Balkan traditions – they’ve provided artists with the ability to stretch into new, more ambitious territory. Continue reading →


Lady Alma, Ursula Rucker, Jacqueline Constance and more bring the love to Kimmel Center’s Valentines Day edition of Sittin’ In

Lady Alma at Kindred Presents | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Need last minute Valentines Day plans? The Kimmel Center’s regular Sittin In live session is back with a lineup curated by jazz bassist Anthony Tidd and featuring lots of awesome Philly artists like poet Ursula Rucker, singer Lady Alma, experimental sound-looper Jacquline Constance, guitarist Tim Motzer, plus Range da Messenger, Chartel Findlater, Lee Mo, Luke O’Reilly, and Mario Crew.

It also happens to be the 6th anniversary of the Kimmel’s Sittin In, and they hope to channel some historic Philly party energy. Continue reading →


Tonight’s Concert Picks: Orion Tango at Ortlieb’s, Riverside Rhythm and Rhyme at Roxbury Performing Arts Center

Orion Tango
Orion Tango | Photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN |

Local experimental power trio Orion Tango bring their ambient instrumentals to Ortlieb’s tonight, playing along with Graffiti Wisdom, Taylor Kelly and Progressive Overload. The band features Philly musicians Tim Motzer on guitar, Jeremy Carlstedt on drums, and Barry Meehan on bass; they released their second album The Apple of No this summer. Revisit Orion Tango’s Key Studio Session below and find tickets and more information on tonight’s show on the XPN Concert Calendar.   Continue reading →


Ursula Rucker: tender, torrid, tough

Ursula Rucker
Ursula Rucker | photo by Neal Santos | courtesy of the artist

Philadelphia’s Ursula Rucker is part of America’s continuum of Afro-conscious performance poets such as Gil Scott-Heron, Wanda Robinson, Sonia Sanchez and The Last Poets. Yet, since the early 90s – her work with King Britt, Josh Wink, The Roots, a series of electronically devised solo albums – Rucker has modernized its musical form, while maintaining a uniquely seductive éclat that is hers and hers alone.

In the last several years, she has tucked into her past, and that of her family’s to come up with a lengthy performance piece My Father’s Daughter. Now, after spending the month of October performing its tales of motherhood and survival at NYC’s Club Theatre at La MaMa, the guileless poetess and atmospheric guitarist Tim Motzer have returned home to co-craft a love letter to the City of Brotherly Love’s present day changes in gentrification and beyond at the Kimmel’s SEI Innovation Studio on December 9.

Motivated by percussionist Doug Hirlinger and joined by co-composers John Swana (valve trombone) and M’Balia Singely (lyricist), the currently skeletal “Dear Philadelphia” tone poem is part of the Kimmel’s Jazz Residency program with its final, staged performance occurring next spring. So, at the very least, we know what Rucker has planned for the next six months. Though we conducted this interview via email, Rucker’s rhythms and cadences come roaring through. Continue reading →