Ian Dogole has spent more than 30 years creating music that defies category and knows no boundaries. While in high school outside of Philadelphia, PA, Ian studied Jazz guitar with highly acclaimed guitarist/educator Chuck Anderson. It was during this time that Ian was captivated by an album cover that called to him to explore the music inside – Bitches Brew by Miles Davis. While he couldn’t quite grasp the epic impact of what he was hearing, Ian found the music seductive, compelling and so “mysterioso.” Soon, Ian had acquired nearly every Miles and Coltrane recording, and then leapt headlong into the avant-garde, embracing his local Philadelphia favorite Sun Ra, along with Pharoah Sanders, Cecil Taylor, Archie Shepp and other luminaries frolicking in the outer spaceways.
Another portal opened unexpectedly in a high school music class – Ian’s first exposure to the classical music of India and China. The sheer exoticism of ragas and Peking Opera and a new universe of ancient instruments unveiled thrilling cross-cultural and cross-genre imaginings that served to fuel Ian’s lifelong study of adventurous music that expands horizons and is not constrained by the “slagheap of gutless conformity.”
After pursuing a concentration in Music with a focus on Ethnomusicology at Brown University (along with an A.B. in Classics – Latin and ancient Greek archaeology) and completion of an M.A. in Classics at Villanova University, Ian eventually relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1978. During this transition period, Ian shifted his instrumental focus away from Jazz guitar to global percussion and he commenced his new journey as a bandleader and musical pioneer.
During the early 1980s, Ian’s first ensemble, the Ian Dogole Unit, performed an eclectic mix of musical styles that ranged from the “Jazz Fusion” of the day to music infused with elements of Indian raga, Indonesian gamelan and Brazilian samba. Ian’s debut LP, Along The Route (Dr. Unit Records), reflects this ever-changing, cross-genre approach.
In the mid 1980s, Ian started to perform in smaller acoustic ensembles, drawing extensively upon indigenous music from the non-Western world, namely, Indonesia, the Far East, the Middle East and Africa. His next release, Dangerous Ground (MFSL/Café Records), incorporated much of this smaller-ensemble world music focus, along with a few larger ensemble pieces inspired by Miles Davis’ post-“Bitches Brew” period.
In 1986, Ian joined the pioneering world fusion ensemble, Ancient Future, with whom he collaborated on four recordings and performed at venues throughout California and the Northwest. In 1990, Ian formed a new quintet under the name Ian Dogole & Global Fusion, focusing on a more acoustic “Jazz/World” approach. This ensemble included many Bay Area Jazz stalwarts such as Sheldon Brown on reeds, Bill Douglass on bass and bamboo flutes and a rotating cast of set drummers and pianists.
In the mid-‘90s, Ian, Bill Douglass and string wizard Eric Golub formed the Sultans of Swatch, dedicated to the performance of highly improvisational music that merged Jazz and multi-ethnic music from around the world. This ensemble recorded a number of improvisational pieces, two of which can be heard on Ian’s latest release, Outside the Box – Jazz Journeys & Worlds Beyond.
In 1996, Ian released Ionospheres (Cei), which featured original tribute pieces to Miles Davis and Sun Ra, fresh reinterpretations of compositions by Ornette Coleman and Mongo Santamaria and a host of original pieces, ranging from multi-tracked solo percussion to pianoless quartets to sextets with piano and strings.
Around 2000, Ian began to incorporate a dual woodwind sound with no set drummer in the band, enabling Ian’s array of African, Middle Eastern and South American percussion to move to the front of the ensemble. Ian’s main instruments were udu (Nigerian clay pot), doumbek (pan-Arabic goblet drum), cajon (Afro-Peruvian box drum), African talking drum, kalimba (East African thumb piano) and cymbals. The ensemble now included both Sheldon Brown and Paul McCandless on woodwinds, Bill Douglass on double bass and bamboo flutes and a rotating cast of guest musicians.
In 2002, Ian’s fourth recording, Night Harvest (Global Fusion Music), featured this latest configuration, along with numerous guest musicians, including the late Nubian maestro of the oud, tar (frame drum) and voice, Hamza el Din and Hafez Modirzadeh on tenor saxophone, ney (Middle-Eastern flute) and karna (Persian reed instrument). In addition to a number of original compositions that defy category, the CD also includes new arrangements of pieces by McCoy Tyner and Thelonious Monk.
Quite often during this period, Ian’s groups would perform as a pianoless quartet, featuring Ian Dogole, Sheldon Brown, Bill Douglass and Paul McCandless. This configuration was captured in a 2003 DVD entitled Ian Dogole & Hemispheres in Concert. The material performed in this concert serves as a preview of the ensuing 2006 CD by Ian Dogole & Hemispheres entitled Convergence (Jazzheads). Of the original compositions, one by Ian is a tribute to legendary drummer Billy Higgins, featuring the hang (Swiss steel pan-derived, melodic percussion instrument). New arrangements of pieces by Herbie Nichols, William E. Lee, Benedito Lacerda and a fresh take on a traditional Turkish piece fill out the CD.
Pianist Frank Martin joined the band in 2006 and made a significant contribution to the 2009 recording by Hemispheres entitled Crossroads (Sunnyside). This recording features originals by Ian, Sheldon Brown and Paul McCandless, as well as reinterpretations of pieces by Woody Shaw, Ralph Towner and a traditional song from Iran.
In 2012, Ian decided to undertake an epic two-CD project that encapsulates his musical journey of the past 30 years. Released in early 2013, Outside the Box – Jazz Journeys & Worlds Beyond (Global Fusion Music) takes listeners on a musical odyssey that traverses a truly diverse landscape – from original compositions inspired by the ancient Silk Road, the trance-inducing rhythms of the Sahara Desert and the passionate flamenco music of Andalusia … to new visions of familiar compositions by Jazz legends Ornette Coleman, Wayne Shorter, Thelonious Monk, Alice Coltrane and Milton Nascimento … to improvisational treks into the shamanic realms of the Peruvian high Andes and beyond. PLUS … the recording presents the unveiling of a few intrepid free improvisations recorded back in the’90s by the Sultans of Swatch and the group Streams, featuring Ian with Paul McCandless and Ian’s long-time engineer and co-producer Warren Kahn on keyboards. Guest musicians also include Peruvian shaman and multi-instrumentalist Tito La Rosa, Gnawa master multi-instrumentalist Yassir Chadly, bassist/composer Fred Randolph, woodwind player/composer Dave Tidball and vocalist Deborah Winters.
Ian has been very active on the grant-writing front over the years, receiving the following grants from esteemed national and local organizations:
· 1992 – National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Jazz Performance Fellowship
· 1994, 1995 & 1998 – Community Partnership grants from the Marin Arts Council
· 2008 – Career Development Grant from the Marin Arts Council
· 2009 – San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music grant to present the music of jazz trumpeter/composer Woody Shaw
· 2011 – San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music grant to present the music of legendary jazz saxophonist/composer Wayne Shorter
· 2015 – San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music grant to present the Afro-centric music of pianist/composer Randy Weston.
On the educational front, over the last 25 years Ian has presented a wide array of educational programs to more than 60,000 students in the San Francisco Bay Area through organizations such as the San Francisco Symphony (Adventures in Music Program), the Marin Arts Council, Youth in Arts, Young Imaginations, Young Audiences of the Bay Area and Bread & Roses. Whether presenting educational assemblies on world percussion, master classes to smaller groups or customized Jazz and world music appreciation curricula in schools, Ian is always eager to share his wisdom, passion, enthusiasm and knowledge in any educational environment.
In recent years, Ian has offered Adventures in Global Fusion Music, an educational program designed to open up the minds and hearts of students to the diverse music cultures from around the globe. Utilizing a custom-tailored approach to every unique environment, Ian incorporates a variety of teaching formats, including school assemblies, lecture/demonstrations, workshops and residencies (for performing ensembles and music appreciation classes), so that students can gain valuable insights into the instruments, traditions and cultural contexts that form the backbone of world music and Jazz.
In all of his presentations, Ian demonstrates his vast array of indigenous percussion instruments from Africa, South America, the Middle East, Central Asia, South Asia and China. In the classroom and workshop formats, Ian invites students to try out the instruments so they can have a more tactile experience, touching the materials, hearing the sounds and feeling the vibrations up close.
In music appreciation classes, Ian surveys indigenous music cultures from around the globe, from China to Afghanistan to Senegal to Uruguay and everywhere in between. Ian also traverses the history of Jazz from its inception through current trends. Jazz pioneers such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk and others are examined in depth with the goal of demystifying the evolution of this truly American musical form. Underlying all presentations is a message of respect for all cultures and tolerance for different belief systems.