Conversation with Koen Schouten (saxophonist, jazz expert) about Vocal Classics of the Black Avant-garde.

De Groene:
Elaine Mitchener

Stephan Sanders


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In the 60s and 70s there was still an undisputed avant-garde, also in the jazz world, where the intuitive and abstract side of jazz music was accentuated. Singer and composer Elaine Mitchener is British-Jamaican, plunged into that black, American avant-garde period, which she did not experience herself. Jazz is not cozy or poppy, Mitchener honors the experiment.

Please note: the conversation is in Dutch


Born in London into a Jamaican family, singer Elaine Mitchener is both a leading performer of contemporary composed music and an acclaimed vocal improvisor.

An alumni of London’s Trinity College of Music, she currently studies with opera singer Jacqueline Bremar. As an improvisor she has performed with many leading European and American instrumentalists including Evan Parker, George Lewis and William Parker. In the realm of composed music, she focuses on the contemporary repertoire – pieces she has performed include Cave by Tansy Davies with the London Sinfonietta, SongBooks by John Cage, Manga Scroll by Christian Marclay, and Infinito Nero by Salvatore Sciarrino. There is a radical political dimension to her chosen repertoire also. As a member of the UK ensemble Apartment House she has made a point of performing works by black composers, including Julius Eastman, Fluxus artist Ben Patterson, and the UK premiere of Charles Mingus’ String Quartet No 1.

Under the banner of ‘Elaine Mitchener Projects’, she has developed a number of projects which further emphasise the historical importance of African-diasporic composers and improvisors. These include Sweet Tooth, Vocal Classics of the Black Avant Garde and the Jeanne Lee Project. Her trio The Rolling Calf combines texts by revolutionary Caribbean writers with collective electroacoustic improvisation to strike a new bridgehead for the black British avant-garde.



Podcast maker Stephan Sanders (Haarlem, 1961) is a Dutch writer, journalist, columnist and presenter. He studied Political Science at the University of Amsterdam, worked for a large period as editor of

de Groene Amsterdammer, and lectured at the UvA, the University of Minnesota (USA), the University of Iowa (USA) and the University of Groningen.

Sanders presented radio and television programmes for various broadcasters (VPRO, KRO, Human, NOS/NTR) including Het Blauwe Licht (with Anil Ramdas) and Met het Oog op Morgen. As a columnist he worked for publications such as Vrij Nederland, de Volkskrant, and Trouw. Some of his book titles are: Ai, Jamaica (stories), Buitenwacht (essays) and Iets meer dan een seizoen (memoires).


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