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This year, the Alt Guitar Summit launches a new annual series entitled "While We're Still Here," celebrating living composers. For this inaugural, the honorees will be none other than jazz big-band leader Carla Bley and the widely influential Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell.
Bley, a 2015 NEA Jazz Masters recipient as well as the composer of “Ida Lupino” and “The Girl Who Cried Champagne,” plays piano, but like Duke Ellington, she makes an entire orchestra her instrument, expressing her trademark wit in large-scale structures of piquant harmonic density. She has also written for guitar, as heard on her 1977 Dinner Music and Gary Burton’s all-Bley album Dreams So Real. Mitchell, whose long career has traversed folk, pop, rock, and jazz, needs no introduction: her era-defining anthems like “Big Yellow Taxi,” “River,” and “Both Sides Now,” continue to resonate across the generations, as do her collaborations with the celebrated bassists Charles Mingus and Jaco Pastorius.

Founded in 2010, The Alternative Guitar Summit convenes daring, inventive composers and improvisers who emphasize new, unusual approaches to the guitar, beyond genre. “We're happily partnering again this year with the New York Guitar Festival,” states Summit curator Joel Harrison. “As in previous years,” Harrison continues, “the shows will be full of the joy of spontaneity. On any given night, you'll find gorgeous melody, shockingly surreal skronks, blaps, beeps, and howls, as well as soul, engrossing harmony, and dreamy clouds of sound.”

While We're Still Here performers:

Nels Cline and Julian Lage: Two guitar masters spanning generations.

Dave Douglas w/ Camila Meza: One of the most influential composers and jazz musicians of the past 20 years, Dave released a CD of Joni Mitchell songs in 1997 entitled Moving Portraits. He will be joined by singer Heather Masse of the Wailin' Jennys, and bright, new talent Camila Meza on voice and guitar. Meza was described by the NY Times as "a multi-dimensional talent....who plays hyper-literate guitar solos while combing modern jazz with the folk music of her native Chile."

Wolfgang Muthspiel: Noted for the lyricism of his approach to jazz guitar, Vienna native Muthspiel is one of the most celebrated European improvisers. He has recorded with Ralph Towner and Brian Blade, and he began his career in Gary Burton’s band, where he replaced Pat Metheny.

Sheryl Bailey: Called a "sizzling guitar goddess" by All About Jazz, and "one of the new greats" by Downbeat, Bailey is one of the most compelling bebop players of her generation. She'll perform with bassist Harvie S.

Leni Stern: Stern was awarded best female jazz guitarist five years in a row by Gibson guitars. Over the years she has integrated the traditions of Mali and Senegal into her sound. She will perform with her African trio.

Joel Harrison: The AGS founder will front a quartet that features drummer Allison Miller and bassist Jerome Harris. Harrison has released 17 cds over the past twenty years with ensembles that range from 19 piece big band to jazz/rock trio, to string quartet and two guitars.

Ben Monder: An ECM artist equally at home in ethereal sonic structures, solo guitar viruosity, and jazz standards, Ben Monder has performed with iconic drummer Paul Motian, the singer Theo Bleckmann, and on the late David Bowie’s final album Blackstar He'll perform with drummer Nasheet Waits. He'll be joined by vocalist Becca Stevens

Mike Baggetta: with drummer Billy Mintz and bassist Jerome Harris. Baggetta is known for seamlessly and organically incorporating live sampling in his music. Ben Ratliff of the New York Times says “…that he’s trying to do something personal with collective improvisation without ever getting in the way of beauty.”