“Madison-based saxophonist Tony Barba blends classic jazz improvisational stylings with ambient electronic effects to create rich, meditative soundscapes.”
– The Isthmus
After residing in New York City and Chicago for the past fifteen years, saxophonist/composer Tony Barba relocated to Madison, WI in the summer of 2013 where he has quickly been making a significant impact on the local music scene. Tony’s career has spanned many genres and bands, wether it be leading his own groups or freelancing as a much in demand sideman. Tony is also a current member of the Youngblood Brass Band, which has released six studio albums and has performed all over the world.
Originally hailing from Acton, Massachusetts, Tony started playing clarinet in elementary school until his middle school band director needed a tenor saxophonist for the jazz band. After becoming a member of the Massachusetts All State jazz big band, Tony decided to pursue a degree in Music Performance from NYU, where he the privilege to study with tenor greats Ralph Lalama and George Garzone and other NYC jazz musicians such as Frank Kimbrough and Ron McClure. Tony attended the Banff International summer Jazz Workshop in 2000, getting to study and share the stage with Tony Malaby, Dave Ballou, Kenny Werner, Joe Lovano, Ben Monder, Joey Baron and others. Immediately following this experience, Tony joined the Glenn Miller Orchestra for six months before completing his degree at NYU.
From 2001 until 2009, Tony was a much in demand freelance woodwind specialist, performing on saxophone, clarinet, and flute with many diverse artists such as Andrew Hill, Josh Ritter, Pete Yorn, Antibalis, the Violent Femmes, Ellery Eskelin, Shane Endsley, the Brooklyn Qawwali Party, David Murray, Kirk Knuffke, Escort, and Peter Bernstein. Tony also led, recorded two albums (The Barbarians, 2003 and Your Pleasure is Our Business, 2007) and toured with his own funk/jazz band, the Barbarian Horde.
In the fall of 2004, Tony again spent three months at the Banff Centre taking part in an individual music residency where he focused on solo performance and where he started initially planning the concept for his 2012 release, Facetime. In 2005, Tony joined the Youngblood Brass Band. With YBBB, Tony completed many tours and played numerous festivals in Europe, the United States, Canada and Africa.
After moving to Chicago in 2009, Tony performed with such bands/artists as Dave Herrero, Makaya McCraven, the Big Shoulders Brass Band(New Orleans style brass), W.W. Lowman (post-rock), Kurt Schweitz’s Drexel Project (fusion), the Quin Kirchner group (modern jazz), and Donovan Mixon’s Hybrid Project (world-jazz). Tony performed in venues such as the Green Mill, the Whistler, Andy’s Jazz Club, Evanston’s Space, Martyrs, the Metro, the Double Door and many more. While living in Chicago, Tony also released his first album with his jazz/rock trio, Facetime on Layered Records in June, 2012.
In June 2013, Tony relocated to Madison, WI. He quickly became entrenched in the local music scene playing as a sideman with many different groups including Immigre (afro-pop), Golpe Tierra (afro-peruvian jazz), the Big Payback (funk), the Darren Sterrud Orchestra (big band), Mama Digdown’s Brass Band (New Orleans Brass Band), and the Johannes Wallman Quartet (jazz). 2015 led to an opportunity to record with Bon Iver on their upcoming fall 2016 release, 22, A Million. In addition to co-leading a new organ quartet called Barbacoa, Tony is also performing as a solo artist and recently released his first solo album, Winter’s Arms. Tony continues to perform with the globetrotting Youngblood Brass Band, which recently concluded a five week/ten country tour in the fall of 2016. Besides performing, Tony also is an active educator at local schools and at his own private studio, focusing on saxophone, clarinet and flute instruction.
BY ALLISON GEYER ON AUGUST 10, 2016
“For the most part, whenever I’m playing, I’m in complete control,” says Barba, 36, who moved to Madison from Chicago in 2013 and plays in a number of jazz outfits around town. “But when I use this sound-processing equipment, it’s almost like I’m interacting with something else entirely.”
Is it like playing a duet with a robot? Not quite, Barba says with a laugh. But sometimes, when he presses a button or turns a knob, the resulting musical effect is a total surprise. Then, in the moment, the unexpected sounds can lead Barba to new ideas.
“They’re like happy accidents,” Barba says. “It’s inspiring for me.”
Barba debuts his new music Thursday, Aug. 11, night at Gates of Heaven, where he’s splitting the bill with New York-based contemporary folk musician Sam Amidon, who’s stopping by on his way to Eaux Claires festival. The concert is part of the GateSound series put on by Tone Madison.
Barba is also working on an album showcasing his new solo work, titled Winter’s Arms, which he recorded over a period of several months earlier this year at Williamson Magnetic Recording Company. He began work on the project last winter after a bout of “seasonal depression” inspired him to translate the feeling into a series of dark, calming, meditative soundscapes. It’s experimental and perhaps a little avant garde, but Barba says the music is accessible to general audiences.
“There’s definitely an introspective quality to it,” he says. “It’s emotional music.”
Barba is also a member of the Youngblood Brass Band, fronts a jazz trio called Big Pinky and recently formed a new group called Barbacoa, which he describes as a “funky organ quartet.” But he’s looking forward to slowly releasing his solo recordings as he works on them, and he hopes to do some touring as a solo artist.
“My goal is to just try to grow [this project] and make more music,” Barba says. “Now that I’m a little older, I just want to keep playing.”
BY SCOTT GORDON ON AUGUST 08, 2016
What stikes me when Barba plays with this setup is that he’s always sensitive to blending the looped, effected layers with the continuing presence and warmth of the live, non-effected sax in the room. No matter how it’s manipulated by electronics, the varied textures of the sax itself—from rich, mid-range drones to abrasive squawks—are what really drive Barba’s improvised solo explorations.
AUGUST 02, 2016
Madison-based saxophonist Tony Barba blends classic jazz improvisational stylings with ambient electronic effects to create rich, meditative soundscapes.
JULY 01, 2012
Saxist Tony Barba heads up a butt-kicking trio with bassist Patrick Mulcahy and drummer Conor Elmes. As heard on the new Facetime full-length, the band welds free-jazzy abandon to a massive (and massively funky) rock-inspired low end. Three sophisticated local groove purveyors set the stage.
BY NATE CHINEN ON JANUARY 29, 2009
The tenor saxophonist Tony Barba emanates an amiable extroversion in his music, drawing on a world of sources.