Kaiser’s solo performance was “a manic, hallucinogenic joyride through time, space and tonal distortions. He took some of the extended techniques of Lester Bowie and Bill Dixon, and stretched them past the breaking point. He would bend a note, transpose it to an impossible octave, and then send it spinning around the room like a remote-control airplane…He’d sample a phrase and distort it beyond recognition, causing it to ricochet around the space in pink and white noise reiterations. Kaiser’s set was unbelievably creative…” —AllAboutJazz.com
Jeff Kaiser is a trumpet player, composer, conductor, music technologist and scholar currently living in San Diego, California. Classically trained as a trumpet player, Kaiser now views his traditional instrument as hybrid with new technology (in the form of software and hardware interfaces) that he creates for his dynamic and adventurous performances and recordings. He gains inspiration and ideas from the intersections of experimental composition and improvisation and the timbral and formal affordances provided by combining traditional instruments with emerging technologies. The roots of his music are firmly in the experimental traditions within jazz, improvised and Western art music practices. Kaiser considers his art audio-centric, but he also works with live video, tracking and interactive technologies. He is currently teaching at the University of San Diego and is the Director of Development for the Center for World Music.
Embracing the idea of being an artist/scholar, Kaiser completed a Ph.D. in Integrative Studies (music), at the University of California San Diego. His dissertation, “Improvising Technology: Configuring Identities and Interfaces in Contemporary Electro-Acoustic Music,” is an ethnographic examination of contemporary musicians who improvise with new, repurposed and reinvented electronic technologies, along with a critical examination of how these musicians conceptualize their practice and relationship with music technology. This work is based on approximately thirty interviews with notable improvising artists and technologists, including guitarist Nels Cline, turntable performer Maria Chavez, trumpeter and composer Wadada Leo Smith and Robert Henke, one of the original authors of the immensely popular software package Ableton Live, among others. In the work, Kaiser examines changing notions of agency, instruments and virtuosity in electro-acoustic improvised music, and how the interviewees construct what is valuable and desirable in this emergent practice. In addition to documenting how these creative individuals configure newer technologies for their own purposes, the dissertation highlights how technologies can also configure musicians and musical communities by affording specific ways of creating aesthetic and social value.
Kaiser lectures and leads classes that range from 250 students to small seminars, including “Blues: An Oral Tradition,” “Music of Africa and the Diaspora,” “Interactive Arts Programming,” “Interactive Digital Music and Art,” “Digital Audio Composition,” “American Music” and “Fundamentals of Music Theory.” He was also the instructor for a graduate seminar on music technology at UC Irvine for the Integrated Composition, Improvisation and Technology program. Kaiser has taught master classes, led seminars, and been an invited guest lecturer at numerous universities and colleges, including visiting artist/lecturer positions at Roosevelt University (Chicago, Illinois), California Institute of the Arts (Valencia, CA), the University of Gothenburg (Gothenburg, Sweden), University of Wisconsin-Madison and California Lutheran University (Thousand Oaks, CA). He has taught workshops at various other locations including the Museum of Contemporary Art (San Diego, CA).
In addition to his Ph.D., Kaiser holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Composition from Westmont College and a Master of Music in Choral and Orchestral Conducting from Azusa Pacific University.
Creative Music Promotion:
Kaiser is the founder and director of the critically acclaimed pfMENTUM music label. pfMENTUM has released over eighty-five full-length recordings, focusing on music that falls between-the-cracks of genres, from the avant-blues of The Mentones, free-jazz/rock of pianist/organist Wayne Peet (with Nels Cline and G.E. Stinson), experimental vocalist Bonnie Barnett, and Kaiser’s own projects from his large ensemble (with and without choir), electro-acoustic duos, trios and more. He has also started a second label to focus on experimental popular music: Angry Vegan Records.
A tireless promoter of creative and experimental music, Kaiser was the founder and director of the internationally acclaimed Ventura New Music Concert Series (1990-2007) featuring regional, national and international creative artists. Kaiser has also been involved as a consultant, administrator and director with other festivals, concerts, series and events.
Performer, Composer, Conductor:
A trumpet player and conductor, Kaiser has performed with many different groups and individuals on television, film, radio and in studios and concert halls throughout the United States and abroad, including The Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Sweden and England.
Kaiser has released over 20 full-length recordings as leader/co-leader and appeared on dozens more. He has performed and recorded with such artists and groups as Eugene Chadbourne, Michael Vlatkovich, Brad Dutz, Jim Connolly, The Motor Totemist Guild, Headless Household, The Vinny Golia Large Ensemble, The Los Angeles Trumpet Quartet, The Kreative Orchestra of Los Angeles, as well as his own ensembles including his large group The Jeff Kaiser Ockodektet, The Choir Boys (with Andrew Pask), The Desert Fathers (with Gregory Taylor), Made Audible (with Trevor Henthorn) and KaiBorg (with David Borgo). His duo ZUGZWANG with Tom McNalley has played at the Festival of New Trumpet in New York, and Endless Pie (his duo with pianist Phil Skaller) has been featured at performances in Berlin, UC San Diego and the Vision Festival in New York. Television trumpet performance credits include the HBO series Deadwood and film performances include The Cave. He has had featured profiles in numerous publications, including the journal of the International Trumpet Guild, Cadence Magazine and others.
As a composer, Jeff has been commissioned by the Ojai Camerata and California Lutheran University, to name a few. He is a fourteen-time recipient of the Individual Artist Fellowship from the City of Ventura, a three-time recipient of the Forum of the Arts Grant administered by the Ventura County Museum of History and Art, several Subito grants, fourteen ASCAP Plus Awards and more.
Jeff is a former music director for the Ojai Camerata, a vocal ensemble specializing in early and contemporary music and is one of the founding members of the Los Angeles Trumpet Quartet.
In addition to his own artistic work as a music technologist, Kaiser is in demand as a consultant for a wide variety of music and visual art practitioners: from experimental musicians to EDM and other popular musics, assisting in designing audio signal processing strategies and designing and implementing interactive video tracking and projection. To further his research and goals with interactive art technologies, Kaiser has had four residencies at STEIM (STudio for Electro-Instrumental Music) in Amsterdam.
As a producer—as well as recording, mixing and mastering engineer—Kaiser has been personally involved with the production and release of hundreds of recordings from experimental to popular.
Society for Ethnomusicology
The International Society for Improvised Music
The International Computer Music Association
Audio Engineering Society
The International Trumpet Guild
The Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States
The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers