Cutting-edge large ensemble debut album from Eli Knowles captures the culmination of his experiences in Portland.
Release Event details:
Friday, March 18 at 6 pm
Eliot Hall at Reed College
3203 SE Woodstock Blvd, Portland, OR 97202
Free admission. Free Parking. Suggested donations
The Aaron Space Cosmic Orchestra is a large jazz ensemble led by Berkeley, California-based producer/composer/multiinstrumentalist Elihu Knowles. Born in Brooklyn, NY but primarily raised in Berkeley, California, Knowles became involved with the Portland, Oregon jazz scene as a drummer in 2016 while attending Reed College, where he received a BA in music composition. During this time, he frequented Portland jam sessions and became acquainted with various local performers and instrumentalists. Knowles recounted, “For me, I think John Savage was hugely important. I worked personally with him a lot, but his way of playing both flute and alto is so powerful to me. A lot of the Aaron space cosmic orchestra stuff I wrote had him in mind on alto.” During his time in Portland, Knowles worked with several regularly performing groups, including Neo-Soul outfit David “Motocross” David (debut album David Is Dead released in 2021 via Pleasure Tapes) and Frogdom (debut album in production).
During this time, Knowles began learning audio production and recording techniques, and over a two and a half year period completed production on his debut album Fishland under the moniker Aaron Space & His Terrestrial Underlings. Released via Portland-based experimental label Moon Glyph in 2020, Fishland combined songwriting influenced by jazz composition with experimental, maximalist, freeform production centered around Knowles’s characteristic singing, creating a unique brand of music best described as experimental soul. A year later, Fishland was followed up by Grid, an EP released via London-based Dig That Treasure Records and an accompanying 2021 West Coast tour.
While the music of Aaron Space & His Terrestrial Underlings wears its jazz influences on its sleeve, Knowles’s desire to be recognized not just as a producer but also as a jazz composer remained constant throughout the production of Fishland and Grid. The Aaron Space Cosmic Orchestra was created during this time, as an outlet for Knowles’s more explicitly jazz-oriented ideas. The group’s personnel changes with each concert, featuring a rotating cast of some of Portland’s most notable jazz musicians. Night 0n Earth (the “o” in the title is actually the digit zero), the group’s debut record, is an adaptation of a piece written as a component of Knowles’s undergraduate thesis, a study of organization and structure within long-form jazz pieces. It represents Knowles’s first explicitly jazz release.
When asked about his inspiration for the large-scale work, Knowles remarked, “I was super interested in how Ellington and Mingus handled longer forms and returning themes. Black, Brown and Beige and The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady are two pieces I find to be just unreal.” Night 0n Earth bears some more modern elements as well. It’s as much Mingus and Ellington as it is Standing On the Corner.
Following the 2020 covid pandemic, Knowles briefly moved to Berlin, Germany, where he performed regularly as a jazz drummer and pianist. He is working on a third Aaron Space & His Terrestrial Underlings record, as well as a few other yet-to-be-disclosed projects, and has recently returned to the US to tour and perform regularly in the coming years.
The Aaron Space Cosmic Orchestra
All tracks composed & arranged by Elihu Knowles
John Savage – Alto Saxophone & Flute
Peter QB – Tenor Saxophone
Mary-Sue Tobin – Baritone Saxophone
Jade Woo – Baritone Saxophone on track 2
Erik Jekabson – Trumpet I
David Knowles – Trumpet II
Craig Bryant – Trombone
Mira Knowles – Euphonium on track 4
Gina Pruitt – Piano
Nikhil Wadhwa – Guitar
Clem Culf – Guitar on track 4
Jacob Richman – Upright Bass
Quinn Girard – Upright Bass on track 2
Elihu Knowles – Drums, Piano on track 3, vocals on track 4
Jolee Gordon – Vocals on track 4
Lydia Bauer – Vocals on track 4
Ateha Bailly – Vocals on track 4
Primary recording engineered by Ry Malloy
Production, mixing, and additional recording by Elihu Knowles
Mastering by Eric Honor
Executive Producer: Ryan Meagher
Associate Producer: Douglas Detrick
Special thanks to Kirsten Volness for her assistance throughout the compositional process
Special thanks to the Reed College music department for generously providing the funding to make this recording possible