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The Cross-Pollinators

The fledgling Patchwork Collective faces self-promotion, music scenes and the dreaded "avant-garde" label.


The term "cross-pollination" bobs up often in conversation with the group. White, who approached the other two in April with the idea of forming a collective, says it's designed to "bring creative music together regardless of genre." The dream of a unified creative scene in Richmond has gotten into these guys, the vision of an artistic hive of activity in which the flavors of music blend as musicians support one another. And the genre that brought them into the hive is jazz, specifically the more experimental, avant-garde branch that can scare people off just by the label.

"Jazz fans don't have to be the ones in the audience," says Burton, who's been in Richmond since he was a child and knows how particular the listening public can be. "Anyone who appreciates creativity could enjoy it." Burton and White play in four bands between them, and each has a jazz band. So they see firsthand the response to the more experimental jazz scene. The kind of avant-garde music they espouse is, as Burton says, "less heady" than popular jazz and more concerned with emotion.

To that end, they've recruited Richmond's experimental jazzman Brian Jones for their first show, July 16 at Artspace. White was inspired to form the collective after he noticed the disparity between Jones' level of talent and the poor attendance at his shows. To fold in different sounds for the Artspace show, the trio has signed on Tulsa Drone, the instrumental post-rock outfit that writes the soundtrack for lonely places, as well as Norfolk turntablist Brian Zentz.

Both White and Elford are from Norfolk, where Elford worked in a store that sold records and clothing, had a coffee bar and had live music every night. He sees venues like that as essential for the culture to reach a critical mass. The Patchwork Collective hinges on more and smaller venues rather than, say, a performing arts center.

The collective's members all agree that persistence and organization will be the ultimate guide to their success in this quest: paying the bills, hanging flyers, dealing with venues. "Really practical things are what shoot good ideas down," says White. They have the ideas all right: For the show in September, the Patchwork Collective is bringing in Chicago saxophonist and MacArthur Genius Grant recipient Ken Vandermark. And further out, they're thinking about opening a space for art and performance, a small venue where art rather than liquor bottles will line the walls, where jazz won't be forced to play quietly in a corner. S

The Patchwork Collective's first show features Tulsa Drone, jazz trio Brian Jones and Mao Amore, and Norfolk turntablist Brian Zentz at Artspace, July 16, at 8 p.m. The show is $5. 0 E. Fourth St. 350-6374.

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