Al Biles & GenJam play straight-up jazz – from swing and hard bop to Latin and pop. They’ve been performing together for over 20 years and have amassed a repertoire of well over 400 tunes. They’ve played in London, Milan, Aarhus, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Toronto, Banff, Seattle, San Diego, Frisco, Vegas, Boston, DC, and all around Rochester. They play regularly at the Fringe & Park Ave Festivals, Maker Faire, ImagineRIT and Make Music Rochester, and they perform at Boulder Coffee, Starry Nites and the Little Cafe, among other local venues.
Al Biles is Professor Emeritus in the School of Interactive Games and Media at RIT. GenJam (the Genetic Jammer) is an intelligent agent that improvises jazz in real time by listening to what Al plays and evolving that with its own ideas as it takes solos and trades fours and eights. Yes, GenJam is software, and it has been a focus of Al’s research since 1993, as well as a working sideman in one of Al’s performing groups (Al also plays with people, especially the Mid-Century Modern Jazz Quartet). Al’s musical tastes run toward accessible, straight-ahead jazz, and he prefers medium tempos and middle-register trumpet playing over loud blizzards of high notes. Al is no screamer, and he values subtlety over bombast.
With GenJam, Al plays imaginative arrangements of a wide variety of tunes by Mancini, Mandel, Mingus, Mobley, Monk, Morgan, Mulligan – and that’s just some of the M’s! The central metaphor is a jazz quintet, with Al and GenJam on the front line and a three-piece rhythm section providing the background. Some tunes feature elaborate arrangements with as many as six instruments playing harmony and counterpoint; other tunes are just Al playing the head. All tunes feature spontaneous interaction between Al and GenJam in the improvised middle choruses. Because GenJam listens to Al’s phrases and breeds them with its own ideas, it is a highly responsive and frankly formidable opponent when trading fours. Their conversations are truly creative and a lot of fun!
With over 400 tunes to choose from, Al & GenJam can play almost indefinitely in a wide variety of venues. They’re perfect in background settings like receptions and dinner music, as well as mid-ground settings like coffee houses and wine bars. They can notch up the energy level for noisier foreground gigs by playing more hard Latin and up tempo jazz tunes. They even have a collection of 41 holiday tunes so that they can do a four-hour gig with no repeats. How about Holly Jolly Christmas as a 7/4 mambo?