The Association of Improvising Musicians Toronto was founded in late 2004 by Ken Aldcroft, Rob Clutton, Nick Fraser, and Joe Sorbara as a result of meetings with Vancouver guitarist and former New Orchestra Workshop (NOW) Artistic Director, Ron Samworth. In January 2005, Scott Thomson was added to form the first Board of Directors of the newly incorporated organization.

AIMToronto’s goal is to support and promote creative improvised music and musicians in the Toronto area. Recognising that the diversity of creative practice in the city had fostered many discrete “scenes” with little continuity or coherence between them, the founders conceived AIMToronto as an umbrella organization under which local improvising musicians could affiliate to collectively generate a greater visibility and audibility locally, nationally, and internationally.

The primary method by which this goal is achieved is the Interface Series, in which visiting, world-class improvising musicians collaborate with a variety of local improvisers during a three-day concert program. Prior to the formation and incorporation of AIMToronto, successful events of this nature had been organized by Aldcroft and Sorbara. The first of these featuring Vancouver drummer Dylan Van der Schyff (August 2003), the second featuring New York bassist Reuben Radding (January 2004), and the third featuring Ron Samworth (April 2004).

Once the Association was formed, a fundraising Interface was held in January 2005, featuring all local musicians who donated their music in support of the new organization. Carl Wilson of The Globe and Mail wrote a detailed preview of the event entitled Great Hoser Music, Ancient to the Future! that contextualized AIMToronto within the history of creative improvisation in the city, and compared the fledgling organization to various musicians’ collectives from other urban locales.

Revenue from the 2005 fundraising Interface helped to finance an Interface event in May of that year with Montreal saxophonist and composer, Jean Derome. This was followed in July by another event with the electro-acoustic trio, Laconnor. The trio, who visited Toronto while on a Canada Council-sponsored tour, is comprised of Francois Houle on clarinet and electronics and Jesse Zubot on violin and electronics (both from Vancouver), and Jean Martin on drums and turntables (from Toronto).

In September 2005, with support from the Toronto Arts Council and the Royal Dutch Consulate in Ottawa, AIMToronto hosted the KaMoSc Trio – Achim Kaufmann, piano, Michael Moore, woodwinds (from Amsterdam), and Dylan Van der Schyff – as well as the spectacular Amsterdam trombonist, Wolter Wierbos. The 2005 season was rounded off with a final event in December featuring two top British musicians: drummer Paul Hession (Leeds) and saxophonist/bassoonist Mick Beck (Sheffield).

Late in 2005, Rob Clutton resigned from the Board of Directors and, in collaboration with the membership (which had grown to 75 members by year’s end), Rob Piilonen was appointed as the new Board member in January 2006. In early February, another fundraising Interface took place, again featuring all local players. By that point, in addition to the twelve visiting artists, the Interface Series had presented 86 different local musicians of different ages, backgrounds, and creative practices.

In addition to concert and series promotion, AIMToronto is committed to developing creative improvisation in Toronto through educational initiatives. These endeavours have included:

– partnership with Victor Bateman’s long-standing, periodic six-week improvisation workshops,
– workshops with visiting artists in conjunction with Interface Series’,
– an improvisation workshop with Humber College students at their request,
– bi-weekly workshops led by various local musicians in association with the NOW Series at the NOW Lounge.

The 2006 Interface Series season has helped to cultivate relationships between AIMToronto members and musicians from other important scenes in Canada and internationally: Montreal bass clarinetist Lori Freedman (March), Amsterdam bassist Wilbert de Joode (June), and Lancaster, UK pianist Stephen Grew (August).

During this period, AIMToronto became official partners for the two weekly improvised music series: Leftover Daylight Series (Fridays at Arraymusic Studio — and fast approaching its third anniversary) and the NOW Series (Sundays at the NOW Lounge). Furthermore, AIMToronto launched the innovative MUSIC(in)GALLERIES event in July, 2006, in which 15 Queen Street West art galleries hosted free live music in overlapping sets by small groups comprised of 32 AIMToronto members on a Saturday afternoon. A memorable party ensued.

In September, 2006, with the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Toronto Arts Council, AIMToronto hosted a brilliant (and relatively well attented!) Interface Series featuring Joe McPhee. This event marked an inaugural partnership with the Music Gallery with the first night of the Interface taking place at St George-the-Martyr Church and representing the first night of the Music Gallery’s X AVANT New Music Festival. Further partnerships with the Guelph Jazz Festival (AIMToronto hosted their late-night improvisation sessions) and the Music Gallery (AIMToronto helped to program the music as part of the Nuit Blanche all-night art event in late September 2006) have also been afoot.

The 2007 season began with a January Interface with legendary New York bassist William Parker. The event was presented with the help of the Canada Council for the Arts and was documented by guest artist Jeff Schlanger who made live, visual transcriptions of the music that was made as a part of his ongoing musicWitness project. Things continued with a fundraising event in March that featured two local improvisers, true pioneers of improvised music in Canada: Paul Dutton and John Oswald.

Rainer Weins, an innovator of the prepared guitar, visited from Montreal in April to interface with Toronto improvisers followed by Parisian cellist, Thomas Charmetant in late May – early June.

Our Interfaces have involved 30 special guests from five countries to date and have included 166 local improvisers, a constituency that is defining the Toronto scene of improvised music locally, nationally, and internationally. More on future Interface events soon…