Michael Malis and Common Tongue
Michael Malis — piano and compositions
Rafael Statin — saxophones and reeds
Brian Juarez — bass
Jonathan Taylor — drums
Michael Malis (b. 1988) is a composer, pianist, and music educator based in Detroit MI. A multi-faceted musical artist, he performs as a jazz musician, composes for the concert stage, and contributes to multidisciplinary collaborations.
Thus far in 2019, Malis has undertaken several notable creative projects. He was commissioned by Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings to compose a new piece for piano, saxophone, and string quartet. The piece, premiered in May 2019, and featured Malis and saxophonist Marcus Elliot alongside musicians from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
In April 2019, Malis and Elliot, who join forces under the duo known as “Balance,” also undertook a collaborative performance piece with former Detroit poet laureate Bill Harris. The piece, which featured drummer Gerald Cleaver, set Harris’ collection of short stories “I Got to Keep Moving.” According to AllAboutJazz.com, “what was most striking about the synergy between Harris and the band was the sheer beauty of the music: the stark contrast between the grim realities of Harris’s story and the band’s melodic core, located in Elliot’s exultant phrases and Malis’s evocative runs, was stirring. And much of the music’s strength was found in the spirit of resilience and defiance that permeates Harris’s text.”
Also in April 2019, Malis collaborated with theater artist Paul Manganello to develop the new theater piece “Dividual.” The piece was premiered at the Cleveland Public Theater, with plans for a remount in the works.
2018 saw a wide proliferation of his catalogue of concert music. His trio for piano, percussion, and multi-reedist, “Numerology”, was commissioned by the Chamber Music Society of Detroit. His first string quartet, “Emerge”, was premiered at the Detroit Institute of Arts. His piece for piano and cello, “Coda”, was commissioned by the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival.
Malis has been perennially active as a performer-composer, both as a soloist and in collaborative settings. His 2017 album with the aforementioned “Balance” was praised by the Detroit Metro Times as “contemporary jazz of the highest order, a benchmark for where the genre can go.” The duo was also named an Artist-in-Residence at the Chamber Music Society of Detroit in 2017-2018, launching a new educational initiative which brought jazz to students in public schools utilizing an innovative merger of technology and live performance.
In July of 2015, Malis self-released his debut album as a leader, “Lifted from the No of All Nothing,” featuring all original music. The Detroit Free Press called it “an uncommonly mature and distinctive debut… The music is loose and spontaneous, alert to dynamics and textural variety while balancing formal detail and discipline with freedom.” It was described by Hot House Jazz Guide (NYC) as “cover[ing] a broad range of free expression. [Malis] bridges the gap between original composed, complex material and the spontaneity of improvisation.” In September 2016, his trio performed at the Detroit International Jazz Festival.
As a pianist, he has shared the stage with a diverse array of musicians, including notables such as Marcus Belgrave, Tyshawn Sorey, William Hooker, Jaribu Shahid, Ken Filiano, JD Allen, John Lindberg, A. Spencer Barefield, Andrew Bishop, and Marion Hayden. He has performed at the Yokohama Jazz Promenade (Yokohama, Japan), the Kennedy Center, Birdland (NYC), and The Stone (NYC).