Skip to Content Skip to Navigation

DISSIDENT ARTS - NEW MASSES MEDIA: Bio

JOHN PIETARO - Writer-Musician-Organizer-Publicist

Pietaro is a Staff Writer of "The NYC Jazz Record" as well as an independent author, musician and cultural organizer.

WRITINGS:
‘NIGHT PEOPLE and Other Tales of Working New York’ (short stories/poetry book, self-published, 2013). Pietaro also wrote a chapter on Phil Ochs for the Harvey Pekar/Paul Buhle book 'Students for a Democratic Society: A Graphic History' (Hill & Wang, 2007). His articles and reviews have been published in ‘Z’ magazine, ‘The Nation’, ‘Political Affairs’, ‘the People’s World’, and other progressive periodicals. Current projects include 'On the Cultural Front: Essays on the Arts of Liberation' and a novel, 'Of Seconds and Shadows'.

BLOG: http://TheCulturalWorker.blogspot.com
PORTFOLIO: www. johnpietaro.wordpress.com

AFFILIATIONS:
-National Writers Union UAW Local 1981 - http://www.nwuny.org/JOHN-PIETARO.html
-PEN American Center
-Jazz Journalists Association
-American Federation of Musicians AFM Local 802
-Industrial Workers of the World

Pietaro has been a guest speaker/performer at Left Forum, Vision Festival, the Workers Film Festival and other progressive venues

INSTRUMENTS: hand drums, vibraphone, xylophone, drumkit, frame drums, glockenspiel, multi-percussion, voice. Musical genres of New Music/New Jazz, Free Jazz, Protest song, No Wave, Progressive Pop music

MUSICAL COLLABORATIONS: Amina Baraka, Matt Lavelle's 12 Houses, Harmolodic Monk, The Red Microphone (founder), Ras Moshe's Music Now units, Karl Berger's Improvisers Orchestra, Erika Dagnino. Pietaro has also performed with Alan Ginsberg, Pete Seeger, Warren Smith, Salim Washington, Will Connell, Fred Ho, Daniel Carter, Steve Swell, Chris Forbes, Blaise Siwula, Ken Filiano, Jason Hwang, Dom Minasi, Dave Ross, Maryanne DeProphetis, Cheryl Pyle, John Zorn, Elodie Lauten, Andrea Wolper, Carsten Radtke, Andrew Drury, Hill Green, Gian Luigi Diana, Josh Sinton, Layne Redmond, Tom Zlabinger and many more

PRODUCER/ORGANIZER: the annual ‘The Dissident Arts Festival’
CURATOR: 'New Masses Nights' monthly performance series

RECENT DISCOGRAPHY:
1) MATT LAVELLE'S 12 HOUSES: 'Solidarity' (Unseen Rain 2016)
2) MATT LAVELLE/JOHN PIETARO: ‘Harmolodic Monk’ (Unseen Rain, 2014)-Matt Lavelle, John Pietaro
3) ERIKA DAGNINO QUARTET: 'Signs' (SLAM Productions, UK, 2013)-Erika Dagnino, Ras Moshe, John Pietaro, Ken Filiano
4) THE RED MICROPHONE: 'The Red Microphone Speaks!' (Dissident Arts, April 2013) - John Pietaro, Ras Moshe, Rocco John Iacovone, Nicolas Letman-Burtinovic, with guest Nora McCarthy.
5)) RADIO NOIR: 'The Lost Broadcast' (digital release, 2011) 4-song EP -John Pietaro, Quincy Saul, Laurie Towers, Javier Hernandez-Miyares
6) THE DISSIDENT ARTS ORCHESTRA (2012): Improvised film scores to 'Metropolis', 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari' and ‘Battleship Potemkin’ synced to the films by the New United Artists Studio, UK. John Pietaro, Mossa Bildner, Cheryl Pyle, Will Connell, Quincy Saul, Rocco John Iacavone, Blaise Siwula, Nick Gianni, Ras Moshe, Ben Barson, Josh Sinton, Matt Lavelle, Javier Hernandez-Miyares, James Keepnews, Laurie Towers, Ken Filiano, Lou Grassi, various others.
7) IFAR COMPILATION 'Beat Sounds From Way Out Vol 3' (IFAR label, 2012): The Red Microphone's "Brecht Breakdown" is a feature of this experimental music collection. John Pietaro, Ras Moshe, Rocco John Iacovone, Laurie Towers

PERFORMANCE:
Pietaro has performed at such NYC spaces as Roulette, The Stone, the Jazz Gallery, the Cornelia St Cafe, the Brecht Forum, the Firehouse Space, ABC No Rio, Town Hall, the Shrine, ShapeShifter Lab, Douglas Street Collective, Henry Winston Unity Hall, El Taller, 17 Frost, Clemente Soto Velez Center, JACK, I-Beam, Goodbye Blue Monday, Zirzamin, Theatre 80, the Launch Pad, Freddy's Back Room, the (original) Knitting Factory, Lunch for Yor Ears, Generator, CBGB, various others, plus Union Square Park, Foley Square, Ft Green Park, Byrdcliffe Theatre (Woodstock NY), the Colony Cafe (Woodstock NY), the Howland Cultural Center (Beacon NY) as well as on the airwaves of WBAI-FM, WKCR-FM and WDST-FM (Woodstock NY). Selected events at which he was a performer include JOHN TCHICAI MEMORIAL CONCERT (10/13) and 50th ANNIVERSARY OF ESP-DISK (11/13)

EDUCATION: holds an MA in Teaching; BA Music Performance (Percussion); BA, Music Therapy. Coursework in Communications and Media. Studied marimba and orchestral percussion with James Preiss, drumkit with Normie Wayne, Jazz History and Performance with Stanley Cowell, Composition/Orchestration with John Corigliano and Ulysses Kaye, and attended master classes by Dave Samuels (vibraphone), Jim Saporito (Latin and studio percussion) and Justin DiCioccio (drumkit) as well as seminars by Olatunj (African drumming) and Bernard Purdie (drumkit). Pietaro also studied at Karl Berger’s Creative Music Studio, NYC.

THE RED MICROPHONE - ensemble

“A special brand of new revolutionary jazz” – DooBeeDooBeeDoo magazine

John Pietaro: hand drums, multi-percussion, spoken word
Ras Moshe: tenor & soprano saxophones, flute, bells, spoken word
Rocco John Iacovone: alto & soprano saxophones, piano
Laurie Towers: electric bass

....THE RED MICROPHONE is a NYC-based New Music/New Jazz quartet of rad musicians engaging in a repertoire drenched in free jazz, dissident swing, modernist blues and contemporary composition at once exploratory, listenable, compelling and patently “downtown”. Call it post-Ornette, Post-Dolphy, post-Punk, post-Occupy music. Plainly put, the Red Microphone’s art is as revolutionary as the times demand.

The Red Microphone has performed at New York City spaces such as Shapeshifter Lab, ABC No Rio, the Brecht Forum, 17 Frost Theatre of the Arts, ZirZamin, Downtown Music Gallery, the Firehouse Space, Mid-Manhattan Library and the Henry Winston Unity Center, among others.

The ensemble’s debut CD, ‘The Red Microphone Speaks’ was released in April 2013. Self-produced but mastered by legendary downtown producer Kramer, the disc includes sweeping free music, original works, adaptations of fight-back songs from ‘30s Berlin and the Paris Commune, and treatments of militant prose and poetry. All that and of course original jazz and new music that recalls the New Objectivity, the Third Stream, the New Thing and the No Wave. Guest vocalist Nora McCarthy is heard on one track, “L’Internationale Reconstruct” in the company of the found voices of Malcolm X, Angela Davis, Dalton Trumbo and even VI Lenin. Bassist on this album: Nicolas Letman-Burtinovic.

The Red Microphone’s single “Brecht Breakdown” was released on the IFAR label (UK) as part of the international compilation ‘Beat Sounds From Way Out Vol 4’, December 2012.

THE RED MICROPHONE SPEAKS:
1) Freedom Theme (Rocco John Iacovone)
2) L'Internationale Redux (“L’Internationale” by Pierre Degeytor; adaptation and arrangement by John Pietaro)
3) God to the Hungry Child (music by Janet Barnes, poetry by Langston Hughes; adaptation and additional music by John Pietaro)
4) The Proof is Overwhelming (free improvisation incorporating John Howard Lawson’s statement to the House Un-American Activities Committee, 1947)
5) Song of the United Front (music by Hanns Eisler; adaptation by the Red Microphone)
6) One for Robeson (free improvisation dedicated to Paul Robeson)
7) L'Internationale Reconstruct (“L’Internationale”: lyric by Eugene Pottier, music by Pierre Degeytor. Excerpted prose: “Our Revolutionary Music” and “The Crisis in Music” by Hanns Eisler. Conception and arrangement by John Pietaro) –vocal by Nora McCarthy; recorded voices of Malcolm X, Angela Davis, Dalton Trumbo (HUAC hearing, 1947), Vladimir Lenin
8) The Times (“And the Times Are Dark and Fearful” by Hanns Eisler; adaptation and arrangement by John Pietaro)

AVAILABLE VIA http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/theredmicrophone

THE LITERARY WARRIORS - ensemble

A free jazz/spoken word ensemble that presents revolutionary writings of such stalwarts as John Reed, Langston Hughes, Bertolt Brecht, Michael Gold, Mumia Abu-Jamal and many more within wholly improvised music.

John Pietaro: spoken word, hand drums, percussion
Ras Moshe: tenor and soprano saxophones, flute
Laurie Towers: electric bass

-with guests including Amina Baraka

THE DISSIDENT ARTS ORCHESTRA - ensemble

THE DISSIDENT ARTS ORCHESTRA is a shape-shifting ensemble first assembled for the 2012 Dissident Arts Festival, a seeming one-time vehicle to create an improvised score to the silent film classic, 'Metropolis'. Working off of only the faintest outline of head arrangement and points with musical director John Pietaro down front bringing in Orchestra members with hand cues and facial expressions, the musicians incorporated free jazz, improvised new music and a wide variety of sounds to bring to life Fritz Lang's epic tale of oppressed workers in a futuristic society. The musicians involved were so excited by its potential that the ensemble has embarked upon a performance series. 'The Cabinet of Dr Caligari' and 'Battleship Potemkin' have also been among the films the ensemble has played live scores for ---and all three performances have been synced to pristine copies of the films by the UK-based New United Artists studio, available on Youtube. Still largely focusing on improvised film scores (we are also planning on including 'The Last Laugh' and 'Nosferatu' in the canon very soon) the Dissident Arts Orchestra has also performed in conjunction with spoken word artists and is including theatre and dance in its scope.

The members of the ensemble at that first performance included Mossa Bildner (vocals), Cheryl Pyle (flute), Quincy Saul (clarinet), Rocco John Iacovone (soprano and alto saxophones), Nick Gianni (baritone saxophone, bass flute), Ben Barson (baritone saxophone), Javier Hernandez-Miyares (electric guitar, min-synth), Nicolas Letman-Burtinovic (upright bass), John Pietaro (drumkit, vibraphone, xylophone, percussion, musical direction). Since then, many of the original musicians have maintained their position in the Orchestra and other have joined too including Laurie Towers (electric bass), Ras Moshe (saxophones, flutes), Nora McCarthy (vocal), Blaise Siwula (saxophones), Josh Sinton (bass clarinet), Steve Bloom (electric guitar), Hollis Headrick (drumkit, percussion), Erika Dagnino (spoken word) and others.

HARMOLODIC MONK - ensemble

The compositions of the brilliant composer Thelonious Monk heard through the revolutionary philosophy of Ornette Coleman's harmolodics...

HARMOLODIC MONK was the brainchild of noted cornet player Matt Lavelle after years of study with Ornette Coleman and ongoing performance and recording with the Bern Nix Quartet. Matt came across radical vibraphonist/percussionist John Pietaro during their mutual performance with the Ras Moshe Unit and the two quickly realized that their influences weighed heavily on the brilliant compositions of Thelonious Monk and the revolutionary philosophy of Ornette Coleman. Both are also anti-purists who revel in the amalgamation of sounds, genres and styles.

Harmolodic Monk debuted on the bill of the Music Now! series at the Brecht Forum in NYC during 2013, featuring blurred harmonies, stinging accents, crushes, soaring melodic lines, burning improvisations and maybe just a little bit of the shock of the new. Subsequent NY performances included ABC No Rio (Aug 4) and the Firehouse Space (Oct 19). They also took their soundscape to Beacon NY's Quinn's night club as a part of the Monday night new jazz series (Dec 16). The duo was in the recording studio Jan 6, 2014 to create their first collection for Unseen Rain Records. Imminent release is expected followed by a series of dates in NYC and far beyond!

RADIO NOIR - ensemble

John Pietaro (xylophone, frame drums, percussion, voice), Quincy Saul (clarinet), Javier Hernandez-Miyares (electric guitar & effects), Laurie Towers (electric bass)

Radio NOIR' was debuted, befittingly, at ‘the Dissident Arts Festival 2011’ in New York City. The ensemble reflects the fervent radicalism and sounds of the 1930s even as it embraces the ethics of downtown New Music and the passion of Free Jazz. Here, revolutionary politics rumpus with daring soundscapes. Their EP, "The Lost Broadcast” offers a new take on a Depression-era standard, a reconstruction of a Woody Guthrie ballad, a recitation of composer Hanns Eisler’s speech against HUAC backed by free improv, and an original modernist blues dedicated to the Harlem Renaissance. The band is engaging in a series of NYC appearances featuring their unique brand of DISSIDENT SWING and ART DECO-DAMAGED PROTEST SONG. They have played ABC No Rio, Goodbye Blue Monday, the Brecht Forum, 17 Frost and other venues.
“The 1930s meets contemporary improv” – The Villager newspaper, NYC
“It’s not just drum circles: Dissident Swing and Protest Song for the O.W.S. era” –NYC Arts

THE FLAMES OF DISCONTENT - ensemble

The core of the Flames of Discontent is the duo of John Pietaro (vocals, electric banjo, percussion) and Laurie Towers (lead electric bass, backing vocals). As Pietaro acted as front man in this setting, percussionist extraordinaire Rafael Figueroa was brought in to play congas, snare drum, various percussives and backing vocals (and the lead voice on the intro to the ensemble's theme song, "Viva La Quince Brigade"!). The ensemble was founded in 2005, coinciding with Pietaro and Towers temporary relation to NY's Hudson Valley, when Pietaro sought a project with a more defined protest song repertoire and following a number of successful solo performances (singing and playing banjo) at various NYC rallies, the Flames came to be. Largely, the project lasted through approximately 2010 (when the pair moved back to Brooklyn) but Pietaro and Towers continue to perform together, with Pietaro back in the percussion chair, as one-half of Radio Noir.
The Flames' repertoire combined daring reconstructions of classic protest music along with original topical songs, spoken word pieces and improvisation. Their sound fused strains of post-punk, rockabilly, jazz, neo-Beat poetry and ‘60s pop to the folk/protest genre, producing a mix that is simultaneously edgy and familiar.
CD RELEASES:
1) September 2005- 'I Dreamed I Heard Joe Hill Last Night…A Century of IWW Songs' (credited to “John Pietaro & The Flames of Discontent”). The CD, described by Chronogram magazine as, “kick-ass music for the masses…noble and timely”, was recorded in honor of the Industrial Workers of the World’s centenary and produced in accordance with historian/author Paul Buhle. It toured the world with is Traveling Wobbly Show.
2) March 2007- 'Revenge of the Atom Spies', a collection that metaphorically commented on contemporary struggles for social justice and civil liberties through the imagery and some of the sounds of the Cold War years. In contrast to the first disc, this one is largely comprised of originals but vintage songs are included as well, albeit treated to the Flames unique arrangements and irony. Liner notes were written by Buhle.
The Flames’ music has been heard live on the air at WDST-FM (Woodstock NY) and WVKR-FM (Poughkeepsie NY) as well as on a national Pacifica Radio broadcast from the 2007 Clearwater Festival. Their CDs have been heard on many radio stations including the aforementioned and others in the region and in NYC (including WBAI-FM), plus indie stations around the country: KAOS-FM (Olympia, Washington), KDHX (St Louis, MO), WHYS (Eau Claire WI), Radio Labourstart (internet radio from London, UK), and Oscar Brand’s esteemed folk music program on WNYC (New York City), among others.
The Flames performed in numerous clubs and coffee houses as well as for New York area IWW centenary celebrations and also for May Day, Labor Day and social justice events in the Hudson Valley and NYC including a fundraiser for the Working Families Party, West Point Peace Rally, New Paltz Peace Rally and organized tribute for Phil Ochs, Woody Guthrie and others. The Flames were featured performers at The Woodstock Fringe Festival (July and September, 2006) and founded and organized The Dissident Folk & Arts Festival.