Tone Road Ramblers

A Group Improvisation by the Tone Road Ramblers – Starr Review, September 6, 2016

Ragdale Foundation, Lake Forest Illinois August 2015

Above, L to R: Howie Smith, Morgan Powell, Ray Sasaki, Armand Beaudoin, Jim Staley, Eric Mandat

Jim Staley interview for New Music Box

“People who don’t know them often assume that the Tone Road Ramblers must be strumming, boot-wearing, good ole country boys. The Ramblers get a kick out of that, like kids do when they urge someone to catch a running refrigerator.”

– Ann Starr ©2011, “Off the Charts” (PDF file)

The Tone Road Ramblers: “Always Some Surprises” – Starr Review

Click here to read Off the Charts (PDF file). Ann Starr looks at the defining elements of the Ramblers’ music, focusing on the unity of friendship and creative process.

Moving Away from the Center of Jazz: Thomas Wirtel, a.k.a. Thomas Shabda NoorAnn Starr, NewMusicBox, The Web Magazine from the American Music Center

Tone Road Ramblers


Tone Road Ramblers gave its first concert in April 1981 in New York City on the Roulette series. Since then the group has concertized over a large part of the USA including New York, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Tampa, Miami, San Francisco, Fresno, San Diego, Chicago, Ann Arbor, Urbana, and Austin. In addition, TRR was invited to present concerts at the International Festivals of New Music in Bucharest, Romania and Latvia during the 1990’s. In 1997, the group performed at Merkin Hall, NYC, and for the International Trombone Festival at Urbana, Illinois. TRR has been recorded on two LP’s and nine CD’s and continues to rehearse at Ragdale Foundation, Lake Forest, Illinois, each year for the purpose of exploring new ideas for improvisations and compositions.

Morgan and Ray

Tone Road Ramblers Statement

Our musical materials are inclusive and diverse: from extended techniques, the use of toys and unusual sound sources, microtonality, from diverse traditions. Jazz and world music and the western avant-garde. These musical traditions are among the points of departure.

The motivation to form and develop this unique ensemble was and remains to find a collaborative music that reaches for a broad range of human experiences and ideas. Our work is the result of an intensive two-week collective residence. It includes rehearsing notated scores, improvising, eating, drinking, laughing, hanging out, and sharing stories and personal histories. The final result is a music of respect, love and exploration.