HUNTINGTON — When Ross Compton was at the University of Kentucky, he went down the rabbit hole of free-form jazz and began exploring. He hasn't returned.
Since 2002, Compton, a Lawrence County, Kentucky, native, has organized Lexington's Outside the Spotlight jazz series to turn people on to the wild side of jazz and other experimental music.
Compton, who moved back home to Louisa a couple years ago, is shining that light even further out, birthing a new series right here in Huntington.
The first concert of the Central City New Music Series is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 1, at Alias14W, located at 720 14th St. W. The all-ages free concert will feature The Chicago Plan, a trombone-reeds-cello-percussion quartet made up of players from New York, Berlin, and Chicago. The band will spend part of the day Wednesday conducting a workshop with music students at the Explorer Academy Elementary School.
Compton, who was a disc jockey at WRFL-FM in Lexington when he formed up the Outside The Spotlight series, said he has been presenting that series and this new one in Huntington because he loves the music and has a mission to have other people hear what he likes.
"The idea for the jazz series was that the big established series on campus was the Spotlight Jazz Series. We started a sister series, 'Outside the Spotlight/meant to take some of the lesser commercial artists and people trying more adventurous things and put them into a separate series to enrich that crowd that would crossover quite a bit," said Compton, who graduated UK in 1997.
Compton said this new series came about after some discussions with Chad Floyd of Alias 14W. Compton said when he returned to Louisa after his dad died, he was trying to meet other arts-loving people in the Tri-State, and met some of Marshall University's art professors and ended up going to Alias 14W for an exhibition.
"I got to talk to Chad and said, 'Hey, this is what I am interested in and so let's run it up the flag pole and see if anyone salutes,'" Compton said.
He describes it as "being organized to present adventurous, outward-probing music to Huntington and the region, the Central City New Music Series aims to become a part of our region's growing progressive arts, cultural, and social justice community."
Compton said if it goes well, he may try to book some future bands both at the established Lexington series and as well as at the Central City New Music Series.
"I still do the series in Lexington and so one of the ideas was it might be a way to offer two dates to those bands touring through," Compton said. "There are so few places to play and so few places presenting this kind of music, so it might help on the tour routes."
Compton said he is excited for everyone to hear The Chicago Plan. He has worked before with all of the members (save for Gebhard Ull-mann) and two of the members, Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello and electronics and Michael Zerang on percussion — were members of the first band he presented in Lexington back in 2002.
Celebrating over 10 years of collaborating together, Berlin saxophonist/composer, Gebhard Ullmann and NYC trombonist/composer Steve Swell join two of Chicago's finest improvising musicians; Fred Lonberg-Holm, cello/electronics and percussionist Michael Zerang for this new configuration. The group put out its debut album in 2017 and toured Europe in 2018.
Compton said he is funding this first concert and hopes to get some sponsors on board to help make all the concerts free.
"It is free and all ages and I hope to make enough connections to make all of these free," Compton said.
For questions or more information about the Central City New Music Series contact Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org and find out more about the band at https://www.ka-to-bookbird.eom//projects/the-chicago-plan.html. Find out more about Alias 14W at https://www.facebook.com.