Sean Patrick Noonan - drummer, percussionist, composer, arranger, producer, storyteller, music educator
A drummer and composer whose music enthusiastically defies category, Sean Noonan prefers the title “Rhythmic Storyteller” – an apt description for a modern-day sonic griot who spins imaginative yarns in the ancient tradition of wandering minstrels while weaving captivating narrative tapestries via his unique polyrhythmic language. His compositions serve as an extension of his limbs, mapping out polyrhythmic language on the drum set using Sensory Percussion, tone rows, multi-temporal rhythms and aleatoric comprovisation.
Noonan studied Music Education at Boston’s Berklee College of Music and spent part of those years at the Old School House Theater on Sanibel Island, Florida, backing legendary Hollywood songstress Marni Nixon. In 1999 Noonan settled in New York forming THE HUB, a punk-jazz trio which John Fordham (The Guardian) described as "Maniacally exhilarating, gripping in its precision and energy, a real breath of fresh air."
In 2003 while on tour in Italy, Noonan was in a near-fatal car wreck and during that long period of rehabilitation was when he discovered the multi-temporal music of Conlon Nancarrow which became integral to his compositional style. A commission from the American Composers Forum in 2006 led to discovering the "wandering folk" theory where he collected and adapted folklore from a modern perspective Bardic (Susan McKeown) and Malian Griot traditions (Abdoulaye Diabaté) with improvisation (Marc Ribot, Mat Maneri). "Drummer Noonan's notion of conflating 'bardic and griot traditions' has juice. The Celtic tunes and African grooves retain their singularity, even when surrounded by flashes of fusion." – The Village Voice.
A love for jazz and African rhythms fueled a 2008 trek to Mali gaining a first-hand experience of West African griot traditions which culminated in the album Boxing Dreams (Songlines Recordings) one manifestation of Noonan’s amorphous Afro-Celtic jazz-rock project Brewed By Noon, which consisted of 5 albums between 2006 and 2011 and was the subject of filmmaker Tom Asma’s documentary Being Brewed By Noon.
The New York Times “The drummer and composer Sean Noonan approaches postmodern jazz and world music from the same angle of self-discovery ....he manages to make his pieces speak coherently, and in a unified voice."
In 2010 he earned his Masters in Music Composition from the Aaron Copland Music School in Queens, NY which resulted in the release of A Gambler’s Hand, a suite of pieces for amplified string quartet and drums, largely composed but with improvisational sections (third stream uniting jazz and classical forms and approaches), inspired equally by the great string quartet tradition (Beethoven and Bartok in particular). The relationship of the drums and strings developed from Sean’s experience of hearing/playing music from the drum position – conceptually and even literally, the strings are positioned as extensions of the drummer’s limbs.
In 2016 Sant'anna Arresi Jazz Festival commissioned Noonan to premiere his Zappanation Rock Opera dedicated to Frank Zappa and Edgard Varèse, which included the Drumavox a cappella choir and Ligeti Quartet. Another more recent work includes Tan Man’s Hat by his harmolodic jazz-rock ensemble Pavees Dance, a 2019 release on Rarenoise Records, fuses free funk pre-rap beat poetry by Malcolm Mooney, of CAN and Jamaaladeen Tacuma (Ornette Coleman)
While Noonan’s “wandering folk” approach to collecting the stories of diverse cultural traditions spans the globe, the name of Pavees Dance is rooted in his own Irish heritage. Pavees are members of the Emerald Isle’s nomadic ethnic minority, traditionally occupied as traveling tinkers and craftsmen, skilled at crafting items from available materials – a gift shared by Noonan, whose distinctive compositions are a patchwork of eclectic inspirations made new and vital in his deft hands.
As a drummer Noonan has performed live on BBC Jazz on 3, Danish National Radio, VPRO Netherlands, German National and WKCR. He has published over 120 words for jazz ensembles, choir and string quartet. Noonan is a record producer who has released 22 albums since 1999 on various labels and his own label, which have been distributed, reviewed and broadcast across the world. In 2020-21 three additional releases are scheduled: Zappanation Rock Opera (live DVD performance in Germany and studio CD), Noonward, duo with Alex Ward and Anatomical Planes Volume 1, a studio recording for drum kit and the Ligeti Quartet.
Noonan’s music has been heard by thousands of listeners in over 15 countries, with hundreds of performances in diverse venues and international festivals like: Bimhuis, A38, EFG London Jazz Festival, Haldern Pop Festival, Jazz Liege, Jazz Od Nowa, Sons D'Hiver MS Stubnitz Nottingham Jazzsteps Vilnius Jazz Festival Jazzclub Unterfahrt The Roulette, NY Kraakpand, Ghent.
"Imagine a head on collision between Swell Maps, Gong, the Residents, the Magic Band and the Modern Lovers. Freeform jazzy struts, too many notes; outrageous, dayglo sonic curlicues." Richard Foster - Louder Than War
"The commitment to overall ambience, and mystery, and dark intensity is unwavering. Has there been an album (Memorable Sticks) so nonchalantly creepy released this year? That would be hard to imagine." New York Music Daily
"The drummer and composer Sean Noonan approaches postmodern jazz and world music from the same angle of self-discovery ....he manages to make his pieces speak coherently, and in a unified voice." The New York Times
"Drummer Noonan's notion of conflating 'bardic and griot traditions' has juice. The Celtic tunes and African grooves retain their singularity, even when surrounded by flashes of fusion." The Village Voice
"You think this might be boring? C’mon man, relax, this is Sean Noonan…it’s like nothing else out there." Something Else! S. Victor Aaron
"Menacingly surreal, often assaultive, a feast for fans of dark, challenging music…it’s a category unto itself – and one of the best in any style of music. Scary Stuff from Sean Noonan." Lucid Culture
"Stories to Tell," album by drummer Sean Noon's group Brewed by Noon, is a funky feast of music .....bursting with talented musicians and interesting sounds ...." All About Jazz New York
"Noonan strikes again conducting a string quartet with his drumsticks…like Bela Bartok french kissing with John Zorn. I wonder when the man finally will get some serious recognition in Culture loving Flanders?" Rifraf (BE)-Bootsie
"The drummer is a musical terrorist at heart…well-conceived and expertly arranged and performed pieces that reveal not merely an inner logic, but an external one as well. " Thom Jurek-allmusic
"This is not the typical release but an experience. A dynamic and virtually flawless execution of art at an apex of creativity few can match." Brent Black @CriticalJazz
"Sean Noonan's A Gambler's Hand is a further step forward in his evolving blend of music and narrative." - All About Jazz
" ....he succeeds at bridging the gap during the preponderance of these fascinating arrangements, constructed upon a multicultural array of cadences. Here, jazz vernaculars and birthrights are fused into a bold and beautiful chain of musical events, often enamored with vigor and finesse." www.ejazznews.com