Canadian drummer and percussionist Joe Sorbara has spent nearly two decades developing a reputation as an imaginative and dedicated performer, composer, improviser, organizer, and educator throughout the extraordinary creative music communities in and around Toronto. In the fall of 2017, Sorbara and his family made a somewhat temporary move to Vancouver where he is currently getting to know many of the west coast’s most adventurous musicians.
Sorbara is a highly inventive player with a penchant for coaxing music out of practically anything. His basic drum setup is regularly augmented with found and prepared materials which ensure that the sounds at his ready disposal are practically orchestral in scope. He combines these skills with an extraordinary time-feel that makes him one of the most swinging drummers in Canada when the music demands it of him. Sorbara’s music draws from a vast array of influences. He is equally comfortable playing jazz, free improvised music, indie rock, and chamber music; but is most at home when playing them all at the same time.
Joe's own projects all serve as uniquely challenging outlets for his inventive compositions and ideas. He leads The Imperative, a trio featuring Jay Hay and Karen Ng on tenor saxophones, and two large ensembles: the ten-piece Abakos and a 'seven-or-more-tet' known as Other Foot First. Elsewhere, he plays in a trio with Anthony Argatoff and Andrew Furlong known as My Misshapen Ear; in The Imaginary Percussion Ensemble with Germaine Liu, Mark Zurawinski, and other adventurers; in Swamp People, a quartet exploring the early music of Jimmy Giuffre with Michael Davidson, Andrew Furlong, and Jay Hay; in Mars People, a trio playing music by and for Ken Aldcroft with Emily Denison and Daniel Kruger; in the longstanding Ken Aldcroft Convergence Ensemble; in an improvising duo with Paul Dutton; in Jay Hay's Interstellar Orchestra; in a trio with Bill Gilliam and Glen Hall; and in numerous ongoing and ad hoc collaborations with creative improvising musicians from all over. Joe plays frequently with Friendly Rich and the Lollipop People and is a rogue member of Dave Clark’s Woodchoppers Association.
Sorbara's music can be heard most recently on the eponymous trio recording, The Imperative (2017, Oval Window Records)━a tribute to the life, music, poetry, and prose of Sun Ra━featuring saxophonists Jay Hay and Karen Ng. 2017 also saw the release of A Circle Request, a commission/collaboration with Mark Alberts of Electric Square, a visual effects and animation house in Sorbara’s west Toronto neighbourhood. Among many other recordings, he appears on a Barnyard Records release with long-time rhythm-section comrade, Wes Neal, on bass and free improvisation pioneer Evan Parker on tenor saxophone; on two releases by The AIMToronto Orchestra, one featuring creative music luminary, Anthony Braxton; and on numerous recordings with long-time collaborator Ken Aldcroft. Sorbara can also be heard━alongside Tania Gill, Peter Lutek, and Scott Peterson━interpreting Mitchell Akiyama's music for the score to David Hartt's 2015 film/installation, Interval, recently acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
Joe has worked extensively as a workshop facilitator and guest lecturer at the University of Toronto, the Royal Conservatory of Music, Humber College, Carleton University, Vancouver Community College, and elsewhere. He began teaching in the Music Department at the University of Guelph in 2007 in addition to teaching privately and through the Regent Park School of Music in Toronto.
Sorbara is a student of master drummer Jim Blackley with whom he studied for nearly five years from 1998 through 2003. He holds an Honours Bachelor of Fine Arts in Music from York University in Toronto and a Master’s degree in English from the University of Guelph where his work focussed on critical improvisation studies, literary and cultural theory, and pedagogy.
A stalwart creative music organizer, Sorbara was involved in two seminal creative music series’ in Toronto, co-directing series, As Is, along with trumpeter Ellwood Epps for three years beginning in 2000 and the Leftover Daylight Series with many collaborators for the better part of a decade beginning in 2003. He was also a founding board member of the Association of Improvising Musicians Toronto and co-founder of their Interface Series of weekend-long performances featuring many well known improvisers from far and wide. Sorbara also served on the board of the Canadian New Music Network. He is currently a member of the Somewhere There collective and recently began presenting a monthly series of Music By & For Ken Aldcroft, in celebration of his long-time collaborator and friend.