Ava Mendoza

Ava Mendoza
Ava Mendoza-3537.jpg
Background information
Born (1983-06-18) June 18, 1983 (age 39)
Miami, Florida, U.S.
Genresexperimental rock, avant-garde jazz, improvised music, free jazz
Occupation(s)composer, musician
LabelsTzadik, Resipiscent, New Atlantis, Unrock, Sleeping Giant Glossolalia

Ava Mendoza is an American guitarist, vocalist, and composer.[1]

An avant-garde artist whose work is described as traversing a number of genres,[2] Mendoza has performed with a wide range of musicians, including Nels Cline,[3] Matana Roberts,[4] Nick Zinner,[5] Jon Irabagon,[6] William Hooker,[7] William Parker,[8] Fred Frith,[9] The Violent Femmes,[10] Weasel Walter,[11] tUnE-yArDs,[12] Jamaaladeen Tacuma,[13] Rova Saxophone Quartet,[14] Moppa Elliott,[15] Negativland, and Malcolm Mooney.[16] Mendoza also leads the avant-rock band Unnatural Ways, a trio with Tim Dahl and Sam Ospovat.[1]

Early life and career[]

Mendoza grew up in Southern California before moving to Michigan to attend high school at Interlochen Arts Academy, where she studied classical guitar;[17] outside of school, she began improvising and playing in rock and punk bands.[18] Mendoza later enrolled at Mills College in Oakland, California,[19] studying with Fred Frith[20] while attaining her BA in Intermedia Arts.[21] After graduating in 2006, Mendoza continued performing extensively in Oakland and the wider Bay Area. Among her many projects and collaborations, Mendoza released a solo album, Shadow Stories;[22] started her band Unnatural Ways;[1] co-formed QUOK, a trio with Weasel Walter and Tim Dahl;[11] and performed duo improvisations with Nels Cline.[23]

In 2011, she was included in the Guitar World feature "10 Female Guitarists You Should Know"[24] and contributed to the $100 Guitar Project, in which Nick Didkovsky and Chuck O’Meara performed and recorded on a guitar which they then circulated among over 65 guitarists, including Mendoza, Elliott Sharp, Mike Keneally, Fred Frith, Henry Kaiser, Keith Rowe, and Nels Cline. Each musician autographed and recorded a piece on the guitar, and the resulting works were released on Bridge Records in 2013.[25]

In 2012, Mendoza collaborated with tUnE-yArDs to compose a live score for Buster Keaton: Four Short Films , performed at the 55th San Francisco International Film Festival.[12]

In 2013, Mendoza moved from Oakland, California to Brooklyn, New York,[1] where she has since performed at venues including Roulette Intermedium, as part of the Vision Festival;[26] National Sawdust, as part of John Zorn's Commissioning Series[3] and in a performance of his 1984 "game piece" Cobra;[27] Rockefeller Plaza, with Nick Zinner’s 41 Strings;[5] and The Stone, where she was given a week-long artist residency.[28]

In 2015, Mendoza released the first of three albums as bandleader of Unnatural Ways. The band's first album, featuring Dominique Leone (synthesizer, keyboards) and Nick Tamburro (drums), was recorded prior to Mendoza's departure from California. After moving to the East Coast, Mendoza sought out local bandmates; by the time the self-titled debut was released, Unnatural Ways had solidified as a new trio with Tim Dahl (bass) and Sam Ospovat (drums).[1] This lineup is featured on 2016's We Aliens, released on Zorn's Tzadik Records, and 2019's The Paranoia Party, which Mendoza describes as being "about aliens and being alien: political paranoia, inclusion, exclusion, migration, immigration, border crossing, alter egos and alternate realities".[29] In 2016, Mendoza also released a split with Sir Richard Bishop[30] and a collaborative record with Maxime Petit and Will Guthrie.

In 2017, Mendoza contributed an essay to Arcana VIII : musicians on music,[31] a special anniversary collected ion in John Zorn's Arcana series.

She has recorded as a member of Jon Irabagon's I Don't Hear Nothin' but the Blues,[6] the William Hooker Trio,[7] and Moppa Elliott's Acceleration Due To Gravity.[15] Mendoza also performs with Malcolm Mooney as a duo and in his Eleventh Planet, a project the Can vocalist began in 2019 with Mendoza, Alexis Marcelo, Steve Shelley, Daniel Moreno, and Devin Brahja Waldman.[16]

Mendoza was included among the "rising star guitarists" of the DownBeat Critics Poll in 2015,[32] 2017,[33] 2018,[34] 2019,[35] and 2020.[36]


As leader/co-leader[]

Release year Artist Title Label Personnel
2010 Ava Mendoza Shadow Stories Resipiscent solo
2012 Ava Mendoza with Nick Tamburro Quit your Unnatural Ways[37] Weird Forest Mendoza, Nick Tamburro
2013 Jacob Lindsay / Ava Mendoza / Damon Smith / Weasel Walter Jus Balance Point Acoustics Lindsay, Mendoza, Smith, Walter
2015 Unnatural Ways Unnatural Ways[38] New Atlantis Mendoza with Dominique Leone, Nick Tamburro
2016 Unnatural Ways We Aliens[39] Tzadik Mendoza with Tim Dahl, Sam Ospovat
2016 Sir Richard Bishop & Ava Mendoza (split) Ivory Tower Unrock Bishop, Mendoza
2016 Ava Mendoza / Maxime Petit / Will Guthrie Ava Mendoza / Maxime Petit / Will Guthrie Ranch / BeCoq Mendoza, Petit, Guthrie
2019 Unnatural Ways The Paranoia Party[40] Sleeping Giant Glossolalia Mendoza with Tim Dahl, Sam Ospovat
2020 Mendoza / Anderson / Gauci Studio Sessions Vol. 4[41] Gaucimusic Mendoza, Vijay Anderson, Stephen Gauci
2021 fluke-mogul / Liberatore / Mattrey / Mendoza Death In the Gilded Age[42] Tripticks Tapes gabby fluke-mogul, Matteo Liberatore, Joanna Mattrey, Mendoza

As side-person[]

Release year Artist Title Label Personnel
2012 Jon Raskin and Carla Harryman Open Box Tzadik Raskin & Harryman with Liz Allbee, Aurora Josephson, Mendoza, Gino Robair, Roham Sheikhani, John Shiurba
2014 Zachary James Watkins Mixed Raced[43] Land and Sea Watkins' compositions, performed by John Shiurba, Mendoza, Jason Hoopes, Christina Stanley
2018 Chaser Chaser Not Unlike Dominika Michalowska, Mendoza, Shayna Dulberger, Oran Canfield
2018 Sean Noonan's Pavees Dance Tan Man’s Hat RareNoise Noonan, Malcolm Mooney, Mendoza, Alexis Marcelo, Jamaaladeen Tacuma
2018 William Hooker Trio Remembering Astral Spirits Hooker, Mendoza, Damon Smith
2019 Moppa Elliott Acceleration Due to Gravity Hot Cup Records Nate Wooley, Dave Taylor, Matt Nelson, Bryan Murray, Kyle Saulnier, Mendoza, George Burton, Elliott, Mike Pride
2019 Negativland True False Seeland Negativland (Ian Allen, Peter Conheim, Mark Hosler, Don Joyce, Jon Leidecker, Richard Lyons, David Wills) with Nava Dunkelman, Ava Mendoza, The Not Normal Animal Chorus, Prairie Prince, M. C. Schmidt
2020 I Don't Hear Nothin' but the Blues Anatomical Snuffbox F Magellan Music Jon Irabagon with Mendoza, Mick Barr, Mike Pride
2020 Negativland The World Will Decide Seeland Negativland with Kyle Bruckmann, Drew Daniel, Tom Dimuzio, Jem Doulton, Nava Dunkelman, Kristin Erickson, Steve Fisk, Erich Hubner, Mendoza, Prairie Prince, M. C. Schmidt
2020 Nate Wooley Seven Storey Mountain VI[44] Pyroclastic Records Wooley with Samara Lubelski, C. Spencer Yeh, Chris Corsano, Ben Hall, Ryan Sawyer, Susan Alcorn, Julien Desprez, Mendoza, Isabelle O’Connell, Emily Manzo, Yoon Sun Choi, Mellissa Hughes, Megan Schubert
2021 William Parker Mayan Space Station[45] AUM Fidelity Parker (bass, compositions), Mendoza (electric guitar), Gerald Cleaver (drums)

External links[]


  1. ^ a b c d e Cohan, Brad (15 May 2015). "Meet Ava Mendoza, the Blues and Punk Brutarian Who's Better at Guitar Than You". VICE. Retrieved 16 January 2021.
  2. ^ Ham, Robert (9 December 2019). "Avant-Garde Guitarist Ava Mendoza On Juggling Projects and Making Music About Borders". Portland Mercury. Retrieved 18 January 2021.
  3. ^ a b Longley, Martin (27 March 2019). "Ava Mendoza, Nels Cline & Ralph Towner". All About Jazz. Retrieved 17 January 2021.
  4. ^ Smith, Steve (August 2016). "Matana Roberts". The New Yorker. Retrieved 17 January 2021.
  5. ^ a b Doyle, Patrick (15 July 2019). "Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Nick Zinner Recruits Indie Rock Friends for Massive Orchestral Performance". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 18 January 2021.
  6. ^ a b Ackermann, Karl (26 October 2020). "I Don't Hear Nothin' But The Blues: I Don't Hear Nothin' But The Blues Volume 3: Anatomical Snuffbox". All About Jazz. Retrieved 17 January 2021.
  7. ^ a b McDowell, Eric (18 March 2018). "William Hooker Trio: Remembering". Spectrum Culture. Retrieved 17 January 2021.
  8. ^ "William Parker Trio". Skopje Jazz Festival. Retrieved 17 January 2021.
  9. ^ "The Stone in December". Avant Music News. 29 November 2016. Retrieved 17 January 2021.
  10. ^ "Violent Femmes, Ava Mendoza". The Chicago Reader. 2016. Retrieved 17 January 2021.
  11. ^ a b Cohan, Brad (16 August 2012). "ugEXPLODE Musicians Mary Halvorson, Jessica Pavone, Ava Mendoza, Sandy Ewen And Damon Smith On Shredding, New York Vs. The Bay Area, And Houston's Improv and Drinking Scene". The Village Voice. Retrieved 17 January 2021.
  12. ^ a b Duncan, Byard. "Tune-Yards Compose Live Score for Buster Keaton Short Films". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 17 January 2021.
  13. ^ "Guitar Moderne Festival VIII". Guitar Moderne. 11 September 2014. Retrieved 17 January 2021.
  14. ^ "Rova Saxophone Quartet Stone Residency". Avant Music News. 15 December 2015. Retrieved 17 January 2021.
  15. ^ a b Wilson, Jerome (23 May 2019). "Moppa Elliott: Jazz Band/Rock Band/Dance Band". All About Jazz. Retrieved 17 January 2021.
  16. ^ a b "Malcolm Mooney and the Eleventh Planet". AdHoc. Retrieved 17 January 2021.
  17. ^ "Senior Recital, Micah Allen, soprano; Ava Mendoza, guitar, 2001-05-08". Archives of Interlochen Center for the Arts. Retrieved 17 January 2021.
  18. ^ Gluckin, Tzvi (7 January 2016). "Ava Mendoza: From Trad to Rad". Premier Guitar. Retrieved 16 January 2021.
  19. ^ "What Can I Do with a Music Degree from Mills?". Mills College. Retrieved 17 January 2021.
  20. ^ McCabe, Bret (13 March 2015). "On 'Unnatural Ways,' guitarist Ava Mendoza showcases her indelible way of blending genres and sound". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 17 January 2021.
  21. ^ Wall, Patrick (11 March 2015). "What Ava Mendoza's Obscurity Says About Guitar Music Double Standards". The Post and Courier. Retrieved 17 January 2021.
  22. ^ Leicht, David (14 July 2010). "Review: Ava Mendoza "Shadow Stories" CD (Resipiscent Records, 2010)". Work & Worry. Retrieved 17 January 2021.
  23. ^ "Spotlight: Ava Mendoza". Guitar Moderne. 20 December 2012. Retrieved 17 January 2021.
  24. ^ Whitmore, Laura B. (20 December 2011). "10 Female Guitarists You Should Know". Guitar World. Retrieved 17 January 2021.
  25. ^ Kozinn, Allan (2 April 2013). "A Generic Guitar Inspires a Distinctive Project". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 January 2021.
  26. ^ "Stream a playlist compiled by Vision Festival". The Wire. October 2020. Retrieved 18 January 2021.
  27. ^ Walls, Seth Colter (2 July 2018). "Review: A Tour Through the Hyperactive World of John Zorn". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 January 2021.
  28. ^ Cohan, Brad (30 September 2016). "The Month in Weird: October's Best Avant-Garde Concerts". The Observer. Retrieved 17 January 2021.
  29. ^ Chapstick, Kelsey (19 February 2019). "Hear noise-rock trio Unnatural Ways evoke Siouxsie Sioux on raucous new song". Revolver. Retrieved 17 January 2021.
  30. ^ "Richard Bishop / Ava Mendoza: Ivory Tower". AllMusic.com. Retrieved 17 January 2021.
  31. ^ Mendoza, Ava (2017). "Self-help: Mendoza vs. Mendoza". In Zorn, John (ed.). Arcana VIII : musicians on music. Arcana. Vol. 8. Hips Road. ISBN 9780978833732.
  32. ^ "Critics Poll: Complete Results" (PDF). DownBeat. August 2015. Retrieved 17 January 2021.
  33. ^ "Critics Poll: Complete Results" (PDF). DownBeat. August 2017. Retrieved 16 January 2021.
  34. ^ "Critics Poll: Complete Results" (PDF). DownBeat. August 2018.
  35. ^ "Critics Poll: Complete Results" (PDF). DownBeat. August 2019. Retrieved 16 January 2021.
  36. ^ "Critics Poll: Complete Results" (PDF). DownBeat. August 2020. Retrieved 16 January 2021.
  37. ^ "Review of Quit your Unnatural Ways, Weird Forest, 2012". NeuGuitars. 20 October 2016. Retrieved 17 January 2021.
  38. ^ Astarita, Glenn (8 July 2015). "Ava Mendoza: Unnatural Ways". All About Jazz. Retrieved 17 January 2021.
  39. ^ Aguzzi, Andrea (22 October 2016). "Review of We Aliens by Unnatural Ways, Tzadik, 2016". NeuGuitars. Retrieved 17 January 2021.
  40. ^ Bellino, Vince (21 March 2019). "Full Album Stream: Unnatural Ways – "The Paranoia Party"". Decibel Magazine. Retrieved 18 January 2021.
  41. ^ Sharpe, John (22 March 2020). "Mendoza / Anderson / Gauci: Studio Sessions Vol. 4". All About Jazz. Retrieved 17 January 2021.
  42. ^ Rose, Brad (17 August 2021). "fluke-mogul / Liberatore / Mattrey / Mendoza "Death In the Gilded Age"". Foxy Digitalis. Retrieved 26 August 2021.
  43. ^ Diamond, Samuel (4 December 2014). "Zachary James Watkins - "Positively Right On (for Fred Hampton): Mvt. III"". Tiny Mix Tapes. Retrieved 17 January 2021.
  44. ^ Felsenthal, Daniel (4 November 2020). "Nate Wooley: Seven Storey Mountain VI". Pitchfork. Retrieved 16 January 2021.
  45. ^ Corroto, Mark (9 June 2021). "William Parker: Mayan Space Station". All About Jazz. Retrieved 31 July 2021.