In 1971, a young public arts organization called American International Sculptors Symposiums was formed by Verna Gillis and Bradford Graves to foster public art projects.

The Vermont International Sculptors Symposium in Burlington in the summer of 1971 was its first project and eight sculptures fabricated in concrete were placed in rest areas along the Vermont Interstate and are still there today.

AISS, the abbreviated version, rented space at 549 West 52nd Street for sculptors.

Bradford Graves, sculptor.  created most of his work on the 8th floor of this building.

In 1976 AISS launched POETRY IN PUBLIC PLACES which placed obe poem car per month in 1000 buses throughout the state of NY. This project won several awards and lasted for four years. It became the prototype for similar projects throughout the country.

The next evolution of the organization was in 1979, when Verna Gillis opened SOUNDSCAPE, a multi-cultural concept in music programming. Gillis, a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology, presented contemporary music and musicians from broadly based cultural backgrounds. From 1979 through 1984, SOUNDSCAPE produced out of its space at 500 West 52nd Street, the first multi-cultural performance space in New York City. LIVE IN SOUNDSCAPE a 9-CD series on DIW documents those years.

In the ensuing years, Verna Gillis shaped and managed the careers of Daniel Ponce, Youssou Ndour, Yomo Toro, Carlinhos Brown, Salif Keita and her most recent and ongoing collaboration with Roswell Rudd.




Photo credit: Alex Troesch

Roswell Rudd

“…a trombonist of such sweeping power and majesty that he transcends all styles.”
John Wilson, The New York Times

“In his sure hands this rather neglected instrument seems to take on a new life.”
Braad Thomsen, Politiken, Copenhagen

“Rudd gets more trombone out of his instrument than any colleague, past or present.”
Whitney Balliet, New Yorker Magazine

“The key transitional figure of the ’60’s was Rudd…in his own masterful album, Everywhere, he demonstrates a revitalization of expressive techniques and dynamic sensitivity.”
Gary Giddins, Village Voice

“Rudd extracts sounds from the trombone that go back to New Orleans and further ahead than anyone has yet reached.”
Nat Hentoff, Cosmopolitan

“You blow in this end of the trombone and sound comes out the other end and disrupts the cosmos.”
Roswell Rudd



About the SOUNDSCAPE CD Series on Universal

Roswell Rudd’s MALIcool,  May 2002

“The haunting beauty of the group sound is evident from the opening “Bamako”, the simplicity of its harmonies balanced by the shifting of constant cross-rhythms…The virtuosic abilities of the traditional players is given free space here, and is open to your admiration….this is something on a higher plane that listeners should relish.”

Anthony Troon, Jazz Review

“A musical work full of tenderness, at the meeting place of two worlds.”

La Voix du Nord,

“On MALIcool, there’s a real mutual effort to listen, to find a path to each other. And that is very rare.”

Le Nouvel Observateur

“It’s a beautiful fusion….The adapatation of these Malians to Roswell Rudd’s phrasing (even on Thelonious Monk) is surprising. A very, very good record.”

La Marseillaise

“Now Rudd amazes us again with a fascinating west African influenced album.  MALIcool documents one of the rare encounters in which there is a real fusion between Jazz and African music and not just a superficial merger.”

“Something happened between these two creators, Roswell and Toumani…Something that a thousand million polished productions, images from a tamed Africa, will never possess…And everything about this journey rests on a latent ambiguity, the precarious balance of chemistry.”

Arnaud Robert,  Vibrations


Its musical consciousness features artistic freedom, experimentation and curiosity about what happens when music and cultures mix

Robert  Palmer, The New York Times
July 9, 1982

SOUNDSCAPE presentations still offer a more provocative mix of musical directions than other New York concerts

Robert Palmer, The New York Times
March 6, 1985

With a fan’s enthusiasm and a connoisseur’s modesty, Gillis has been giving the city ear-openers for years, and thanks to Gillis’ far-flung contacts, SOUNDSCAPE is plugged into the European and Asian and jazz communities, and the Caribbean-Latin-Nuyorican nexus

Jon Pareles, The Village Voice
Jan 5, 1982

It’s a dream called SOUNDSCAPE. A space born of a concept, and cleared in the maelstrom of the city where music weird and wondrous can flourish

Richard M. Sudhalter, The New York Post
Sept. 18, 1983

Verna Gillis knows more about the world’s music, where styles came from and how they have evolved than many musicians

Robert Palmer, The New York Times
July 9, 1982

SOUNDSCAPE today stands as something of a beacon on the New York scene. Few innovators are themselves this generous, but SOUNDSCAPE is possibly the most important club in the free-music world and it deserves such accolades. All jazz visitors to New York should make SOUNDSCAPE an early port of call, and to make their own contribution to the breaking down of musical barriers

The Wire, London Summer

The level throughout the performance was very high indeed, which is to the credit of Verna Gillis who organized the concert

John Rockwell, The New York Times
March 10, 1975

Musical boundaries crumble and re-emerge in new forms several nights a week at SOUNDSCAPE

The Westsider
June 25, 1981

SOUNDSCAPE always presents music imperatively worth hearing

Michael Shore, The Soho Weekly News
December 20, 1979

Verna Gillis and performers are making musical history in Clinton at SOUNDSCAPE

Bob Kalin, The Clinton Community Press
November, 1980

In SOUNDSCAPE’s imaginative series, pop idols with mass followings at home bring their magic to the world market

Connoisseur Magazine
June 1988

The artists new to New York are being presented by organizations that book such varied adventurous and international work all year long…a tribute to the taste and savvy of energetic producers like SOUNDSCAPE’s Verna Gillis

7 Days
June 15, 1988

No one has done with jazz what Verna Gillis’s SOUNDSCAPE did when she offered a look at the condition of various vanguards at Irving Plaza

Gene Santoro, The Nation
Sept. 19, 1988


The whole package of Interpretations of Monk was put together by SOUNDSCAPE doyenne Verna Gillis and was never less than stunning

Lee Jeske, Downbeat
February, 1982

It was always a charge to head up to SOUNDSCAPESOUNDSCAPE always bristled with expectation and tension. And on most any given night, there was the sound of surprise, the fecund creativity that’s compelling and maddening because a brilliant moment can only linger in the listener’s imagination

Don Palmer, Frank Lowe Quintet

Verna Gillis’ SOUNDSCAPE , celebrated for the adventurousness of its programme policy and as we see in hindsight, it was a sounding board for what later became known as the “downtown” scene.

Steve Lake, Material

From 1979 through 1984 producer extraordinaire Verna Gillis offered an open vista in her performance loft SOUNDSCAPE on “music from everywhere.”

Howard Mandel, SUN RA

This magnificent afternoon and evening of music was the inspired conception of SOUNDSCAPE producer Verna Gillis. It took nearly 13 years to see commercial release, but now we have the concert in its entirety, and as a tribute to Monk it is untouchable

Bob Blumenthal, CD Review
November 1994

It’s rare when one event substantially captures the gist of an era or a great artist’s legacy, but a certain November 1981 event delineated both the emerging sensibility of the 80’s with the legacy of the then-ailing Thelonious Monk. Finally issued as a four-CD set, the long anticipated documentation of INTERPRETATIONS OF MONK (*****) confirms the concert’s legendary status, as it is one of the most rewarding recordings of recent years.

Bill Shoemaker, Downbeat
November 1994