Ross Hammond's In the Flow Festival, an annual celebration of improvisational music, found itself in a state of flow this year.
Or as Hammond said recently, "It's evolving."
Hammond, the festival founder and a musician himself, has refined the event which enters its sixth consecutive year of bringing creative music to midtown Sacramento venues when it kicks off Thursday by offering fewer but more-focused shows.
"This year we're not doing the all-day festival like we've done the last five years," Hammond said. "We're concentrating on having great, can't-miss shows in the evenings."
This year's main festival takes place over five nights, Thursday through May 13, at four venues. More than 20 groups will perform at Antiquité Maison Privee, Bows & Arrows, Luna's Cafe and the Midtown Village Cafe.
An early free festival preview show with the band Grex and the Harley White Orchestra has already been presented at Old Soul 40 Acres.
In the Flow features primarily instrumental music, mostly jazz-related. But it's all about creativity and experimentation.
The mainstream-oriented Capital Jazz Project will perform, as will the New Orleans-inspired Element Brass Band. For more outside tastes, there's Inertia, a new duo of percussionist Alex Jenkins and trombonist Dyne Eifertsen, or Bay Area bassist Lisa Mezzacappa's Bait & Switch, which honors artists such as Ornette Coleman, Henry Threadgill, and Eric Dolphy through Mezzacappa's original music.
Hammond said he looks forward to the Seattle saxophone-and-drum-duo Bad Luck, which also drops in judicious use of electronics and loops.
The festival also features two large ensembles: Phillip Greenlief conducting avant- garde avatar Anthony Braxton's Composition 334 and Tom Djll conducting Sacramento's Thin Air Orchestra.
Hammond performs with veteran drummer Scott Amendola in their long-running Lovely Builders, as well as with his quartet, which celebrates the follow-up to last year's nationally noted "Adored" album with the brand new "Cathedrals."
The quartet features the Los Angeles-based musicians Vinny Golia on saxes, Alex Cline on drums and Steuart Liebig on bass.
He closes out the festival with his ElectroPoetic Coffee, a duo with poet NSAA.
Even though he's scaled back the number of groups performing, Hammond said the festival's audience has continued to grow each year. And he's far from finished with the format tweaks. Next year, he envisions stretching the shows over a month of weekend nights.
"Presenting it as a festival makes for such a long day," he said. "Next year I'd like it to be more of a series, so we can keep the name out there longer."
SIXTH ANNUAL IN THE FLOW FESTIVAL
In the Flow Festival passes are available online at www.brownpapertickets. com/event/374650
The $30 festival pass is good for admission to all shows that week and includes a festival T-shirt. Admission is $10 per day.
Thursday at Bows & Arrows (1815 19th St.)
6:30 p.m. Element Brass Band
7:30 p.m. Gentleman Surfer
8:30 p.m. Lovely Builders
9:30 p.m. Phillip Greenlief conducting Anthony Braxton's Composition 334
Friday at Luna's Cafe (1414 16th St.)
7:30 p.m. Dave Lynch Group
8:30 p.m. Steve Adams and Scott Walton Duo
9:30 p.m. Inertia
10:30 p.m. Kris Tiner Trio
Saturday at Antiquité Maison Privee (2114 P St.)
7 p.m. Skeleton Wire 8 p.m. Bad Luck
9 p.m. Capital Jazz Project
10 p.m. Thin Air Orchestra, conducted by Tom Djll
Next Sunday at Midtown Village Cafe (1827 I St.)
3 p.m. Cave Women
3:45 p.m. Kevin Corcoran
4:30 p.m. Instagon
Next Sunday at Antiquité Maison Privee (2114 P St.)
6:30 p.m. Lisa Mezzacappa's Bait & Switch
7:30 p.m. Ross Hammond Quartet
8:30 p.m. Hearts + Horses
9:30 p.m. Vinny Golia Septet
May 13 at Luna's Cafe (1414 16th St.)
6:30 p.m. Nagual
7:30 p.m. Rent Romus' Life Blood Trio
8:30 p.m. Bristle
9:30 p.m. ElectroPoetic Coffee
Call The Bee's Call The Bee's Marcus Crowder, (916) 321-1120. Follow him on Twitter @marcuscrowder.