Murcof, Hamiet Bluiett, Broadcast and Joshua Redman

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(le) Poisson Rouge

October 14, 2009

Murcof, whose real name is Fernando Corona, hails from Tijuana. His distinctive form of minimalist electronica lately seems to be moving closer towards classical music, and simultaneously becoming even more skeletal in nature. He's been active for nearly a decade, and has evolved from a minimal house pulsation towards collaborative works with massed strings and operatically-trained voices, inhabiting spaces where (sometimes) nothing much happens. It seems like the word hasn't yet spread to a New York audience, although the (l)PR's attentive gathering deserved congratulations for its zero tolerance to extraneous noise or gratuitous fidgeting. This was to be among the most hushed performances in the entire history of humankind.

Firstly, the pianist Francesco Tristano Schlime (resident in Barcelona) gave a delicate recital of Girolamo Frescobaldi pieces (at least this is what was advertised), playing without notation, and with a monkish concentration. At a certain stage, the sound of some piano tinnily emanating from the mixer-guy's headphones seemed unmistakable but, upon reflection, what I heard might have been the first subliminal tweaking made by Murcof himself who, almost unnoticed, had sat at his laptop table. Supposedly, an interval would separate two sets, but instead Murcof seamlessly began to inject transparent striations, subtly stealing Schlime's essence and spreading it across the club's surround-sound speaker system.

For most of the ninety-minute performance, this duo displayed a magnificent restraint. Rarely can such refined sounds be a possibility in public. Partly thanks to a totally captivated audience, Murcof and Schlime set about transporting the assembled into a state of near bodily removal. The pair wove an atmosphere that was utterly unique. Murcof would set up faint repeats of Schlime's patterns, while the pianist would wander on to the next phrase. The build-up was selective, though, instead of being a predictably tiered piling. Murcof would emit tiny alarm-like blips over at one side of the room, then rumble out a subterranean bass foundation. Only in the last fifteen minutes or so did the pulse quicken into an almost-nightclub trot, helping the acolytes to find some kind of release. Murcof latched onto a piano repeat, setting up a thrilling electro-riff. The fact that such an extremely slow build-up led to this state was a marvel of seductive technique, an immense foreplay session, just for eternity's sake.

Hamiet Bluiett

Sistas' Place

October 17, 2009

This was simply billed as a Hamiet Bluiett gig, but surprises were in store. Firstly, the baritone saxophonist was going to be playing as a duo with the Chicagoan percussionist Kahil El'Zabar
Kahil El'Zabar
Kahil El'Zabar
, the latter heavily influenced by the sound of African drumming. He plays what looks like a modernised version of a Senegalese sabar drum, but El'Zabar's voice is almost as important to his contribution. The house is full at Sistas' Place, on Nostrand Avenue, in the Bedford-Stuyvesant district of Brooklyn. The intimate joint has a buzzing atmosphere, fuelled by rum and vodka. Its weekend jazz nights are organized by trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah.

Bluiett is principally known as a member of the World Saxophone Quartet, and this was going to be a prime opportunity to hear his blowing on a showcase platform. Well, not exactly, as very shortly after the first set's beginning, Doctor Sebi began his clinic. It's difficult to describe exactly what Doctor Sebi does, as this Honduran performer is part poet, part rapper, part storyteller, part ranter and part salesman (of himself). He's a pathologist, herbalist, biochemist and naturalist. It's virtually guaranteed that you've never witnessed anyone quite like Doctor Sebi taking to the stage. He's humorous at the same time as being vaguely threatening, as if his main mission is to extract demons from life's complacent humdrum. His tales are winding, wordy and sometimes completely askew: Sebi has a unique delivery for his unique content.

Bluiett mostly played the baritone, but turned to clarinet and piano to help build up the "opera" that was developing around the soul-chanting of "Veggie Deli." This is the "libretto," endlessly repeated, moving from amusing to affecting to absurd to strangely profound. Even after a long ramble by Sebi, with Bluiett and El'Zabar eventually becoming completely silent, the "Veggie Deli" repeats returned. Even after the intermission, and the bulk of the second (mostly instrumental) set, the evening finished with the by-now hilarious "Veggie Deli" refrain. Then, guest singer Chandra took to the stage for a vocal improvisation that veered from conventional song to abstract invocation. This segment was wild and loose, but never tedious or slack. Even though much of the night had the feel of a casual jam, it also appeared bizarrely pre-planned: striking elements would recede and return, perfectly crafted in their spontaneity.


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