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Live Reviews

Sons Díhiver 2005, Paris Ė Vision IV "Au coeur des cordes"

By Published: March 25, 2005

A Vietnamese folk song arranged by Bang (from the group's forthcoming CD) follows. It opens with Bang plucking a pizzicato riff, supporting the sweet voice of Co Boi Nguyen, in flowing red and black robes, as she interprets the folk song lyrics. As she sings she punctuates the song by striking two sticks together, accompanied by Nhan Thanh Ngo's twanging zither.

Next up is "Tunnel Rat", introduced by Bang with another Asian sounding pizzicato theme before launching James Spaulding into a driving alto saxophone solo, ratcheting up the excitement levels. The piece concludes with wonderful interplay between Bang, positioned in front of the drums, and Michael Carvin, who plays with a questioning grin on his face. Carvin repeats Bang's phrases back at him, then begins to anticipate and softly shadow the violin lines as they close as one.

"Moments for the KiaMia" (Killed in action, Missing in action) begins with a bass riff and gentle piano introduction before Bang states the poignant melody - Bemkey's only piano solo of the evening follows, hewing close to the melody initially, before cutting loose.

The 40 minute set is curtailed because we are running late, and requires rapid reorganisation by Bang, before the band launches into the final unannounced piece in unison. It draws a fiery solo from Bang, with Bemkey pounding block chords behind him, as they build to a crescendo. The tension drops as Daniels solos without piano backing initially, before turning up the heat once more. Spaulding's solo opens with liquid multiphonic tones and builds in fast bluesy runs over Todd Nicholson's fast walking bass - inspiring Bang to dance at the side of the stage. Bang arranges the piece as it goes along encouraging Co to step forward, which she does with high yelps and long swooping lines, exploiting her wide vocal range. Bang orchestrates a trumpet/alto riff in support, as drum rolls bring the feature to a head. Bang signals them all to cut, leaving the discordant dan tranh in the spotlight. Bang orchestrates bass and drums in stop/start support until finally they are headlong into the closing theme, repeated four times with Bang counting them out, before ending with a real bang! Great stuff and very much to the audience's taste.

The final set of the evening features the return of The Revolutionary Ensemble, a classic 1970s underground free jazz group which reformed for the 2004 Vision Festival, where their set was so successful that they recorded a new CD. The line up of Leroy Jenkins on violin, Sirone on bass and Jerome Cooper on drums was somewhat esoteric at the time and their emphasis on flowing three way improvisations, blended with composed frameworks, still sounds fresh.

Sirone stands alone on stage with his bass - playing a few notes then stopping, listening, setting off again - occasional melodic fragments or motifs surface - very disjointed - accompanied by moans, groans and grunts, and looking up to the heavens with exaggerated facial expressions. Sirone is a very muscular, physical player with a solid darkly resonant tone, who plucks the bass with great force. After five minutes he is joined by Cooper and then by Jenkins, who launches into a theme as Sirone's soliloquy coalesces into a riff with Cooper, which it becomes apparent was the subtly intimated thread holding together the bass introduction.

Jenkins and Sirone conjure a thicket of dense contrapuntal lines while Cooper forges motifs based on the opening riff. Jenkins bows a lengthy exposition on the theme, then gives way to a controlled, deliberate and structured solo by Cooper where he extemporises on the theme but always finishes with the same 2 or 3 note pattern on either snare or cymbals.

A cerebral line by Jenkins opens the second piece, accompanied by Sirone reading from a score. At start of several pieces Sirone puts on glasses and laughs as he reads the score, almost as if saying 'they can't expect me to play that'. The two interlocking lines lead seamlessly into a fluent group improvisation with Cooper beating softly on his snare with two mallets. As Cooper stokes up volume, Jenkins and Sirone bow the piece to a fiery conclusion.

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