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Live Reviews

Vision Festival X - Day Two, June 15, 2005

By Published: July 21, 2005

Nicholson, clad all in white, slowly circled at the front of the stage as Campbell uncoiled long tones on flugelhorn from his spot next to the screen. Parker plucked resonant, deliberate lines as Drake set up a buoyant dancing rhythm. Campbell's move to flute unleashed skittering boppish lines to accompany the jerky, yet sinuous movement of Nicholson. Parker and Drake were on fire this evening: the piece virtually became a concerto for telepathic rhythm duo, so outstanding was their interaction.

They moved through a dizzying array of rhythmic patterns, shifting in tandem from one to another nearly imperceptibly. Campbell was almost overwhelmed by the concentrated intensity of their rhythmic ebb and flow. The piece closed with Campbell shooting out rapid fire notes matched by Drake's in-the-pocket pulse, while Nicholson stood next to him mouthing and gesticulating like someone interpreting music into sign language.

After Nicholson left the stage, Campbell introduced a new composition "Bozo's Big Top, which, as he made clear, referred to one particular Bozo living in a White House. A fanfare launched the piece, atop a tumbling rhythm, morphing into a flowing improvisation over driving bass and drums. Campbell's long, supple lines finished with whinnying high-register flurries before he snatched the horn away from his lips as if the notes were too hot. Campbell fragmented his exhortations with stop-start pauses, mirrored by Drake, before ending on low growls. Great solo.

Parker carried on in a whirlwind of plucked notes—like rain hitting a window pane. As Parker played, Campbell punctuated his solo with a squeaker, playing it in Drake's ear to make him laugh. The restlessly creative Parker shifted through varying patterns, touching on a riff, only to discard it in favour of another equally mesmerising deviation, before Drake's drums picked up and locked into a repeated motif. Campbell blew on a double flute and suddenly they were into "Amadou Diallo from the trio's wonderful Ethnic Stew and Brew recording.

Campbell shifted to flugelhorn and explored variations on the theme before unveiling lyrics to the tune: "Why did the NYPD have to murder me? A further flugelhorn sortie included simulations of police sirens woven into the smeared and slurred lines, before giving way to a polyrhythmic extravaganza from Drake. He loosened, then contracted the pulse before hitting the riff for a theme restatement and then the final coup de grace: a flurry of 26 notes in unison, echoing the 26 bullets which killed the unfortunate, unarmed Diallo. Yet another well-deserved standing ovation.

Oliver Lake Trio

The Oliver Lake Trio filled the 10 pm slot, reuniting Lake's working band from the late 1970s with Michael Gregory Jackson on electric guitar and Pheeroan Aklaff on drums (behind a more extensive kit than he used last night). Lake may be best known as one quarter of the World Saxophone Quartet, but he is also a poet, painter, and performance artist as well as musician who has composed and performed in a multitude of settings ranging from string trios to big bands.

There was a touch of ritual about the opening, where Lake struck a prayer bowl in front of the mic. Jackson responded with chiming chords and Aklaff gently struck his gongs. Jackson span out single note lines over sparse percussion while Lake chirruped on wood flute, leading to an oriental sounding theme. The rhythm coalesced, with ominous guitar chords leading into Native American cadences, and Lake switched to curved soprano sax to spew out searing, acid-tinged runs, stepping from foot to foot as he yapped, dipped, and dived.

The set comprised a single freewheeling piece encompassing free, blues, and funk, touching briefly on themes before spinning off into group improvisations. No matter how far out he went, Lake's sound always had a blues edge. He deployed the full arsenal of avant effects—multiphonics, squealing upper register trips, fingerpad popping, and gruff honks—in service of his muse.

At times Jackson closely observed Lake, following his lead, but at others he scrabbled along his own path, alternating single-note runs with bright chords, using a stick as a slide and even playing wah-wah funk. Wherever they went, Aklaff's rolling polyrhythms were equal to the task.

An episode towards the end illustrated their approach: Aklaff rumbled threateningly while laying down a funk backbeat, as Lake led into one of his favoured themes: the stop-time riff of "Hasan, from his 1976 classic Holding Together. Alto and guitar united for the theme before Lake broke away with helter-skelter diverging lines. Jackson echoed the upper register whistle and then underpinned Lake's variations with jazzy chords over Aklaff's continued backbeat. They dissolved into a quiet, almost lyrical passage before restating the "Hasan theme and leading into another molten outpouring, working up into a crescendo to finish with a bang. Fantastic—another standing ovation.



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