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Live Reviews

Vision Festival X - Day Three, June 16, 2005

By Published: July 22, 2005

Drake echoed Anderson's licks as he played them—the result of years of playing together. At one stage, while everyone else mopped their brows, Drake fashioned a monster solo, majoring on his hi-hat: his up and down strokes became a blur as he pummelled his kit, almost as if he had something to prove following Isaiah Spencer's appropriation of some of his licks. Parker also is a virtuoso instrumentalist. In one solo he contrasted high bowing against the bridge with a second voice simultaneously brought forth by strokes and later plucks on his lowest open string.

The closing episode in the seamless improvisation saw Jordan wailing over arco bass, before expostulating strangulated yelping cries while the rest of the band stood motionless. Slow vibrato worrying the upper registers drew Anderson back in, echoing and bending notes for a mirror image of the opening duet—marked by the way they listened and responded to each other—then both hit a high rising note and finished in harmony. The audience exploded into applause for a marvellous, pleasingly symmetrical end to a high octane set—and yet another standing ovation!

Thurman Barker's Strike Force

The final set offered another Chicago connection featuring Thurman Barker, a veteran of the AACM who has played with many of its leading lights—Anthony Braxton, Muhal Richard Abrams, and Roscoe Mitchell—as well as Cecil Taylor later, among others. Strike Force, his all-percussion ensemble, featured Bryan Carrott on vibes, Ray Mantilla on congas, and Eli Fontaine and Wilson Moorman on assorted percussion.

The stage was festooned with all manner of strikeable objects: tympani, marimba, vibes, congas, frame drums, and xylophone, as well as Barker's drum set. All five men were reading from scores, which were essential to organise all this firepower into a coherent sound and deliver Barker's layered compositions. Barker directed operations from behind his kit. Fontaine carried the tune of the first piece on xylophone over a cadenced riff from the vibes, before the group explored Barker's charts. Carrott later soloed expansively on vibes over a pre-ordained shifting backdrop, until a gong signalled the transition to a theme restatement, this time by all the tuned instruments.

The next piece started in a very measured fashion with Barker alone at his kit before the theme kicked in with chord changes from the tuned percussion. The piece included features for all the band members within its fabric, starting with an action-packed conga solo from Mantilla and moving through layers of overlapping sound.

I was too tired to stay after the second number and stumbled out into the night in search of a cab and the solace of my bed. After all, there was another long day in store tomorrow...

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