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Live Reviews

Vision Festival X - Day Five, June 18, 2005 (Part 2)

By Published: August 28, 2005

There was a deep spiritual aura surrounding McPhee's expositions, sometimes explicit when he referenced spirituals and gospel songs, but otherwise implicit in the lyrical flowering of his deeply resonant lines. Such was McPhee's gravitas that he inevitably influenced and shaped the improvisations. On tenor McPhee had a powerful burnished tone which was embellished with great juddering honks. His gob smacking technique was well integrated into the fabric of the music. He blended voice and fractured squawking tenor into a single tone, to which Freedman responded with some vocalised bass clarinet of her own.

Freedman was no slouch and strived to match McPhee blow for blow, with coughing yelps, delicate high filigrees and darkly bubbling pops and crackles. McPhee was simply magnificent - left unaccompanied on tenor, he generated smouldering intensity, building in volume and in abstractedness of line, before diverging into grace notes and curlicues of sound, then blowing long tones as he pattered his key pads. In response Freedman disconnected her mouthpiece and expounded high squeaks and duck calls, muffling it with her hand, for a duet of susurrating murmurs.

They played five pieces of increasing brevity. McPhee began the last piece with exhaling breath sounds through his tenor and making rhythmic patterns with the keys while Freedman responded with whispers, quiet burps and hushed tones. McPhee used circular breathing once again to keep his delicate repeating sequences airborne, with periodic eruptions of squawks, until his breath dissipated into silence, drawing forth another richly deserved standing ovation from the audience.

Peter Brötzmann & Nasheet Waits

At long last the duo of Peter Brötzmann and Nasheet Waits took the stage. Brötzmann's muscular tenor launched into a take no prisoners opening - and continued at that level in frenetic oratory. Waits (son of drummer Freddie Waits) laid down a polyrhythmic tumult in support. Brötzmann shook his head in full blown rapture until he gradually subsided into a reflective ballad with a wide vibrato growl. Waits was a surefooted foil for Brötzmann - a powerhouse when required - but also allowing enough air for the improvisations to breathe. At the close of one solo he expounded a bop pattern with his brushes, conjuring up the spirit of Max Roach, before Brötzmann rejoined to blast away any such resemblance, rolling multiphonics and overtones into one unique voice, as if he is striving to play all the notes at once.

But anyone who thinks Brötzmann is all sturm und drang hasn't listened properly. Sure there was copious overblown wailing and screaming, but there was also enough light and shade to demonstrate that the ferocity is only one side of the equation. The other featured quiet whimpering and delicate tracery, and the use of simple motifs, like the "Master of a Small House theme which has featured in several recent recordings and concerts, since its debut on the marvellous "Tales Out of Time set with Joe McPhee.

The third piece summed it all up: Brötzmann opened with lyrical tenor over cymbal washes, before extemporising a simple "theme , like some long forgotten hymn. Waits accompanied sparely with mallets rolled on toms and snare. Brötzmann cranked up the intensity in majestic testifying mode, amplifying the overtones with his whole body swaying from side to side, before becoming tender and plaintive once more to finish. They improvised four pieces in all and finished to a standing ovation.

An outstanding evening's music, and still the promise of yet more delights to come on the last day of the Festival...



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