Vision Festival X, - Day Six, June 19, 2005
Tentative percussion and cello scrapings introduced a lengthy suite like piece featuring composed sections read from scores with freer extemporisations. Brown embellished the opening theme with distorted cadenzas at the end of each line, before Levin plucked a bluesy cello riff over rolling percussion from Takeishi. As for his appearance with Anthony Braxton at last years London Jazz Festival, Takeishi sat on a low dais before a customised kit, comprising gongs and frame drums, which gave the ensemble a distinctive chamber sound. The space allowed by percussion and cello provided a good setting to really appreciate Brown's restlessly creative outpourings: his distinctive sour sweet tone, whole phrases made out of wrong notes with extensive use of split tones and bent timbres.
The video pictured faces and bodies rendered in broad brush strokes by Wood Brown, which the dancers echoed. In one striking passage, they lined up across the stage and each took it in turns to arrange the posture of the others to match the paintings, before being posed in their turn. The music was well attuned to both the dance and the video, with Brown noticeably checking on progress as he played to synchronise the endings.
They played a second piece without accompaniment, introduced by a reflective alto soliloquy from Brown, before a walking cello line slipped in behind and Takeishi marked time on a cymbal. As the pulse freed up, it lead to fractured, agitated lines from cello and alto. Levin made the most of the cello's ambivalence to switch between rhythm and front line, tapping the bow on the strings before sawing once more to lead in a three way improv with multiphonics and overblown distortions. Buoyed up on a climax of thrashing percussion and hard bowing, Brown turned on a sweet note to conclude another excellent set.
Matthew Shipp Quartet
Pianist Matthew Shipp lead his quartet of Sabir Mateen on reeds, William Parker on bass and Han Bennink on drums in an exhilarating free blowout. Bennink has appeared with Shipp before, in duet and as part of the Spring Heel Jack collective (I saw them in London a couple of years ago), but it was soon clear that he saw tonight as some sort of challenge. Within the first minute, he was displaying his tricks, using his foot to modulate the sound of his snare as he played. He whipped up a ceaseless percussion maelstrom to which the others were forced to respond. Mateen is a good man to have on your team in such a situation, having gained years of experience with NYC free jazz collective TEST. He blew long and high in a stream of crescendos, with yelping lines with a blues edge, blurring runs with howls and whistles then a split note blare featuring both at the same time, in a tsunami of sound. Shipp adopted various strategies to engage: pounding darkly repeating patterns in the bass register in a circular motion, stabbing at keys in urgent morse code, and unleashing crashing abstract clusters,. Parker alternated muscular lines with arco sawing to be heard above the percussive storm. Red-faced, Bennink barely let up, prompting a shake of the head from Mateen, although it was hard to be sure whether in admiration or incredulity.
Even Bennink couldn't maintain that intensity throughout and in the quieter sections, Shipp was able to lay down a procession of bell like chords or pluck dissonances inside his piano. One pastoral passage saw Mateen on flute over Shipp's romantic chording, before the increasing Bennink-inspired turmoil resumed. This time Mateen deployed unhurried cool tenor lines over the boiling rhythm. Gradually though he blurted, honked, squealed, hopping from foot to foot before planting his legs firmly apart, and leant back to really go for broke. Parker walked powerfully and Mateen built again from the lower registers, girding himself for another assault. However the pulse slowed, Bennink marked time on his cymbal and Shipp's repeated one note stabs developed into lyrical lines, in duet with Mateen's now pensive tenor to close over a slowing rhythm. Another standing ovation.
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