Festival International Musique Actuelle Victoriaville (FIMAV) 2004
The ever-musical Dutch percussionist Han Bennink - the last of three invited unaccompanied soloists - with two of the strongest ankles and feet in the business, worked his pedals in overdrive, providing extraordinary sights and sounds alike. He stuffed the ends of both his drumsticks in his cheek pockets cranking the sticks counterclockwise while tapping them against his teeth and humming a melody akin to "His Truth Is Marching On"; he took more than one drum solo literally sitting on the ground which he played ignoring his kit altogether - mind you, he had casually yet musically knocked piece by piece of his drum set to the ground in the most rhythmic fashion imaginable (after which he played the portions of his kit while they lay flat on the stage floor!); he also kept time on his cymbals with his drum stool, lightly tapping them with the stool's legs while he transported it from behind his kit to center stage along with his snare (ala Max Roach, Bennink is one of jazz' finest jazz brushers on the snare, ending a portion of a solo appropriately with the Dizzy Gillespie/Kenny Clarke bop anthem "Salt and Peanuts"); and finally Bennink capped off a solo that found him in the middle of the audience rhythmically tossing each of his drumsticks from 15 feet away hitting his cymbals onstage without missing a beat! Like any of the classic rent party pianists from back in the day, Bennink can light up rhythms on just about anything that might be considered a percussive tool, creating the most musical of sentiments that respective "instrument" may have ever known previously and will ever know again.
Also invited to this year's FIMAV were several New York City-based ensembles that, strangely enough, rarely if ever perform here under such guises as the FAB trio, Tim Berne's Expanded Science Friction Band, Ellery Eskelin's trio with Andrea Parkins and Jim Black, and the so-called "Emergency Replacement Band" of William Parker, Charles Gayle, and Henry Grimes.
The FAB trio (double bassist Joe Fonda, drummer/percussionist Barry Altschul, and violinist Billy Bang), is a collective between two veteran string players and the unheralded Altschul whose sole release to date was last year's Transforming the Space (CIMP). The trio offers intriguing dynamics with the double arco, and likewise double pizzicato, playing of its string instruments inciting Altschul's swing-based circular free-bop based rhythms and solo percussive displays. Through the course of their well-rounded set, the triangular improvisational exchanges showed a multi-dimensionality combined with a solid foundation in jazz, blues, and swing. Eye contact and interaction were a constant throughout, and Fonda and Altschul even pulled a hat trick each for Bang's composition, "For Don Cherry". The former of the two added flute to his arsenal while the latter picked up Fonda's bass and admirably offered a confident bass line before handing it back like a baton after a minute or so to its rightful owner who meanwhile was taking his last breaths on the small wooden wind instrument. Altschul then took a seat behind his kit, and the group returned to its original format while eyeballing one another's every move and expression, facially and instrumentally. Fonda stiff-arms a very direct intense tone from his strings, and after a unanimous standing ovation, it was the his composition "Song for My Mother", the encore, which featured the composer's extended bass technique with occasional coloring provided by Bang who eventually entered melodically though he was surprisingly over-attentive to the sheet music before him (one would have thought, it was presumably a new composition, though in actuality it's an over 16-minute rendition of what they've recorded).