Vision Festival XI, Angel Orensanz Foundation For The Arts, NYC - Day One, 13 June 2006
Campbell delivered an incisive exposition, his typically volatile slurred lines never quite settling on a definite note before concluding with a rasping burr. Moondoc bobbed up and down, one shoulder hunched up, as he strived for that elusive edge. He alternated long held blues cries with convulsed runs, over walking bass, all delivered in his distinctive acerbic vocalised tone. Barnes' whispered splurts, squelches and breaths contrasted with staccato trills before stretching out in a fanfare of tart brassiness. Burrell paraded his particular brand of off kilter rhythms and fractured ragtime feel, before disintegrating into freeform clusters. Drum explosions and a horn blow out heralded a final theme restatement. Glorious, life affirming and celebratory, this formed a fitting tribute to Raphe Malik and an energizing opening to the Festival.
Klaas Hekman Trio
A change of pace next, with a trio comprising Hekman on the giant bass saxophone, Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello and Veryan Weston on piano. This sort of pan global blend, with musicians in this case from Rotterdam, Chicago and London is increasingly commonplace, reflecting the international flavour of "jazz and its attendant cross cultural fertilisations. In 1980, Dutch saxophonist Klaas Hekman was walking past a music store in London, when he saw a giant bass saxophone in the window. He purchased the horn, and the rare instrument has been Hekman's specialty ever since. The trio sounded how you might expect from the instrumentation: spiky, cool, and a chamber feel, with dense improv flowing from the complex, almost impenetrable, arrangements.
It was a total surprise to me when Hekman said that the first piece was "Tips by Steve Lacy, in an arrangement by Weston. The set was dedicated to Lacy and supposedly there were other compositions by the late sopranoist, but the voicings were such that, like this one, they passed me by in the dense instrumental ebb and flow. Just as well the interplay was so dense given the high volume chatter from the rear of the hall.
Hekman, seated at his gargantuan axe, was capable of moments of surprising delicacy, blowing gentle multiphonics in a particularly pleasing combination with Lonberg-Holm's nuanced arco lines. Lonberg-Holm was especially virtuosic, tendering fluent romanticism or scratchy rubbing and sawing as the moment demanded. It was harder to get a fix on Weston whose playing varied from delicate pecks to muscular flourishes. They played four pieces over a brief but absorbing 35 minute set.
Borah Bergman Quartet
The next set was the highlight of this first evening. Pianist Borah Bergman was joined by Rashied Ali on drums, William Parker on bass and Louis Belogenis on tenor and curved soprano saxophones, for a high energy free flowing forty minute set. Belogenis was an important late addition to the published group and he brought a coherence that ensured that the whole yielded more than the sum of its parts.
The gentle start with insistent probing piano lines against pattering percussion and measured arco bass belied the tumult to come. Belogenis on tenor added a multiphonic breeze to the mixer, soon becoming a stiff north-easterly, with distorted cries laid atop a quickening piano maelstrom. Belogenis alternated keening cries with a distorted edge and squalling shrieks, his fingers dancing off the keys as if they were on fire. As he became animated, he repeatedly pushed his sax towards the mic, like a man trying to provoke a fight. Ali watched Bergman and Parker intently, a half smile on his lips, as he kept a constant hihat pulse, with polyrhythmic commentary on snare and cymbals.
Bergman was similarly intense, his brow furrowed in concentration. He was largely immobile, except for his hands sweeping up and down the keyboard spieling out endless fragments, clusters and chordal patterns in contrapuntal runs. There was a lot of listening going on at one stage evidenced by Bergman's repeated staccato phrases echoed first by Belogenis, then emphasised by Ali on his snare.
Parker was the rock anchoring the performance. Later Bergman interjected a lyrical line, instantly buoyed up by big fat bass notes from Parker, poised, with his eyes closed and mouth open, shaking his head from side to side as if he couldn't believe the rightness of the notes flowing through him.
At the end Bergman stood impassive behind the piano as Ali cried "Borah, Borah Borah and the crowd rose for a well deserved ovation.
Dave Burrell/Billy Martin duo