Vision Festival XI, Angel Orensanz Foundation For The Arts, NYC - Day One, 13 June 2006
The honour of closing the first night fell to Dave Burrell and Billy Martin. They played together on the first night of last year's Vision Festival, as part of a group co-led by Matt Maneri. Since then, they have toured as a duo and are clearly well attuned to each others roving styles. Burrell began his second appearance of the evening with trademark syncopated lines, shadowed in tickety tock counterpoint by Martin first on gongs, then assorted percussion devices spread over the stage and finally from behind his kit. Burrell morphed into "Expansion from his Full Blown Trio CD of the same name, with Martin in funky accompaniment, picking out the tune around his kit. Burrell's sound is a fine coalescence of the old and the new encompassing blues, romanticism, free and stride. Martin's varied accompaniment was a perfect marriage of multifarious textures with lockstep echoes of Burrell's changing rhythmic patterns. An incongruous pairing perhaps, but it works.
Burrell weaved tunes into the free flowing improvisation in an organic way. A gathering storm of pealing bells would contrast with arpeggios, by turns thunderous and delicate, before morphing into another composition with laid-back swing and a churchy feel.
Martin deployed a compendium of rhythmic techniques: dampening the drum with his arm or rubbing his fingers on the underside of his drums. An explosion of shakers on the drumheads prompted some high end pecking from Burrell, which gently dissipated into silence. Martin continued alone, retrieving a stream of objects with percussive potential from a box and explored blowing, rattling, shaking or crumpling them, before somehow ending up back behind the drum kit at just the right moment to maintain his rhythmic attack.
At only just over 30 minutes their excellent set was way too short in time, but still high enough in quality to send me immediately off to the CD stand where I sought out the duo's rewarding recent CD on Amulet Records.
Overall the programme kept pretty much to time, though at the cost of curtailing some of the music. Given the choice I would rather have fuller sets even if it did result in overruns. Nonetheless it was a good start to the festival, more than living up to the promise that had lured me back, and leaving me wanting more.