Vision Festival XI, Angel Orensanz Foundation For The Arts, NYC - Day Four, 16 June 2006
Bemkey had a wonderful turn in the second piece, full of crashing chords and wildly exciting runs. Another lovely, more laid back feature followed, in Bang's beautiful and moving "Moments for the KIA MIA in memory of fallen comrades, but on this occasion dedicated to the late pianist John Hicks. Bang called Nicholson "our pulse and Baker "our heartbeat and the rhythm section was suitably vital throughout. Bang himself was irrepressible bowing and swinging wildly with great rhythmic attack as well as taking a gorgeous lyrical solo on "Moments .
Much to Bang's distress, time constraints meant that MC Lewis Barnes attempted to curtail the set, but the audience's demands won him a reprieve and Bang was able to launch into a fourth piece. Perhaps as a result of the reduced time, after a fast band unison, piano, trumpet and violin all soloed at once, until Bang cut them out to leave him in duet with Zollar, before a reprise of the theme. At this point the wily Bang gave us two for the price of one, by plucking out another theme with bass accompaniment, introducing a Cuban flavour, with a stirring rendition of the Buena Vista Social Club classic "Chan Chan . A muted exhortation from Zollar and a final gritty display of rhythmic virtuosity from Bang brought the fifty five minute set to a raucous conclusion, drawing another standing ovation from the enthusiastic audience.
Henry Grimes/Sekou Sundiata
The closing set was a curious choice to round off the Friday evening, with Henry Grimes bass providing the sole accompaniment for poet Sekou Sundiata. This was reflected in the dwindling audience as festival goers set off early for the After Fest party. Grimes has played with an ever widening litany of musicians since his rebirth into the free jazz world in 2002, including David Murray, Bill Dixon, William Parker, Marshall Allen, Sunny Murray and he now tours the globe with a variety of projects. Sundiata, born in Harlem, came of age as an artist during the 1960s and 70s. He has recorded and performed his poetry with a variety of musicians including David Murray, Craig Harris, Nona Hendryx and Vernon Reid.
Grimes dedicated the set to a friend Polly Jones, who died recently in California, before plucking a rapid fire torrent, on his green bass Olive Oil, gifted him by William Parker. His labyrinthine lines resolved into repeated melodic kernels, enticing Sundiata to begin his recitation. Sundiata's witty and sometimes apocalyptic poems were delivered in a low key, though theatrical style: "one star turns to another and says, we are here to preserve democracy, not to practice it .
Grimes stream of consciousness timbres rarely settled into any pattern, let alone a groove, and provided an ever-changing soundscape over which Sundiata declaimed. Pauses between poems were filled with bass expositions, including a bowed tour de force which drew shouts of appreciation from the audience. That's not to say that Grimes was unresponsive: a breathless rapid fire delivery from Sundiata drew an up tempo walking from Grimes and when Sundiata paused, so did Grimes. They ended in unison at a quarter after midnight, after a thirty five minute set, to yet another standing ovation.
Exhaustion got the better of me, so I didn't get to the After Fest party held in a nearby club, featuring Dennis Gonzalez Yells At Eels, with various guest musicians. By all accounts it went well with some great jams. I wasn't the only one who didn't make it. Grimes who went along after his Vision set finished was unable to gain entry with his bass because the joint was so full there was literally no room.