Vision Festival XI, Angel Orensanz Foundation For The Arts, NYC - Day Five Evening, 17 June 2006
Early on Mitchell took one of his trademark tour de force soprano saxophone solos, using his circular breathing to first extend his tortured lines, then superimpose high pitched squeaks over the squiggling overblown tracery. He continued to work up a head of steam, cheeks bulging, twisting his head to achieve the desired effect, as at times a ghostly third voice was added to the other two. Amazing stamina. Wilkes held his own with lacerating trumpet in duet with Mitchell, his hand fluttering over the keys, using an effects pedal and even blowing flugelhorn and trumpet simultaneously, pitching his cooler lines against Mitchell's sour caterwauling, then swaying from side to side repeating angular figures, still on both horns.
Bankhead revels in a distinctive woody buzzing tone, almost in the cello register. He took a delicate melodic solo, in antidote to the preceding mayhem, bending notes low on the fretboard, then first plucking then tapping in counterpoint. He conveyed a notable sense of structure in his improvisations, exploring each idea thoroughly before developing the next. Davis kept his own in fast company, hitting forcefully when the moment demanded, but otherwise taking care of business with a sequence of tumbling polyrhythms.
They closed, as is Mitchell's wont, with a lightly swinging theme delivered by unison horns, with Mitchell interweaving the band member introductions between conversational choruses, in a sweet ending to a superb heavyweight set. And another well deserved standing ovation.
Joe Morris/ Barre Phillips
I didn't know what to expect from the upcoming duo of guitarist Joe Morris and veteran bassist Barre Phillips and so I was delighted to be enthralled by their intimate freely improvised dialogue. Phillips hails from San Francisco, but has resided in southern France since the early 1970s. He once played as featured soloist with the New York Philharmonic, while also becoming involved with the city's jazz scene, playing with George Russell, Marion Brown, Ornette Coleman and others. His NYC appearances have become highly anticipated events and will be all the more so after this evening's performance. His partner Joe Morris is better known on the current NYC scene and has played and recorded with a formidable assemblage of free jazz talent.
The conversationally paced improvisation was the product of close listening and prodigious technique, trading unconventional sonorities in a quiet dialogue which demanded rapt attention. Phillips is a master of the bass, whose vital playing belied his frail appearance. He bounced the bow off the neck and body of the bass or used the handle to dampen his strings. Morris responded in kind extracting detuned banjo sonorities and febrile buzzing with his light finger work. A glorious slow processional section evolved from deep arco bass and single note guitar lines blending in moments of sublime beauty, causing Morris to glance at Phillips and smile in acknowledgement of some musical felicity. There was an undercurrent of blues feeling in Morris' playing even when at its most non-idiomatic. They sometimes briefly provided a slightly warped version of a conventional jazz guitar/bass duet during the quicksilver flow of ideas between the two, but then all such allusions would be dispelled with blends of creaks and tappings which had the audience holding their breath to hear.
The forty minute set consisted of two pieces, the second forming almost a short cadenza to the lengthy opening improv. Excellent.
Jason Kao Hwang's Edge
Next up in what was proving to be an amazing evening was Jason Kao Hwang's new band Edge, featuring Taylor Ho Bynum on cornet, Ken Filiano on bass and Andrew Drury on drums. Violinist Hwang has toiled on the Lower East Side since the early 1970s, appearing in loft jazz legend Commitment alongside William Parker, then the Far East Side Band and a string of more recent ensembles. He is also a composer of note, with his recently released chamber opera, "The Floating Box , on New World Records and scores for dance companies premiered at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.
Four of Hwang's intricate compositions from the band's debut CD on AsianImprov provided the structures for his well-chosen confreres to explore in a forty minute set. The front line of violin and cornet formed a particularly pleasing combination and in Ho Bynum, Hwang has a master of texture and invention. Bynum, who has featured prominently in Anthony Braxton's recent peak of creativity, almost exploded into the first piece "No Myth , leaping up and down as he expelled fiery gobbets and spluttered lines. Bynum's trademark use of mutes to vary and vocalise his tone was in evidence throughout.