Vision Festival XI, Angel Orensanz Foundation For The Arts, NYC - Day Five Evening, 17 June 2006
Hwang himself bowed and plucked electric violin, fragmenting melodic lines into microtonal shards and deconstructing into scrapings. One plucked solo even evoked a koto. Filiano was masterful, whether bowing in tandem with Hwang, riffing on march rhythms, or soloing pizzicato with ringing harmonics at the end of each phrase. Drury was a compelling texturalist, able to find the space to allow the arrangements to breathe while still propelling the band forward. The whole group was very tight and well rehearsed, navigating the complex charts with ease. They closed with "Grassy Hills - a stately piece written by Hwang in 1981 and used to close out sets with Commitment. Not your usual set closer, the piece boasted a stately unison theme, evolving into a convergence of trumpet and violin interweaving abstract lines. Another superb set.
By Any Means
The headline act for Saturday evening was a reunion of the trio responsible for the classic "Touchin' on Trane recording on FMP, and has now become known as By Any Means (perhaps based on the rhetoric of Malcolm X: "action on all fronts by whatever means necessary"), with Charles Gayle on alto saxophone, William Parker on bass and Rashied Ali on drums. They first got together again in January this year for a successful Vision Club gig at the Clemente Soto Velez Gallery. It was gratifying to see an influx of younger faces to the front of the hall to drink deep of the combined wisdom. Gayle began playing from the rear of the stage, coming forward with a stream of sanctified sounds from his alto. Parker provided measured propulsive bass lines as Ali set out a constant arrhythmic pulse. Gayle was transcendental with his vocalised cry drenched in polychromatic overtones.
The three pieces allowed ample solo space for each participant over the course of their forty five minute set. Parker's walking over Ali's brushed shuffle in the second piece provided the perfect platform for Gayle's impassioned altissimo wail and bent shrieked lines, culminating in a high scream. Parker belayed a dancing bass melody before Gayle's return, and switched to arco, as Gayle, eyes closed, squeaked and squealed in tandem with the bass, for a sweetly filigreed wavering conclusion.
They went out with a bang. Ali opened the final piece with an insistent tattoo which led to a series of muscular solos before Gayle returned screaming, throwing out skeins of molten sound. He signalled to Ali to up the intensity, if that was possible, for a series of rapturous crescendos, before repeating a descending riff to finish a tumultuous set and elicit a standing ovation from the enthusiastic audience.
It was a stirring end to a wonderful sequence of music with five excellent sets - all the better for being unanticipated. One of the best evening's music I can recall anywhere and undoubtedly the high point of the Festival, not that there wasn't more excellence to come in the final night...