White Night Marathon in Tel Aviv
Enav Cultural Center
Tel Aviv, Israel
June 28-29, 2007
The third edition of the White Night marathon, part of the city of Tel Aviv celebrations of its Bauhaus heritage, was the most successful so far. The balanced program, which mainly highlighted duos and partners (in music and sometimes also in life) from Israel and abroad, was provocative and inspiring.
Two duets of musician and a dancer opened the long night. Israeli dancer Anat Shamgar stood on one side of the stage opposite Israeli saxophonist Albert Beger. Shamgar's soft feminine movements managed to alter the rigid masculine position as well as the tenor sax outbursts of Beger, including him in her gentle, tempting circular movements as both closed the gap between them, their intimate dance offering an imaginative dialog between two highly communicative artists. The duo between English dancer Julyen Hamilton and his Israeli collaborator, bassist Jean Claude Jones, suggested different dynamics. The two have managed to create their own language in the last three years, building on their communal sense of playfulness. Hamilton's movements combine characteristics of an experienced storyteller, a Zen sword master and an acrobatic clown with keen musical ears. His dance told a humorous story but at the same time tried to subvert it with the active support of Jones, who always kept a close watch on Hamilton while providing a solid base for Hamilton's soaring dances.
Bass clarinetist Yoni Silver presented his new Quintet Quartet, a quartet that is augmented by the very effective use of a Mac Powerbook. Silver, together with Yiftach Kadan on guitar, Gabriel Meir on vertical electric bass and Hagai Fershtman on drums, created thick walls of sound that referenced collective ensembles from Peter Brötzmann and Sonny Sharrock's Last Exit groups to the more extreme improv music of Sonic Youth. Silver pierced the multilayered textures with cries of his bass clarinet and, with a judicious use of the Powerbook, always added more colors and sound feeds to the percolating stew of the quartet till he silenced his colleagues, the only remaining sounds being the accumulated sampled mix of their playing so far, at which point he led the quartet to a roaring coda. I really hope that this fantastic, one-of-a-kind ensemble will record very soon.
German reed master Wolfgang Fuchs presented his unique solo playing, suggesting in his uncompromising yet careful manner an architecture of sounds sketching only distant and fragmented contours that gradually crystallized into more cohesive musical structures. Israeli soprano saxophonist Ariel Shibolet joined Fuchs for a brief duo that stressed their emphatic musical language. Fuchs and Shibolet have been collaborating during the last year on several projects. It was clear during their duet that each enriches the musical timbres of the other in their commitment to the exploration of new soundworlds.
The duo of the Israeli, New York-based couple of trombonist Reut Regev and drummer Igal Foni, offered a different kind of energy. Regev, a member of Anthony Braxton's ensemble, and her partner Foni rarely collaborate on stage. They last recorded together on fellow Israeli, New York-based saxophonist Michaël Attias' beautiful Credo (Clean Feed, 2005). They opened the duet with a wild rendition of Jimi Hendrix's "Are You Experienced?" with Regev singing the melody through her trombone and at the same time harmonizing it imaginatively with the sounds of the instrument itself while Fony spiced her playing with a solid groove and wild calls. They continued with their own "Hula Hula," as the title suggests, a wild tribal dance that the charismatic Regev used as vehicle for her playful and articulate improvisations. The duet concluded their set with a clever cover of Monk's rhythmically complex "Played Twice," again featuring the elegant manner that Regev and Foni bring to their interpretation of jazz standards while throwing in their shared sense of eccentric humor and playfulness.
The Polish duo of vocalist Olga Szwajgier and bassist Kazimierz Pyzik supplied the comic relief for this long night. Szwajgier is a gifted singer with an amazing voice that she has extended its range from four to six octaves and can sing to the limits of hearing. While she has performed works by modern composers such as Karlheinz Stockhausen, Krzysztof Penderecki and Witold Lutoslawski, Pyzik divides his time between playing Renaissance and Baroque music on various types of viola da gamba and performing contemporary music on double-bass and cello. In addition, he's an active composer, having completed more than 150 compositions
Szwajgier mocked the exaggerated moves of an opera singer while she tried to make sense from notes on score pages that actually were filled with indecipherable colorful drawings. Meanwhile, Pyzik presented some of the possible uses of a perfectly built double bass, demonstrating how it could serve as a bed or a chair, then playing it upside down and even using its bow as an ad hoc fishing rod. But he always interacted with the theatrical movements of Szwajgier, offering vivid musical and verbal commentary on her vocal forays. Next he went out into the audience and from there shouted wild calls of encouragement. All the while, Szwajgier looked as though nothing could surprise her as she continued with her exploration of the extreme registers of the human voice. Nevertheless, their set was filled with pure musicality, even as they demonstrated that any musical happening brings with it a sort of game which, child-like as it may be, is still representative of the playful interaction occurring between players of music.
The atmosphere changed again during the set of the couple of German trumpet player Markus Stockhausen and Dutch clarinetist Tara Bouman. Having recorded as the Moving Sounds duo on Thinking About (Aktivraum, 2005), both are gifted with a clear and warm sound, and their music suggested a reflective and minimalist choral music. Their vibrating timbres were very suggestive of a resonant church pipe organ, filling the hall of Enav Cultural Center with meditative and beautiful sounds. Stockhausen further played with the acoustics of the hall when he played quarter tones with his trumpet into the grand piano while using the piano pedals to enhance the vibrating sounds, with the crystalline sound of Bouman's clarinet and bass clarinet providing colorful support. Stockhausen said that he is weary of any attempt to define his music. "All we are doing is music," he eventually submitted. The only guest musician who dared to put his music in the larger political context, he dedicated a captivating elegiac piece to "all the suffering mothers, here and every where," and indeed, you could feel the healing power of this music.
It was clear that after such a musical catharsis almost no other set might be welcome. The video art performance of German Elke Ulerm and Martin Slawig referenced the experimental film works of Stan Brakhage, but the simplistic, raw and repetitive electronic music emptied this performance of any meaningful combination of sound and vision. The Jerry Garval Sextet, led by veteran Israel drummer and senior members of the Israeli jazz scene, such as sax players Albert Piamenta, Morton Kam and bass saxophonist Motti Zelig, presented loose arrangements of compositions sounding in need of a few extra rehearsalsa sign it was time to retire for some sweet early morning sleep.