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Live Reviews

Vision Festival 2008: Day 5

By Published: July 27, 2008

And so it went on, with Dickey always ready to make a crashing confluence with Shipp's trajectory, while Morris' generally proffered a more oblique commentary. So intent was their concentration that at the end the stage manager had to mount the stage to gain their attention, prompting a pounding response from Shipp and Dickey. Morris unsheathed his bow to croak huskily as they decrescendoed to a silence soon broken by a standing ovation for their absorbing set.

Paul Dunmall, Henry Grimes and Andrew Cyrille

Having shared a few dates in England with lost, but now found, bassist Henry Grimes, British saxophone colossus Paul Dunmall returned the compliment here, with the addition of master drummer Andrew Cyrille for another of the Festival's highlights. Over the years Dunmall has forged and tested his muscular playing, in almost every conceivable situation, such that he dealt authoritatively with whatever he faced.

While Dunmall's tenor saxophone initiated proceedings, Cyrille took his sticks first to his drum kit while standing in front of it, then to the stage, for a showy but musical start. Grimes mazy pizzicato butted against Dunmall's burly tenor. Then when Grimes switched to his bow, the saxophonist paused listening, only to rejoin as the bassist resumed plucking. Dunmall really ripped it up, crafting compelling statements from blurting lower register runs, then overblown shrieks, and even airing his bagpipes at one stage for an outpouring of frothing squeals and drones.

As a trio they were incredibly responsive and the attention to detail, by Dunmall and Cyrille in particular, ensured that their free form outing took on the structured coherence which sets the great apart from the merely good, further illustrated by the drummer's response to Grimes switching from pizzicato to arco, where he straight away played only on his hihat, having the effect of spotlighting Grimes' fluent bowing, then reverted to his whole kit as Grimes went back to picking.

Even more phenomenal was a dazzling passage which saw Grimes' abstract violin sawing, instantly echoed and repeated back at him by Dunmall's tenor, inspiring Grimes to reciprocate, all buoyed up by Cyrille's dancing rhythm. As this exchange ended, Cyrille exploded with a stupendous crash, before reversing the dynamics of the everyday drum solo by gradually becoming quieter and quieter, rubbing his brushes on cymbals and drum heads, then blowing raspberries on the drum heads, before bookending with another concluding crash, which fashioned a wonderful end to a staggering first piece. Unsurprisingly, the excellent set was rewarded with a well-deserved standing ovation.

George Lewis/ Joelle Leandre

George Lewis and Joelle Leandre share a long history of joint appearances and recordings dating back to at least 1983, befitting the match of their combination of bass and vocalization with vocalized trombone. Having both featured in separate duets in recent Vision Festivals, Leandre and Lewis joined here for a set of four freely improvised conversations over the course of 45 minutes, which was recorded for potential future release.

Continually chatting between pieces, their communicativeness carried over naturally in their superb duet. Starting in loose unison, there was a stream of constant interplay thereafter. On bass, Leandre was the complete package, displaying her extensive arco technique to match and test the trombonist.

Lewis made extensive use of mutes to playfully expressive effect, murmuring, muttering and vocalizing multiphonics. At one point he dismantled his trombone and continued to blow, though with the end tubing disconnected. Voice is an integral part of Leandre's armory and she responded to Lewis' breath sounds with gasps and whispers of her own, layered atop her creaking bass work. At the conclusion they were warmly greeted by yet another standing ovation.

Braida/ Borghini/ Spera/ Maraffa Quartet

Rounding off a high class evening was an unexpected pleasure from a collective quartet of Italian musicians, unknown quantities to many, with Alberto Braida on piano, Antonio Borghini on bass (perhaps the best known of the four in the US, for his collaborations with percussionist Hamid Drake among others), Fabrizo Spera on drums and Edoardo Maraffa on reeds. Their 38-minute set broke down into three pieces, all free-form improvisations, created cohesively with ego sublimated to the collective ethic, and conversationally paced. That's not to say that there weren't points at which the spotlight fixed on one or another, but such eddies developed naturally from the improvisational currents.

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