Duology + 2 at the London Jazz Festival
Even though they were already four-gigs deep in the tour, there was still an air of spontaneity. Little appeared pre-planned, not even the sequence of tunes or who should take the first solo. Occasionally one or the other would orchestrate the backing with indications for more or less volume or to lay out, but generally these arrangements seemed worked out as they went along. This was exemplified by Marcus' instruction to Daniel to "just do your thing."
One of the high points of the first set was Marcus' "Sweet 'n' Lowe," which was dedicated to his former partner, the late saxophonist Frank Lowe. The tune was a gentle ballad outlined by brushes and muted trumpet with sweet but slippery interplay, finishing appropriately on a joint low note.
As often happens, energy levels seemed higher in the second set when the musicians really cut loose. First up was "Sonic Corridors" founded upon an involved unison then a chase boasting intervallic leaps, reminiscent of Eric Dolphy. The tune drew a great solo from Daniel full of rapid-fire fanfares, followed by a choppy Marcus spot over roiling drums and slow guitar chording. This was also where the backing duo got their one chance in the spotlight. Jasnoch stepped out first with an oblique guitar solo over drums so hyperactive Collins could almost have been soloing too. But a custom made drum outing was to follow, with Collins initially holding a tambourine in one hand over the drum heads to attenuate sound. Tumbling, elemental, drum rolls served to bring back horns for a closing, with Collins scraping a stick across his cymbals for another distinctive texture.
"In That," introduced by Marcus as "our latest piece written on your trains," featured a taut theme, followed by a swinging section of spirited horn interplay, with trumpet and clarinet moving in and out of synch in competing bursts, eliciting a fiery trumpet foray from Daniel before a closing duet. It wasn't all power play. Daniels "Spiral Landscapes," posited Death Valley National Monument as a less threatening place than might be imagined through a bucolic horn duet over sparse backing, before Marcus' clarinet swept through like arid wind.
Each set ended with a playful rendition of the band's theme tune: the late Dewey Redman's "Dewology." While the musicians' brief duet version at the close of the first set felt a bit of an afterthought, they really went for it to round off the second set. The cartoonish theme gave way to sparkling interplay over roiling percussion, before a raucous whole group free improv section erupted. Daniel and Marcus turned to look at each other and cued a final restatement of the theme, with a Howdy Doody time feel. It was a neat gambit to end a very satisfying performance and a great festival opener.
Images by John Sharpe