Vision Festival 2010 - Opening Night
Highlight of a formidable set was the fourth piece (all of which remain untitled) which unfurled into an ominous ostinato before a knotty unison. It featured a typically serpentine alto solo from the leader. As he hit siren like high points Moran bowed his vibes and deployed a funnel to intensify the swelling bell-like tones until they commingled wonderfully with the reedman's alto strains. Brown was inspired to one of his best solos of the evening, full of anguished squeals and shrieks in an unbroken stream, with great comping from Moran and Cleaver adding a metallic shimmer to the beat with shakers used as sticks.
Going under the title Broken Flowers was the duet of Matthew Shipp once more at the piano accompanying Patricia Nicholson's free form dance in another short interlude. Shipp watched Nicholson closely as she worked the stage, modulating some of his rhythmic motifs to her movement and vice versa. His flow included a range of references, including a section of almost stride piano. Shipp's hands seemed to be dancing in empathy, fingers prancing along the keyboard, inducing a display of staggered prancing from Nicholson. The need to complement the dance provoked another impressive showing from Shipp in one of his most sustained rhythmic recitals.
In Order To Survive
Much anticipated was the reunion of William Parker's In Order To Survive, one of the most exciting groups of the 1990s. They produced one all time classic, the double album Peach Orchard (Aum Fidelity, 1998) during their five year existence. However as it happened it was more a meeting of that band with Parker's current quartet, in that pianist Cooper-Moore and alto saxophonist Rob Brown were the original members alongside Parker himself, while the group this evening was rounded out by trumpeter Lewis Barnes and the wonderful Hamid Drake from Parker's regular ensemble. The repertoire also was largely culled from the Quartet's book, referenced as part of a continuous spontaneously evolving performance.
First off was an up-tempo "Wood Flute Song" from Sound Unity (Aum Fidelity, 2005) marked by spicy horn interplay between Barnes and Brown. Straight away the pianist made his presence felt, with his mad cap comping continually verging on the brink of veering out of control, but always restrained just when meltdown seemed imminent. The overall effect was freer and more edgy than Parker's Quartet's usual modus operandi. Barnes, who like Brown is rarely encountered outside Parker's orbit, notwithstanding leading a fine outfit at Vision 2008, took a fiery solo, alternating between poignant lyricism and braying intensity, with Cooper-Moore going berserk behind him, spraying glissandos all over the keyboard. After a theme restatement the horns retired leaving a startling piano trio in which Cooper-Moore made use of fingers, palms, elbows, whatever he needed to get his message across.
Drake was energized, reciprocating rhythmic stress from the pianist with emphatic crashing, while Brown and Barnes threw in joint fanfares from opposite wings of the stage. Brown took off on a daredevil flight, unpredictably twisting and careening with more bustling pianistic support along with brassy hollers from Barnes as he reached the apex of his trajectory. Parker's pizzicato turned into an eerie wavering, almost vocalized arco, invoking a mournful dirge from the twin horns, over a choppy backing, in which Cooper-Moore again galvanized the Parker/Drake duo. This was a band not reclining on desiccated laurels, but looking restlessly forwards, and deserving much wider exposure than a one off Festival appearance. Finally another WPQ number emerged, "Daughter's Joy" from Petit Oiseau (Aum Fidelity, 2008), which acted as a springboard for the concluding collective give and take. Short and sweet, this was one of the standout acts of the Festival. If only they had played for longer than 25 minutes.
Having begun on such a high, it was fortunate that the next night also promised much with a celebration of a lifetime of achievement by AACM founder Muhal Richard Abrams.