Vision Festival 2010: Day 4, June 26, 2010
Tall and loose-limbed, Rainey looked straight ahead expressionless as he tackled the switchbacks with insouciant aplomb. He gave his sticks lots of air, keeping the pulse going while continually varying his attack. With such comrades, a strong leader was required. Helias amply demonstrated his mettle, his sinewy a capella introductions proving a highlight. Elastic plucking low on the fret board led to string slapping abandon before segueing into a staggered riff to usher in a funky number boasting another precise, yet heated, Malaby exposition. It closed another very good set.
Charles Gayle Bass Choir Tribute To Sirone
Last act of the evening was Tribute to Sirone, led by saxophonist Charles Gayle. In echo of a set in which Sirone himself took part at the 2004 Vision Festivalitself a tribute to departed bass men Wilber Morris and Peter Kowaldthe horn man had assembled another four-strong bass choir. Strange as it may seem, there is a small body of work emerging for such groupings, with the original set released as William Parker Bass Quartet featuring Charles Gayle: Requiem (Splasc(h), 2006) and Joe McPhee also leading a four-bass choir on Angels and Haints (CJR, 2009). However Gayle went one better here, playing not only his customary tenor saxophone, but also taking up a bass himself. Quite a brave thing to do, as he had to come after four of the best bass players aroundKen Filiano, Jane Wang, Larry Roland and Francois Grillothad their say. Michael T.A.Thompson on drums added some crisp momentum to the thrumming mass.
Gayle conducted the improvised set from stage left, with the four bull fiddles strung in a line across the stage. After an introductory blow he cued features for each player in turn to showcase their chops, before joining himself in a massed phalanx of all five basses. What followed alternated between individual manifestos and collective furor, with Thompson's drums and a litany of overblown shrieks from the leader's tenor woven into the fabric. After a succession of bass solos, Gayle's orchestration resulted, first of all, in three basses bowing and two plucking, then all sawing together, producing a fantastic morass of creaking drones, like an orchestra tuning up and discovering a heavenly chorus. But truth be toldas when, back in the day, rock band Blue Oyster Cult all strapped on electric guitars, the spectacle looked better than it sounded.
Charles Gayle Bass Choir
Wang distinguished herself as the most adventurous in terms of extended techniques: rubbing strings; banging the back of bass body; and then tapping the wood of her bow on the bridge for more percussive textures. Again, Filiano excelled with his fluent blend of harmonic invention and rhythmic contouring, while Grillot had, perhaps, the strongest tone of all, and Roland the most muscular approach. At the end of a series of solos culminating in a fine Filiano arco display, Gayle prudently laid down his bass, rather than trying to follow, and took up his saxophone, instead, for a prayer of sanctified falsetto and lingering hollers of affirmation. A final rubato ensemble, with Thompson on mallets, found the reedman winding down with melancholic gravitas on tenor, evincing a standing ovation from those left at the late hour.
An outstanding bill for Sunday promised another heavy evening in store, presenting clarinetist Perry Robinson, a rare appearance by saxophone colossus David S. Ware with a new trio, and pianist Dave Burrell's Peace Out Trio.
All Photos: John Sharpe