Jazz em Agosto 2010
The art of the duo was represented by a pair of pairings, both fairly rambunctious and each arriving at mixed results. John Surman and Jack DeJohnette were halfway to a trio with their playing augmented by the sound-processing of Surman's son. They opened with soft percussion and synth, DeJohnette slowly waving a microphone over the cymbals, complementing Surman's ethereal keyboard. When he moved to the drum heads, he revealed synth pads activated from the kit but as they progressed they slowly, almost unnoticeably, gave way to a sax/drum duo, and then started to build up again. DeJohnette looped and reverberated thumb piano, Surman folded in voice samples, electronic echoes still hovering in the air. The whole structure became an unusual double arc, a sort of oval where electronics ebbed as the blowing flowed and then grew and recessed again, and they grew to sound like a duo with noisy neighbors.
If Surman's son was the third member of that duo, a backstage ladder was the third in Janssen and Bennink's duet. Bennink appeared with just a single snare drum (as well as the stage floor, the underside of the piano and the piano bench), while Janssen played quick and clean piano lines, tossing in jazz standards and bits of Bach. It was a one-way street, Janssen setting up pins for Bennink to knock down, appeasing him with swing or initiating themes that Bennink would often ignore or overpower, but Janssen at all times remained firm. The differences between them is what made it work, made clear in the solo section each took. Bennink, of course, is an excellent jazz drummer with a propensity for interjecting and undermining. He pummeled and squawked through "Salt Peanuts" before Janssen, who has worked with the Kronos Quartet and the Schoenberg Ensemble, and has composed for opera, played a soft and elegiac ballad met by the clanging of a ladder Bennink found backstage. One can argue that Bennink is distractinghumor always changes the mood (and is usually used for that purpose)but the sound of drumsticks rolling across the stage alongside treble piano trills wasn't comic relief, or at least not only that. It sounded quite beautiful, and intentionally so, produced by a guy whose job is knowing how to make sounds.
Sclavis brought his "Lost on the Way" project, a set of music inspired by Homer's Odyssey. The reeds of Matthieu Metzger and the leader were pushed by an unusual back line of drums, solid-body 6-string bass guitar and amplified acoustic guitar. The guitars, largely unadorned by effects, created a sound that felt loud but uncostumed, providing a natural setting for the reeds and creating. They built a full sound of five players, a group sound carved not be clever reimagining of their instruments or electronic manipulation of their output, or for that matter by the compositions, so much as it was their taut musicianship.
Another peak in the festival was the appearance of Sol 6, a nicely gender-balanced version of Luc Ex's new project (which goes in member count up to Sol 12 at times in case anyone's tallying). As such, it seemed a nice reflection of his former anarcho- outfit The Ex. Three men in the rhythm section, three women playing the melody instruments, at least by traditional divisions. But Sol 6 worked smartly moving in and out of traditions. They worked steadily between open improv and old songs, and if the fluctuation grew predictable the outcomes never were. They played free stomps and mute, metered melodies and rollicking grooves and interspersed within those were songs by Charles Ives, Erik Satie, Bertolt Brecht and Burt Bacharach with viollist Mandy Drummond, saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, cellist Hannah Marshall and pianist Veryan Weston all contributing vocals. The band was pretty far removed from the punk energy of The Ex, and only so much closer to Luc Ex's band with Weston, 4 Walls. But it still served as a reminder of what Luc contributed to his former band: coupled with the steady precision of Tony Buck's drums, Ex's powerfully strummed acoustic bass guitar was bedrock for this new band as well. The boldness the group showed in its set list in a sense mirrored the boldness of the festival programming, where excellence supercedes concerns about classification.