Burlington Discover Jazz Festival: Burlington, VT, June 1-10, 2012
Tim Berne & Snakeoil FlynnSpace June 3, 2012
One of the marks of a good festival is the number of real schedule conflicts the music lover encounters. Bonnie Raitt's concert on the Main Stage was due to start close to forty-five minutes after saxophonist Tim Berne and his band finished their set downstairs, at the much smaller FlynnSpace, and chances were few that the attendees gathered near the stage in the intimate low-ceiling venue were planning to move upstairs after the hour-and-fifteen-minute performance. Whether Berne & company met expectations or not, chances were that the foursome had played enough music to last any aficionado for the duration of an evening.
Listening to the group play their two (!) numbers was akin to facing backwards in a moving vehicle: a familiar moving sensation to be sure, but somehow still difficult to fathom from its peculiar perspective. That's because the saxophonist and his idiosyncratic band put the accessible components of their music in the background or the bottom, while the more angular melodic and rhythmic elements took precedence. A challenge to hear, to be sure, but a sure-fire means of shattering listening habits.
Warming up with a ten minute number that sketched an outline for the longer, officially unnamed hour-long piece that followedinformally titled "Static"Berne and his comrades set the stage for deeper explorations of melody and rhythm in which instruments were utilized in unconventional ways, and in unusual combinations such as Matt Mitchell tweaking the inside of his acoustic piano. The soft charms of drummer/percussionist Ches Smith's vibes playing, not to mention his array of small gongs and quirky use of his drum kit, were effectively hidden behind the tall Berne and rotund trumpeter Oscar Noriega, so that, when he assumed a metronomic beat as regular as could be, it was hard to catch, visually, what might've led up to that point.
Of course, if one of the attractions of good music is its mystery, then Tim Berne and Snakeoil told quite a story on June 3rd, one worth ruminating on till he returns to Discover Jazz (he offered a similarly bracing performance back in 2008).
Craig Taborn FlynnSpace June 4, 2012
Even had he not been roundly praised for conducting a workshop and participating in one of the Discover Jazz "Meet the Artist" sessions, Craig Taborn no doubt would've still evinced a deceptive poise upon taking the stage for his solo piano concert. By the time he was done with his hour plus in performance, he had revealed his personality in the most vivid terms.
The physical exertion necessary for such a show was obvious as Taborn's set hit its home stretch. What had been quick breaks between early tunes got a bit longer, and he took a noticeably deep breath before beginning his next-to-the-last improvisation. But by that time his modus operandi was clear (predictable perhaps to some), in the way he began each interval of playingsave one number bouncy and up-tempo from its very startwith stark ruminative chords and single notes which became densely embroidered as the minutes of playing progressed, to end, as a couple numbers did, in a frenzy of blurred hand motion accompanied by a tensed body language.
It was as if Taborn had engaged both hemispheres of his brain in a dialogue with each other. Declarative statements, in single notes rendered deliberately and patiently, arose from a brainstorm of ideas not yet fully-formed, till the crystallization process took place during the course of a back and forth while he played. Often ending with his head low, near to the keyboard, as if to try and sense the music lying dormant inside the instrument (which rebelled against him by popping a string twenty minutes in) Taborn may also have simply been marshaling his mental and physical strength to fully extemporize the sensations in music. It wasn't necessary to be close to the stage in order to witness the theatre, as the sound he produced filled the venue with increasing drama with each successive piece.