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Live Reviews

Barry Guy New Orchestra: Krakow, Poland, November 20-23, 2012

By Published: December 13, 2012
Also of note was Bauer's triumvirate, accompanied by the seasoned Guy/Lytton pairing. Bauer's broad impasto strokes made for a pleasing opposition to the detailed miniatures essayed by bass and drums, both teeming with invention and manic hyperactivity. Guy exhibited an astonishing range. caressing the strings as his fingers slid up and down the neck to finesse the modulated notes—even taking a paintbrush to the strings and body of his bass, exploiting more techniques in five minutes than a lesser player might deploy over a complete evening. Similarities with Lytton were obvious as he cycled through abrasions, scrubs, and clatter—including, in fact, everything including the kitchen sink.

Another threesome, found Parker and Trevor Watts
Trevor Watts
Trevor Watts
's tenor and alto saxophones respectively merging into a single multi-voiced instrument, while Fernandez stabbed arpeggios, all phrasing in sync. Watts' rich-toned alto resembled a tenor in the depth of his howls, which he effectively contrasted with soaring swoops and choked cries, in one exemplary section. Fernandez provided the substructure, slamming the keys as the horns reached a peak of intertwining combustion. At one point, both Parker and Watts stood side-by-side, circular breathing varying drones embellished with grace notes and phantom voices as the Spaniard sat watching. He then took up a wooden block to rub inside the piano, creating a deep ghostly rumble, which morphed into a haunted harpsichord backdrop. In a densely busy soundscape, both saxophones sparred, cajoled, shadowed and stalked, then negotiated a gentle finish to another excellent set. Even Guy commented on the "lovely ending," in his introduction to the next set.

As a complete antithesis, the following trio broadcast only the quietest of pops amid the silence. Ironic as the bottom-heavy firepower assembled onstage comprised Gustafsson's baritone, Per Ake Holmlander's tuba and Hans Koch's bass clarinet. Sporadic proclamations from the two reeds were forged into a coherent narrative, replete with space, and the stop-start momentum. Chortled snuffles suddenly exploded in stentorian bellows. More inspired interplay ensued between Holmlander's snorts, Gustaffson's volcanic outbursts and Koch's heavily vocalized wheezes and chuckles, fashioning a splendid set born of intense concentration.

The concluding grouping of the second evening was the one that everyone had been waiting for—the 32 year-old Parker/Guy /Lytton unit—and they didn't disappoint. To honor the occasion, both Parker and Lytton modeled t-shirts adorned with Guy's image, (the same one visible on the posters advertising the festival emblazoned throughout the city), much to the bassist's horror and the crowd's hilarity.

Homage or not, their set sparkled with a dervish frenzy derived from three intermingling streams of consciousness. Such was the speed of interaction that it was barely possible to keep track. Guy touched on a phrase, Parker instantaneously took it up as a motif to develop and swiftly leave in his wake. Noteworthy details leapt out from the discourse, as at one point the bassist utilized a notched wooden stick as a bow drawing forth koto-like pings. At times like this, trying to convey the magic of the music is a thankless task; this trio has developed its own language. How it sounds is known, but each time is different, like a seascape or cloudscape. Lytton belayed an asynchronous polyrhythmic rattle, while Guy switched between bow and fingers as the moment took him, as all three moved in continuous counterpoint.

At the drummer's request, a duet between Fernandez and Lytton was scheduled, which found the pianist in uncompromising burly debate with the Englishman in invigorating counterintuitive support. But, as if taking delight in as often confounding as confirming colleagues trajectories, the drummer soon started to fragment proceedings with arrhythmic scrapings. Initially, Fernandez carried on regardless, but inexorably the attraction of the percussive textures inside the piano drew him away from the short motifs on the keys which formed the transition. He pounded a thunderous resonance with wooden blocks while Lytton moved onto a variety of shakers and small instruments.

Thereafter, the dynamic alternated between subdued timbral interchange, with Fernandez under the lid, and a headlong flight recalling their opening terrain. At the end, after a passage of lower case tone colors when everyone thought they had finished, Lytton persisted with tiny sounds, enticing Fernandez back into the fray, plucking on the strings with a revolving arm gesture, halfway between relaxing the joints and beckoning everyone on.

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