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Live Reviews

Live From Old York: Jim White, Vijay Venkat, Adriano Adewale & Benjamin Taubkin

By Published: October 14, 2013
Possible roles were mostly reversed, as Taubkin built up anchoring rhythmic patterns, his blocky phrases developing doggedly whilst Adewale roamed around the pulsing spine of this shimmering body. Taubkin was only occasionally interested in technically impressive speed-runs, preferring to layer reverberant tones in a steady accumulation of rumble. Adewale's percussion array has a pan-global feel, despite his inclusion of the Brazilian pandeiro, cuica and berimbau (tambourine, squeaky-skinned drum and single-string gourd-thing). His central time-keeping tool was a calabash, with a ghatam South Indian-style clay pot to its side and a slender West African drum next in line. While Taubkin was steadily shifting emphasis, or slowly intensifying a structure, Adewale would often switch the conduit for his own rhythms, moving from one tool to another during a piece. Each of these improvisations hung around the ten minute mark, and surely some of the practical choices were made in advance. It was likely that Adewale knew he was going to spotlight his pandeiro, cuica and berimbau playing during particular parts of the two sets, standing centre-stage, then moving closer to the piano for a closer conversation. Each of these instruments became a featured core during their respective appearances.

Adewale broke each finger down into a separate entity, including a lot of highly dextrous multi-digit pattering, where most percussionists would be content to use their whole hand. He was slapping the calabash at the same time as flicking a screwed-down shaker, then plicking individual plastic cowbell simulacra to create delicate scatterings. Snare drum and cymbal work were severely rationed, and it was as if Adewale was gradually introducing elements of his vocabulary in a carefully controlled flow. He only unleashed his secreted bass drum right at the gig's climax. Meanwhile, Taubkin was collecting his rivulets into a waterfall. One number highlighted Adewale's vocal talents, going beyond the tongue-clicks that were regularly featured, and initiating an audience vocal participation, low, chant-based and tribal in tone.

At the beginning of the first set, there was an initial vibration of complacency, which was thankfully fleeting. A feeling that the music was coasting without much incident. Fortunately it didn't take the duo long to set up a dialogue that soon became taut with unpredictability. It's usually such a feeling of tension that generates a compulsive attention to improvisational activities, no matter how calming their eventual results might be, how organic the current.

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