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Brilliant Corners Jazz Festival 2015

Ian Patterson By

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A melodic exchange between Bonney and Bates at the outset of "House of Seeds," was brief but effective, contrasting with the organically brewed, steamy quartet stew that ensued. The boldly expansive interplay gradually dissipated, giving way to a more meditative ambiance that culminated in Hawkins' ethereal, high-register finale.

The pianist's pounding metronomic figure laid the foundation for another rollicking quartet holler on the aptly titled "Flying Pots." Minimal gestures provided the nuts and bolts of "Little Particles," serene by comparison. The undulating high-sea waves returned on "Cartagena"; inspired by the beauty of the Spanish city, the underlying tensions, anxious rhythms and explosive exclamations were more in tune with the drama of the Pamplona bull-run. Not for the faint-hearted.

Sixes

The proximity of The MAC to Black Box meant that it was possible to catch most of the performance of Sixes, the guitar collective fronted by Hornby, guitarist in Belfast bands Continuous Battle of Order and We Are Knives.

Inspired by the epic guitar collectives of Rhys Chatham—guitarist/multi-instrumentalist and former member of minimalist pioneer La Mont Young's group in the early 1970s—Hornby's original compositions for eight electric guitarists were based on a mathematical score that translated into interconnecting rhythmic mantras that wielded a hypnotic, jagged drone-like effect.

After an extended period of retuning, Hornby led the ensemble into Rhys' "Guitar is My Life" from 1977. Originally written for three guitars, Rhys' score allows for up to ten guitarist and Hornby took full, ear-splitting advantage. When all the guitarists were locked in their respective riff zones the sound engulfed the room. It's quite likely that Belfast hasn't experienced such a powerful and sustained sonic blast since Motorhead burst ear drums in the Maysfield Leisure Centre in 1981. Stone Deaf Forever indeed.

Yet the sixteen-minute wall of sound held all kinds of sonic dynamics and Hornby's advice to move around the room to tap into the different channels rewarded the few folk in the audience who heeded him. The final number—also by Chatham—stemmed from Hornsby's Hawkwind-esque riff, and with bass and pummelling drums adding texture as well as rhythmic muscle, the ensemble rocked out into a heady sonic headspace.

The obvious question that arises is just where does this ensemble rehearse?

Day Four

Dave Stockard & Edward Lucas

The final day of Brilliant Corners 2015 served up even more genre-bending, experimental and downright original music.

The first part of the double-header in The MAC featured the improvising duo of percussionist David Stockard and trombonist Edward Lucas. In a thirty-minute improvisation the duo's dialog was chiefly concerned with the exploration of sounds.

Stockard—Moving On Music's Musician in Residence for 2015 —was highly animated throughout, whether drawing minimalist cries and subtle plosive vibrations from his single drum-head skin or waking the dead with shamanistic clatter. Likewise, Lucas mined the percussive possibilities of his instrument, his whinnying, gurgling and rasping playing just as important a role as his dissonant clusters of notes.

Stockard and Lucas have been playing together for less than a year but already they have developed a quite personal idiom. This sort of seat-of-the-pants improvisation rarely gets a foot in the door of most venues, so Moving On Music's initiative in also promoting their obviously niche end of the creative music spectrum is to be applauded.

Fred Frith

There was a bit of a pre-concert buzz about Fred Frith's solo gig, as there has been for over four decades since the release of his ground-breaking album Guitar Solos (Caroline, 1974). Admittedly, his prepared guitar improvisations aren't for everyone but it would be a harsh judge who denied his innovative talent in manipulating the guitar's timbre and its emotional impact.

The majority who attend Frith's solo gigs are either dyed-in-the-wool fans or the plain open-minded. A minority, who perhaps get dragged along by well-meaning friends, may come away scratching their heads or mumbling something about monkeys being able to make the same racket. Each to their own.

For forty-five minutes Frith busied himself like the provervial mad scientist in his sound laboratory. Employing any number of found objects on his guitar strings and filtering their vibrations through a sound resonator and various pedals, Frith crafted a curious symphony that revelled in minute details and crushing waves of sound alike.

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