Although Illuminated Silence
is nominally billed as a trio of equalsand, musically speaking, it is just thatit was Japanese pianist Izumi Kimura
's lead that brought long-standing musical collaborators Barry Guy
and Gerry Hemingway
together in Dublin for this live date at St. Ann's Church. Kimura is well known in Irelandher home for over twenty yearsas a brilliant technician and a fearless improviser, and it will come as no surprise to her admirers that Kimura more than holds her own with these two estimable international figures in improvised music.
Kimura had previously played live with both Guy
and Hemingway in duo settings in 2017, but this trio first came together in The Tyrone Guthrie Centre, an artists' residential retreat in County Monagahan, where musical concepts were shaped prior to this recording. Although only three of the eight tracks are credited as improvised pieces, in fact, the five compositionsthree by Guy, one by Kimura and one by Majorcan improvising pianist/composer Agusti Fernándezare simply frameworks for collective improvisation. The dramatic calling card "Intro," which explodes with a hammered two-note piano motif, sets the tone with its tumultuous peaks and tension-filled exploratory plateaus, even in the quietest moments.
The waxing and waning of the collective voice on the lyrical "Blue Horizon" grabsand holdsthe attention as much as the individual virtuosity on show. Here, the ghost of a Japanese melody briefly haunts Kimura's flowing run, on a tune which captivates even more as the trio's steam dissipates. The playing is at its most abstract on "Improvisation on a Painting," where the jagged-nerves introall scratching skin, wheezing strings and stabbing keysgives way to less fractured, sotto voce impressionism. Melody marks both entry points for Kimura's "The Willow Tree Cannot Be Broken by the Snow," a rhapsodic meditation punctuated by unaccompanied drum and bass solosthe storm before the calm.
The conceptual nature of this music is encapsulated in Guy's reading of a poem by 8th century Chinese Zen teacher Sekito Kisen, by way of introduction to "Improvisation on Light and Shadow": "In the light there is darkness, but don't take it as darkness, in the dark there is light, but don't see it as light. Light and dark oppose one another like the front and back feet in walking."
Kisen, you feel, would have recognized the symbiosis in the trio's silences and tumult, in its deft tip-toeing and intense stride, in its caressing play and avalanches of emotion, its simultaneous embrace of form and freedom.
All these contrasts inhabit Guy's "The Ancients," where the lyrical, emotive intro and outro bookend some of the trio's most charged and compelling interplay. The colors are more subtle on the haunting "How to Inhabit a Room You're Already In"; as Kimura winds a slow, quasi-baroque course, Guy's bending notes evoke a Korean gayageum, while Hemingway alternatively draws cries from his cymbals and sings into his drum-skin. The trio rounds out a consistently arresting performance with the upbeat "Finding It," which careers back and forth between boppish rhythm, heady improvised exchange and ruminative abstraction.
The sustained applause from the audience acknowledges an inspired performance, but you suspect that those present are not the only ones for whom the full force of Kimura, Guy and Hemingway's courageous musical dialogue can only be put into context by the ensuing silence, relative as that may be.