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Old Customs Hall Tampere, Finland November 1, 2003
An all-acoustic group called The Electrics-what’s up? As saxophonist Strure Ericson explains it the name comes from a feeling the quartet once got while playing. German trumpeter Axel Dorner compared the group’s interaction to standing next to an electrical transformer-the almost palpable hum it emits, this buzz that sets your hair on edge. Their set at the Tampere Jazz Happening, made up of two extended improvisations, emits such a buzz, a spiky suspense that keeps you guessing.
Each member of the quartet bends and pushes their instrument’s sound until it crackles with a vibrant acoustic static. Dorner pulls out a spectrum of guttural, bubbling, white noise tones, an edgy extension of Bubber Miley’s gutbucket vocalizing. He intertwines his lines with Ericson, who switches between tenor, alto and baritone throughout the set. Ericson explores the percussive possibilities of the sax. He weaves valve-tapping, throaty pops, sharp clicks into the group’s texture. The two horns swirl about until merging in long, droning lines that inject trance into the group’s open-ended wanderings.
Danish drummer Raymond Strid then shocks and shakes that trance with his arsenal of timbral variations. He blends with the drone by bowing elongated, piercing tones from his cymbals, then shatters the mood with single, violent snare attacks or pointed crash cymbal. Norwegian bassist Ingrebrigt Flaten navigates through the dialogue with strummed chords, graceful trills and tight bursts of notes juxtaposed with snatches of melody.
As a whole the group shifts their improvisations through a collage of moods, colors and rhythmic approaches. Ambient rustling becomes dense droning becomes dense locomotive swinging in the style of Ornette Coleman. But they never drift aimlessly, never let the interest falter for they feel unified, yet it is not some obvious sequence of chords or other musical structure that unites them. Rather, each member of the quartet pays rapt to attention to the directions taken by the others, at times following and at times leading. From this interactive base they build their soundworld, one that certainly doesn’t need electricity to make sparks fly.
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.