Undead Jazz Festival: Day 2, June 24, 2011

Undead Jazz Festival: Day 2, June 24, 2011
Daniel Lehner By

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Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4

Undead Jazz Festival
New York, New York
June 23-26, 2011

Sometimes a great idea just begs to be used again. The first performance of Search and Restore's "round-robin style" improvisation cycle last December proved its worth went beyond novelty. This time, the improvisatory pairings (improvised in both musical content and the pairings themselves) amongst 15 musicians kicked off the second day of the Undead Jazz Festival and the first of the festival's three days in Brooklyn. Selected and paired at random, each musician brought the spirit of unrestrained dialogue to The Bell House in Park Slope.

The rules were simple: the first improviser (Musician A) played solo for about five minutes. After that time, Musician B joined Musician A for about five minutes of duo improvisation. After that time, Musician A left and Musician B was joined by Musician C. The cycle went on, without pause, until the pairings ran out and the last musician played solo.

Dean Bowman solo

There probably could not have been a better choice of musician to kick off the cycle than vocalist Dean Bowman. He began the night with a rich, low, gospel dirge, occasionally shifting into biblical-type lyrics. His rich timbre shifted in sonic quality and his extended technique included a crackling, almost yodeling type vibration. He clapped his hands together, making bird-like whistles as the first duet began.

Dean Bowman vs. Charlie Burnham

Violinist Charlie Burnham quickly established a pulse to ground Bowman with gentle string plucks. When Burnham began to bow, Bowman established a mournful, yearning rapport, shifting into a gypsy dance on top of a single note from Burnham. The gospel/gypsy hybrid was still resonating as the vocalist left for another string player.

Charlie Burnham vs. Erik Friedlander

Cellist Erik Friedlander lent his keen ear and sense of harmonic invention to create an almost composed sounding duet with Burnham. He immediately began to accompany Burnham with walking bass notes that flourished into flamenco/classical finger sweeps. They came together with their bows in a rapid, whirling dervish chase with Friedlander setting up the first of many atonal melodies throughout the night. The chase had become urgent and hard-edged as Burnham left Friedlander playing a single note.

Erik Friedlander vs. Elliott Sharp

Multi-instrumentalist Elliott Sharp jumped onto Friedlander's single bowed note with a high soprano sax flutter. The two musicians began shaving off gravelly textures, Sharp's little note clusters falling on Friedlander's thumb slaps. The textural duet grew even less melodic as Sharp began doing little more than whispering but came back into full swing with Sharp bending notes in imitation of the cello. The duo got into a rocking rhythm as Friedlander left the stage.

Elliott Sharp vs. Chris Lightcap

Bassist Chris Lightcap luckily found Sharp in a brief lull, taking his opportunity to start his low register thumps. Like the previous duet, Lightcap and Sharp were more interested in creating texture and dichotomous atmosphere, rather than any strong melodic content. Lightcap's rollicking low notes gave Sharp a prime opportunity to swirl around. They found themselves in a unique interplay between bowed bass and flutters when the first drummer came up.

Chris Lightcap vs. Brian Chase

Yeah Yeah Yeah's drummer Brian Chase, contrary to what one might have thought, obliged more than Lightcap's rock sensibilities. Lightcap had formulated an emerging bass line and Chase acted responsively, accenting the bassist's rhythms with bass drum and tom-tom punches. This improvisation formula seems to favor Middle Eastern style dialogues and this was another example, the bassist and drummer creating a rocking, pulsating dance. They were at a fever pitch when the Lightcap left the stage.

Brian Chase vs. Darius Jones

Alto saxophonist Darius Jones picked up on Chase's splashes with a yearning melody and gave Chase a chance to stretch when he set up a series of microtones for Chase to solo around. The two landed on a jazz-informed melody in which Chase inched further away from free improvisation, toward a rumbling swing. They were still only hinting at jazz when the drummer left the stage.

Darius Jones vs. Jamie Saft

Jamie Saft let the rhythm drop out for something wholly different. The keyboardist, without hesitation, began emitting alien-sounding, phase-shifting electronic tones. Jones was very welcoming to this approach, beeping and howling like a warning siren. Saft stirred up a pitch-bent melody while Jones played growling notes as if he were one of Saft's keys. The cosmic duet rose and fell with intensity, finally settling into a middle ground for an incoming trumpet player.

Jamie Saft vs. Kirk Knuffke


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