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Vision Festival: Days 5-6, June 9-10, 2011

Vision Festival: Days 5-6, June 9-10, 2011
John Sharpe By

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Day 1 | Days 2-3 | Day 4 | Days 5-6 | Day 7
Kidd Jordan Quintet, Matthew Shipp/Evan Parker, Paradoxical Frog, Planetary Unknown
Vision Festival

Abrons Arts Center

New York City

June 9-10, 2011


Kidd Jordan Quintet

New Orleans saxophonist Edward Kidd Jordan, who was the honoree at the 2008 Vision Festival, delivered one of the standout sets on the fifth day, with a redoubtable all-star quintet. Though they didn't have a track record as a band, the assembled luminaries boasted more than enough familiarity with the fast and loose territory to generate tension and excitement. Always a good omen, William Parker filled the bass chair, making his fourth showing of the 2011 Festival. Baritone saxophonist Hamiett Bluiett returned for his second, while new this time out were two musicians who have never quite garnered due acclaim: venerable pianist Dave Burrell and mighty drummer William Hooker.


Dave Burrell

After a start where the flames leapt in sporadic bursts from Jordan's tenor saxophone, fanned by Burrell's piano up-drafts, their extemporized trajectory mirrored a sine wave in its regular peaks of intensity. Jordan's impassioned yelping falsetto shaped proceedings, whether adding fluent contrapuntal exhortation to the rumbling rhythm section or forging an earthy riff. Without his usual radio pickup, he occasionally lost power when he strayed too far from the mic stand, but nonetheless the most incendiary moments stemmed from the feverish intersection of Bluiett's baritone aerobatics with the leader's squalling hollers. Burrell had on his fire music hat, restlessly battering the keyboard, flipping from palms to the backs of his hands during his glissandos. At one point the horns quieted, to leave the pianist to captivate with jabbing chording peppering spidery excursions to devise a wonderfully spiky solo.

When it came, the ending imparted the feel of a spiritual lullaby. Jordan stilled a rambunctious ensemble leading to a rubato rapture, where he interjected vocal shouts amid his mournful John Coltrane-inspired wail, as Parker, bow in hand, echoed and amplified the saxophonist's heartfelt soliloquy.


Matthew Shipp/Evan Parker

Pianist Matthew Shipp demonstrated, again, his strong attachment to the untrammeled communicative opportunities of the piano and saxophone duet. Sessions with reedmen Darius Jones, on Cosmic Lieder (Aum Fidelity, 2011), and Sabir Mateen, on SaMa (Not Two, 2010), have been amongst the most recent, but tonight he invited English saxophone iconoclast Evan Parker into the spotlight, revisiting the format of their acclaimed Abbey Road Duos (Treader, 2007).

Together they negotiated a searching 50-minute conversation broken only by untimely applause as Parker switched from tenor to soprano saxophone midway through. While in theory a meeting of equals, the Englishman sounded somewhat restrained early on, often following Shipp's lead in terms of the dynamic contours. Not that he slavishly matched the pianist: one of the pleasures of their interaction was that, apart from one fleeting passage where Parker reflected the American's line, their connection was oblique rather than literal. As Parker chuntered forcefully in the tenor's mid-range, Shipp ranged far and wide, with glinting flurries snatched from the extremes of the keyboard.


From left: Matthew Shipp, Evan Parker

Once underway on soprano, Parker exhibited his peerless facility at circular breathing to unleash one of the astonishing outbursts which have become his trademark on the straight horn, layering chirps, whistles and nasal burrs, to give the impression of three separate voices. Shipp reentered, deploying icy shards, drawing a quick response from the saxophonist and initiating a lovely sequence of overlapping crystalline patterns. As Parker eased into another hyper-fast spray of notes, the pianist kneaded thunderous crashes from the bass register. It seems that the American always performs at the top of his game in his Vision Festival appearances and tonight was no exception as he reconstituted his favored tropes into a dazzling parade of pianistic imagination. Given Shipp's fondness for recasting standards, it was a surprise that the only reference to the piano pantheon emanated from Parker, prompted by a felicitous sounding interval to quote Thelonious Monk's "Shuffle Boil." However, Shipp was not to be deflected from his singular course and the moment passed as the pair continued in their mercurial invention to complete another excellent outing.

Elsewhere on the fifth night, Jen Shyu's Raging Waters, Red Sand gave an intensely theatrical exhibition in the downstairs theater, showcasing the leader singing, dancing and bowing erhu (a two stringed Chinese fiddle), often in tandem with the athletic movement of the inscrutable Satoshi Haga. Mat Maneri's viola and Chris Dingman's vibes provided carefully controlled support in a performance of great impact. Trombonist Dick Griffin opened the evening in the company of a string quartet, made up of what Griffin termed "players with the holy ghost in their sound." That description proved particularly apt for violinist Charles Burnham's bravura hoedown and Akua Dixon's delightfully swinging cello.

By the sixth evening the mercury was rising both literally and metaphorically, with two of the festival highlights on the main stage courtesy of improvising super group Planetary Unknown, and an expanded edition of the collaborative trio Paradoxical Frog.


Paradoxical Frog

Named after their eponymous 2010 entrance on the prolific Clean Feed imprint, Paradoxical Frog comprised a multinational coalition of German saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, Canadian pianist Kris Davis and New Jersey native, drummer Tyshawn Sorey. For tonight's show they were joined by special guest Mat Maneri, on viola. Since the German moved to New York City from London in 2008 she has connected with a like-minded coterie of up-and-coming talents, also manifest to startling effect in her Anti-House band, likewise featuring Davis on occasion.


From left: Ingrid Laubrock, Tyshawn Sorey

Paradoxical Frog shared with Anti-House the delicious ability to blur the distinction between composition and improvisation, with written lines erupting unannounced from within passages of what seemed pure unfettered expression. Sometimes the only clue that charts were in play was their physical presence spilling off the music stands, and the close concentration they demanded. Close your eyes and you might never guess for extended periods, such was the unpredictability of their course.

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