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Are they the stepchildren of the underdog? Avant-guardian angels? 20-20 visionaries? Dancer/vocalist Patricia Nicholson, bassist William Parker, and friends are up to something, and they've been up to it for quite some time, bringing avant-jazz extravaganzas to New York City for over ten years. The new Vision Volume 3 CD/DVD, supplemented by Vision Festival Peace, a book-length collection of poetry, photos, prose, and scholarly discussion, is the most complete encapsulation to date of an ultimately indescribable, inexpressible experience: The Vision Festival.
The current package is culled from performances staged at the Eighth Annual Vision Festival (2003). The CD includes many Vision veterans, most notably William Parker himself, who appears on five of the nine tracks (and on six out of ten on the DVD). All of the cuts are excerpts, featuring particularly inspired solos or sections of a longer set. Of special interest on the CD are: Tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson repartee with bassistHarrison Bankhead's on "Trying to Catch the Rabbit ; Tenor saxophonist Daniel Carter's aggressive altissimo wailing over pianist Matthew Shipp's chordal rumblings on "Surface & Dream ; Tenor saxophonist Kidd Jordan, William Parker and drummer Andrew Cyrille on "Quilt, a plucking, clucking barnyard brawl; PaNic's "Rise Up, featuring the soulful, ethereal reeds of Joseph Jarman and the Mississippi mutterings of Cooper-Moore's down-&-dirty diddly-bo; and Rob Brown's intelligent and muscular tenor on "Resonance, supported by the doubled-up double-basses of William Parker and Henry Grimes, one arco and one pizzicato.
The DVD features five of the same numbers as the CD, and additional material from three of the group sets, but there is minimal overlap. In spite of a number of technical problems (i.e. formatting, tracking, & synching), the sound quality is quite good and, more importantly, the added dimension of sight gives unfamiliar viewers a taste of the visceral, kinesthetic qualities of the Vision Festival experience, an inherent and inseparable component of these powerful performances. Violinist Billy Bang's Hendrix-esque body-eubonics on "Song for Jeanne Lee, vocalist Thomas Buckner's wah-wah warbling along with reedist Roscoe Mitchell's strolling conversation with Harrison Bankhead on "Improvisation No. 1073 ; Patricia Nicholson's vocalized dancing on "Rise Up ; and drummer Whit Dickey's full-body commitment to the music on "Coalescence, all demonstrate that there is more here than meets the ear. The DVD also includes taped interviews in which musicians and other key figures on the downtown scene, including poet Steve Dalachinsky and visual artists Yuko Otomo and Jo Wood Brown, expose the methods behind their sane-ness.
The Vision Festival Peace Book is a collection of writings and photographs that, along with the DVD interviews, reveals the emotions and philosophies that drive these creative artists, the deep thinking and strong political and spiritual commitment that often underlies the seemingly chaotic elements of their musical output. Not surprisingly, many of these musicians are equally adept at expressing themselves in prose. Historical overviews written by Scott Currie and Michael Heller situate the Vision Festival along a socio-musical trajectory stemming from the "new thing, the 70s loft scene, and the 80s Sound Unity Festivals, through Reaganomics and present efforts to beat around the (George) Bush. Photographs of earlier art installations and previous venues, plus reproductions of vintage handbills all add to a sense of age, and of survival.
Louis Armstrong once said, "If you have to ask... The Vision Festival is like that: you have to be there, to experience it, to know what it's all about. If you haven't been, this CD/DVD/booklet packet is the next best thing: it shines a few beams of light on this multi-faceted diamond, briefly illuminating the various surfacesvisual, sonic, poetic, political, and spiritualrefracting and reflecting their qualities, their quintessences, the vital visions of this unique community of improvisers.
Personnel and track listings
CD: Whit Dickey Quartet: "Coalescence One; Fred Anderson/Harrison Bankhead: "Trying To Catch The Rabbit; Matthew Shipp Quartet featuring Daniel Carter: "Surface and Dream: Excerpt #1; Roy Campbell/Joe McPhee Quartet: "War Crimes and Battle Scars: Iraq; Thomas Buckner feat. Roscoe Mitchell/Jerome Cooper: "Improvisation #1073, Excerpt #1; Andrew Cyrille/Kidd Jordan/William Parker: "Quilt; Patricia Nicholson's PaNic w/Joseph Jarman/Cooper-Moore: "Rise Up; Rob Brown's Resonance w/William Parker/Henry Grimes: "Resonance, Excerpt #1; William Parker's Jeanne Lee Project: "Bowl of Stone Around the Sun."
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