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Vision Festival X - Day Four, June 17, 2005

John Sharpe By

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Towards the conclusion, Carter turned in a tenor excursion with a heartfelt bluesy edge, with the saxophone section pulling together riffs in support. Carter continued his aching outpouring, crouching to excavate low notes and bobbing up and down in a circular motion. The saxophones blasted long tones and all the constituent parts of the Orchestra came together as sections before breaking loose again in a braying maelstrom. Carter and Campbell exchanged long winding-down tones and finished. It took a little while before the rest of the orchestra picked up the cue, but one by one they too subsided into silence. While they may have deviated from the original template, they nonetheless achieved a successful encounter and avoided the pitfalls of some free jazz blowouts, with chiaroscuro replacing chaos, and the ebb and flow delineating the characteristic arc of a classic Other Dimensions in Music performance. An excellent set!

Whit Dickey Quartet

Drummer Whit Dickey has been one of the fixtures of the Festival over recent years. Tonight he was leading a quartet featuring Roy Campbell on trumpet, Rob Brown on alto and Joe Morris on bass, performing against a backdrop provided by an interactive video by Phyllis Bulkin Lehrer. The group was closely confined to the right side of the stage to allow projection onto a screen centre stage.

"In the heart. "In a heartbeat, Dickey intoned by way of a prelude before a rapid fire solo drum workout, mainly on snare and tom-toms, anchored by a hi-hat pulse. The solo ended with a unison theme statement from the horns, before Brown stepped into the spotlight, building from the theme in sinuous phrases, examining each carefully before mutating into further abstractions. As Brown's lines lengthened and ascended on an upward scale, Campbell joined on trumpet and picked up Brown's altissimo stutters to begin his solo.

They played a continuous, well-rehearsed set, whose movements flowed seamlessly, covering a wide range of moods from exuberant to mournful. The horns formed a natural pairing: they have fronted many sessions and it showed in their high level of interplay and effortless rapport. Campbell muted his pocket trumpet with his hand, squeezing out wah-wahed smears, then growled low as Brown's distinctive sweet sour tone splintered and distorted into spinning shards. As the trumpet's voluminous whale calls rumbled on, Brown's alto soared, dipped and exulted in multiphonic hollers. Throughout the set their intertwining dialogue illuminated the loose suite like arrangement. Dickey has a busy style, deploying the tumbling rhythms of his one time mentor Milford Graves at merciless tempos, rolling his head as he plays. Morris was also fleet fingered in support, contributing to a dense group sound. There were clearings amid the rhythmic thickets though, where taps and cymbal splashes had chance to breathe.

I found the interactive video accompaniment projected behind the band disappointing, comprising geometric patterns which moved in seemingly preset and predictable ways, neither reflecting the overall flow of the piece or the detailed evolving group conversations.

They eased down following another Dickey solo, with a slow tattoo introducing a languid declamatory theme from the horns and a mournful feel over sparse drum cadences to finish all too soon, at just over half an hours playing.

Positive Knowledge

The next set was from Positive Knowledge, an improvising unit of some twenty years standing, built around the core of Bay Area based Oluyemi Thomas on bass clarinet and C melody saxophone and his wife Ijeoma Thomas on poetry and vocals. They were joined tonight by Harrison Bankhead on bass and Michael Wimberley on drums, with special guest Kidd Jordan on tenor saxophone.

A twittering spacey start to the set grew incrementally, until Oluyemi's woody bass clarinet was sparring full bloodedly with Jordan's overblown squeals and Ijeoma's wordless yelps. The five musicians were strung in a line across the stage, though Jordan's radio mic gave him license to roam. The two horns missed no excuse to raise the roof, with Bankhead strumming frantically over Wimberley's stickwork. A Bankhead solo was more muscular and less melodic that his outing the previous evening, joined by delicate filigrees from Jordan's tenor. I Thomas recited/sang a poem, cushioned by Oluyemi Thomas' tinkling bells and Wimberley's brushes, while Jordan voiced a Coltranesque counterpoint, until Ijeoma Thomas' falsetto pirouettes interweaved with Jordan's controlled high pitched whistles.


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