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Vision Festival XI, Angel Orensanz Foundation For The Arts, NYC - Day Three, 15 June 2006

John Sharpe By

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Paul Rutherford trio

The opening set for the third evening of the Vision Festival featured the veteran UK trombonist Paul Rutherford, combining with the Vancouver based rhythm team of Torsten Muller, originally from Hamburg, on bass and percussionist Dylan van der Schyff. Rutherford has had a long and varied career, best known for his free inclinations with Iskra 1903, Globe Unity Orchestra, LJCO and his ground-breaking solo trombone album "The Gentle Harm of the Bourgeoisie .

Rutherford sat eyes closed, on a stool at the rear of the stage as arco bass and puttering drums and cymbals mingled in a hyperactive opening. Rutherford contributed a series of fragmented blurts and then pitted high slurred runs against abyssal bass scrapes. The trio dealt in abstract forms, with Rutherford's trombone like a cat slinking through the rhythmic undergrowth, growling, buzzing, squelching, and whispering. That's not to say this was a full on display of virtuoso technique - Rutherford was conversational and understated for the most part, content to take his part in the ebb and flow of the improv.

They were responsive to each other's leads, but never really caught fire, in spite of some notable individual moments. Van der Schyff is a busy player who likes to vary the textures: using a towel to dampen his snare, or a cymbal placed on the drum head; contrasting rapid hand pattering with crisp hihat splashes. High frequency rubbing of the bass body prompted a stick scraped across cymbals. Van der Schyff produced a measured textural tone poem in the second piece, juxtaposing short bursts of clashing timbres. Muller's face was creased in concentration, whether he was drawing forth a frighteningly deep full toned arco drone, bowing as he squeezed the strings together to bend the pitch, or expansively plucking ringing notes which he tossed over his shoulder.

The trio explored four pieces over the course of a short set of just over half an hour.

John Coltrane Tribute Band

Billed as the John Coltrane Tribute Band and featuring two of Trane's former sidemen in Reggie Workman and Rashied Ali, this band was nonetheless assembled under the direction of downtown trumpet maestro Roy Campbell. Campbell, resplendent in a sharp turquoise jacket, completed his line-up with pianist Andrew Bemkey, his erstwhile band mate from his ensemble Tazz, and saxophonist Louis Belogenis. Belogenis has made something of a career of new takes of classic 60s aggregations, with the band Prima Materia, also featuring Ali, giving their take on Trane's Meditations. Nonetheless, any connection with Trane's oeuvre was metaphysical rather than literal.

The band started casually before the audience knew what was happening. Even MC for the evening, Steve Dalachinsky was taken unawares, until he realised and took his cue, reciting free verse, based on a rap around Naima and a litany of Coltrane song titles, over a slow burning stasis. The band gradually turned up the heat with Campbell and Belogenis blending elongated tones over an increasingly animated Bemkey. Ali's promptings became more insistent until they reached a blistering crescendo and Dalachinsky finished. Space opened up for a heartfelt statement from Workman, whose lacerating runs down the fretboard culminated in gorgeous bent notes. The veteran bassist was on fire this evening and took a prominent role throughout the single freewheeling piece. At one point he introduced an echo effect and elicited a resonant arco buzz - imposing dark sienna slashes on the aural canvas, then swiping shrieking strokes just above the bridge. Campbell interjected a smouldering pocket trumpet line and Ali dropped some restrained beats before Belogenis dovetailed in a magnificent anthemic upwelling.

The uplifting feeling continued with Campbell on flugelhorn signalling a loosely voiced unison with Belogenis, before embarking on a lyrical slow burning, almost spiritual extemporisation over a spare Bemkey counterpoint. Although there were music stands on the stage, any composition acted as a reference point rather than a stale rehash of familiar territories and the piece moved forward with solos emerging organically from the evolving interplay. Belogenis called down the spirits on tenor, building with multiphonic cries to invoke late period Trane. Ali maintained a constant commentary throughout, with an insistent pulse and subtle incitements, resisting the temptation for bombast, even in the most intense moments. Living legend Workman was astonishing whether frantically strumming on a single string, plucking harmonics or setting down booming bass notes. Bemkey just ate up the keys all night, whether in support or on the front line, with mercurial runs surging against crashing oceanic chords.


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