The 8th Annual Vision Festival began on May 20 in New York City, and just in time to show the world what it’s missing, Thirsty Ear released a collection of luminous performances from the previous year's event. Self-described as “art with a most decidedly disciplined disregard for tradition and boundaries,” these proceedings were last documented on a limited edition AUM Fidelity release featuring the second festival.
The collection opens with the band Muntu playing Albert Ayler’s “The Truth is Marching In.” Jemeel Moondoc’s fervent alto and William Parker’s wavering bowed bass capture the “energy music” vibe of the original. Roy Campbell’s crisp trumpet gets playful with Moondoc, while Parker and Rashid Bakr churn. Moondoc takes a wicked solo complete with vocal whoops, then the performance fades out as Campbell takes over. On “Existence,” Dave Burrell duets with bassist Tyrone Brown. A veteran of Odeon Pope, Jamaladeen Tacuma, Pat Martino, and George Lewis, Brown maintains a rhythmic rumble under Burrell’s unpredictable jagged direction on piano.
“Bangart 100” features the Billy Bang Trio, comprised of the violin innovator, Hamiet Bluiett on baritone sax, and komungo master Jin Hi Kim. The six-string/sixteen fretboard komungo measures 6 feet and either rests on the floor or the foot of the player sitting in a cross-legged position. Ms. Kim’s quest to bring the 4th century court instrument into modern relevance lands her between a couple of hard blowers who often overwhelm her in the mix. Bang kicks it off with a run somewhere between Paganini and the Orange Blossom Special finale. He takes it into space with scratched tones, then grounds it with spectacular phrases. Bluiett enters and plays solo, jumping from raw fog horn low notes to high thin squeals. The percussive steady finger picking on the komungo revives the momentum, and Kim keeps railroad rhythm.
“Crepuscule IV in Powderhorn Park” shows off Douglas Ewart’s all star quintet, which includes William Parker on bass, Hamid Drake on drums, Joseph Jarman on reeds, Wadada Leo Smith on trumpet, and Ewart on on reeds. Besides playing multiple reeds, Ewart designs and builds instruments, often from bamboo. These instruments can be played or stand alone as sculpture. The track fades in on Parker’s sinewy sound. After a brief ensemble passage, Smith emerges to swing through raspy phrases solo, then in trio with Parker and Drake. Ewart takes over and tears through loping trio playing and solo playing with occasional improvised horn arrangements fading in and out.
Matthew Shipp’s string trio plays a dramatic “Speech of Form.” With William Parker and Mat Maneri bowing bass and viola respectively, Shipp plays a densely chorded, minor-loaded melody. Maneri manages some fleet licks, and his textural explorations with Parker shine through the performance. Karen Borca Quartet’s “45 Hours” slides in on the limber bass of the great Reggie Workman, with brisk brushwork by Newman Taylor Baker. Borca demonstrates graceful command of her instrument, her phrasing and time unique. After a duet with Rob Brown on alto, the track ends with well deserved applause.
Ellen Christi’s “Synchronicity” showcases the vocalist’s sensual and creative sound in a humid setting with Parker and Drake on hand drums alongside Rolf Strum’s oozing guitar. Her inventive, freely improvised vocals soar through the increasing heat of the band. “Spirits Came In” has Kidd Jordan and Fred Anderson facing off on altos with the Parker/Drake rhythm machine keeping things slippery. Finally, Peter Kowald plays a ten minute bass solo that traverses some of the musical landscape explored by this free improvisation pioneer. His untimely death last September robbed free jazz of one of its giants.
In addition to the CD, the package also includes a DVD with surround sound that shows images from the festival. Happily, you still have plenty of time to plan your trip to next year’s show.