Off Minor

Musings of a Jazz geek

Prezens, at the Vortex 13/1/08

Posted January 15, 2008

David Torn and Tim Berne

Prezens at the Vortex, 13/1/08 « David Torn (guitar, effects), Tim Berne (alto sax), Craig Taborn (Fender Rhodes, electronics), Tom Rainey (drums) »

Prezens, the ECM CD, was released a little under a year ago, although originally recorded March 2005. I think this is their first performance in the UK as Prezens (is that the group name or the record?) although this is essentially Berne’s Hard Cell group, with the addition of (and leadership transfer to) David Torn. Torn, I suppose, is supposed to be a sort of background genius, but it’s only through Berne’s association that I’ve ever heard him (he previously performed with Science Friction—Hard Cell + Marc Ducret (or is that Big Satan + Craig Taborn?)—at the London Jazz Festival, I remember)… The thing about Prezens, the disc (which is brilliant and fresh) is that it seems so dense with editing and post-performance processing (in a Teo Macero cut-up and splice sense), that it’s hard to tell what’s live and what’s ‘artificial’. In fact, Prezens the live act seems pretty well removed from Prezens the record, with no obvious tunes/themes, just a continuously evolving improvisation (presumably based on something? It would be interesting to know how it’s all set up!). When I’ve seen Tim Berne in his own groups (Big Satan, Paraphrase) it’s all continuous weaving streams of invention, but they always seem to have some definite theme in their heads (playing around, playing towards, playing away from). This Prezens seemed to be much less pre-determined, and a little bit more dangerous; as the maelstrom revolved around the stage, it might have taken a bit longer for everyone to come down on something brilliant, a bit more of a struggle to tame everything, but the experience was quite fantastic for it.

This Sunday performance was day one of a two-night residence (I think they’re playing in Leeds, Tuesday night), with the Monday night Vortex performance being recorded for February transmission on Jazz on 3… I think that’s something you should look out for ;p

Also, this interview with Torn, on YouTube, is pretty interesting ;)

Tim Berne David Torn Craig Taborn Tim Berne at the Vortex Tom Rainey

Bohman Brothers’ New Year New Sounds Festival

Posted January 10, 2008

John Edwards

The Bohman Brothers’ New Year New Sounds Festival Day 1, at Battersea Arts Centre, 7/1/08 « I-C-E Quintet, and the Evan Parker / John Edwards / John Russell Trio »

A great first-gig start to 2008; the opening night of the Bohman Brothers’ New Year New Sounds Festival at the Battersea Arts Centre… This runs until Saturday, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to make it back there this week; the BAC site has a full programme listing.

Opening up were the I-C-E Quintet; five clarinets (of different types), sort of revolving around one another; four of them were Rick Gensen, Tara Stucky, Noel Taylor and Jerry Wigens; the programme doesn’t say who the fifth was (and alas I know not who was who)… Each player had a notably unique identity, but I can never clear my head enough to identify exactly what’s going on where… It comes together into a dense soundscape, that I try and work my way round, letting it mould together and then focus in on the odd burst of drive, but tending to remain pretty oblivious to all the technicalities… Captivating and beautiful, but also good that I had an intelligent friend who could explain to me, afterwards, how it all worked…

ICE Quintet

After that too-fleeting performance, Evan Parker’s trio with John Edwards and John Russell. I’ve seen Evan Parker a few times now (hmm, maybe only just on the fingers of two hands) but this was probably the most intimate of them all; the Vortex is ‘friendly’, but here ‘sold-out’ seemed to mean about forty people, and it seemed perhaps like Parker was playing less self-concious than when I had seen him before. John Russell’s scratching playing is fantastic and I should really try and find something where he’s on record. Edwards was dominating in his inspiration and transmogrifying inventiveness…

Evan Parker Trio

As they were packing up, John Russell stepped forward to make an announcement on the future of the Red Rose, and to announce its absolute demise as a live music venue, as the lease is sold on to make way for a pool club. Apparently his January 20th Mopomoso will be the last ever improv event at that venue… Just what exactly is going to happen now??? ;(

(Visit the flickr for more dodgy photos…)

Evan Parker Evan Parker John Russell (Evan Parker trio) Evan Parker / John Russell (Bass?) Clarinet

WXXV: Sonny Simmons and Tight Meat

Posted November 22, 2007

Sonny Simmons and Tight Meat

Sonny Simmons & Tight Meat Trio, at the Red Rose, 19/11/07 « Sonny Simmons (alto sax), David Keenan (alto sax), Alex Neilson (drums), George Lyle (double bass) »

My second and last Wire magazine WXXV event, this time at free-improv bastion, the Red Rose… Kicking off: a set by, support act, Italian Jooklo Duo (their website). Virginia Genta on fiery, tumbling tenor sax, and David Vanzan on free, astral, scattering drums; a really crude outlook, but cool sound. Vanzan with that beautiful floating shimmering hi-hat like Rashied Ali off Isis and Osiris. Genta more noisy but perfect, with deep roots to the avant-garde of the 1960s.

Jooklo Duo

After a break, Sonny Simmons with Glaswegian Tight Meat. They kicked off with TM’s Keenan dominating with up-tempered rolling overdriven blasts, Sonny Simmons meeting him with more-clearly jazz-inspired fast-paced lines. Lyle played naive sounding scrabbling and scratching bass, while Neilson blasted real free rocking, punkish drum lines. I mean, the drums were fantastic, and with Keenan’s screeching, grinding alto it came out like some cool punk breaking away from the jazz sphere (“punk-primitive post-noise mindset” is how The Wire puts it), Simmons’ Actual Jazz touching up with more melodic detail. Pretty great. This was an excursion from a series of London Jazz Festival events, for me; this years festival proper has been slightly coma-inducing all round. Why wasn’t this hooked up?…

Some more bad photos, on flickr:

Jookla Duo Jookla Duo Sonny Simmons + Tight Meat Trio

You should probably also check out David Grundy’s post, with pictures and sound.

(Sorry this is a bit late in posting, time to check spelling mistakes has been scarce…)

WXXV: Han Bennink, John Tchicai, Sunny Murray, with Spring Heel Jack & friends…

Posted November 15, 2007

Han Bennink and John Coxon

Wire WXXV festival, at Conway Hall, 12/11/07 » Han Bennink (drums), John Tchicai (saxes), Sunny Murray (drums), Spring Heel Jack (electronics), John Edwards (bass), Orphy Robinson (marimba), Tony Marsh (drums) «

Wire magazine’s WXXV festival (that is: 25th birthday festival, for all the square cats) has been in motion for a couple of weeks. Plans to go to more have disintigrated into a start with this night, at Conway Hall. (A new venue for me; pretty nice ;) ) Three sets with three groupings, each a different drummer, Spring Heel Jack (Ashley Wales, John Coxon) providing continuity throughout (the pair also presumably providing much of the organisation as an extension of their Back in Your Town club nights).

Ashley Wales and Han Bennink

Their Han Bennink-backed trio started the night. Bennink is someone I’ve heard having fun on disc, a little bit, with Br ötzmann, Nerve Beats, and the like… But seeing him before me, I was knocked clean over ;) A slightly manic figure, with rolled up trouser legs, a grin that looks just a little bit too crooked… But he sat down behind the kit and started belting out grooving free rhythms that were like nothing else. John Coxon’s top-form broken electronic guitar-playing, pushing in glitches, Wales’ electronics pushing bass-line grooves on an obvious dance music tip. Fantastically moving, jiving, honest, fun… Bennink a true inspiration. When his cymbals fell over and crashed to the floor it was still perfect. His immense grasp of playing space, moving out front to sit behind a single snare drum but flailing his arms (and legs) behind himself to hit that odd beat that he’d left behind, was such a clean, open pleasure to watch. Should probably have bought their CD! The mixture of driving free drums, and the pounding electronic beats made this… Free Improv that you can dance to? Not quite, but still very cool.

John Tchicai, John Edwards, et al

The second act saw Han Bennink replaced with Tony Marsh, and Orphy Robinson and John Edwards added, along side the great figure of John Tchicai; he of Coltrane’s Ascension… A bit disappointing seeing him assume a slightly marginal role, playing brief sax (and bass clarinet!) passages alongside the colossal (but easy tempered) sound-scapes of SHJ, bass, drums and marimba. The piece was cool, and the playing was great, but it wasn’t quite as killer as Bennink et al, mainly because it seemed a bit too pre-meditated. John Edwards played some cool and interesting textural passages, and Tchicai was nice and vocal on bass clarinet, but didn’t quite grab me as much as the other music.

John Tchicai

The evening finished with the same ensemble, but with Tony Marsh replaced by the great bear-figure of (free jazz legend) Sunny Murray. He launched off with a mesmerising and satisfyingly jazzy solo opener, catching most slightly off-guard, with Edwards, some minutes later, catching a drift and pulling the group in with a deep funk bass line. Maybe I’m just not subtle enough, but this was a lot more exciting. Unfortunately, maybe due to pressures of time—or perhaps because Murray had just had enough—as soon as the thing quietened into a lull, the drummer took it upon himself to bring the piece to an abrupt halt, finishing the proceedings as Coxon was still plucking out from his guitar. Watching him dance up from his kit and across the stage, taking his applause, I just wished that they could have played on longer…

Some more photos on flickr:

John Coxon Han Bennink at Conway Hall John Coxon John Edwards, Tony Marsh John Edwards at Conway Hall

Charles Gayle / William Parker / Mark Sanders, at the Red Rose 21/9/07

Posted September 23, 2007

Charles Gayle and Mark Sanders

Back in Your Town, at the Red Rose, 21/9/07 » Charles Gayle (alto sax, piano), William Parker (bass), Mark Sanders (drums) « »

The London leg of this Charles Gayle tour, incorporated into this month’s Back in Your Town at the Red Rose, Finsbury Park. Rod at wordsandmusic has already posted a pretty excellent review of Monday’s Liverpool gig, Mapsadaisical an equally nice one re: this London session… So, sorry if this is a bit derivative and pointless…

These Back in Your Town nights are really pretty awesome; for their cheapness (of entry) and general back-waterness (working men’s club vibe), Wales/Coxon manage to pack a pretty decent hit rate; last year’s Sunny Murray concert, this year’s Bruise gig*, like, most of my favourite Free Jazz is here.

The night kicked off with a pretty slick Steve Beresford / Neil Metcalfe, piano / flute duet… Beresford constantly moving, surprising, engaging; Metcalfe (who I don’t think I’ve heard before) getting pretty strong with cool lines and immediate interaction with Beresford’s mixture of chopping styles. Studious and reflective…

When, after the interval, the Gayle group took to the stage, all things changed. Gayle himself: tall and thin, dressed in black with an iconic white plastic alto sax, bursting out from the back of the stage with a flurry of notes and sounds, a bolt out of the blue (even for the rest of the band, with the drummer, Mark Sanders, still in the midst of thanking tour organisers Birmingham Jazz). Caught somewhat off-guard, drums and bass whipped round into action, creating an instant pounding flurry of scattering notes and beats. Sanders so fast and powerful over his kit, kicking out patterns that would constantly shift and move. William Parker just an excellent virtuosity, hard to follow exactly what he was doing, his body quite still and patient but his arms and hands a casual flurry creating all sorts of intricate patterns that I could hardly follow… (It was pretty incredible, walking in to the Red Rose and seeing Parker lurking outside the gents toilets, this being the same guy I’d seen as a miniscule dot on stage with the Taylor/Braxton unit a few months ago, for about seven times the ticket price.) Gayle himself was blisteringly good; a kind of cross between the flurries of Charlie Parker, and the silghtly warped, weird freedom of Ornette Coleman. Splitting onto piano for a good section of the night: an almost naive pounding style to start, but then onto something more vocal (yes, even quoting the theme from Coltrane’s Naima).

Recorded for broadcast on Jazz on 3, supposedly due for the night of October 5th… get your tapes ready!…

William Parker (Charles Gayle Trio) Charles Gayle + Mark Sanders Charles Gayle

These are mine, but mapsadaisical and andynew both have more, better pics, on flickr.

* Bruise back next month, Back in Your Town October 18th. Yay!

Service Interruption

Posted August 23, 2007

I suppose I had better come clean and admit that I’m falling behind with the blog postage…

Apart from Ingrid Laubrock/Tom Rainey at the Vortex last week (which was pretty fine!), I haven’t really been to see very much lately. A (slightly more) regular blogging service will hopefully resume sometime in September (once I’ve got over my holiday, some money in my back pocket, and I can get a hold of my work commitments!).

Until then, cheers for reading…

Agustí Fernández, Derek Bailey — Barcelona

Posted August 3, 2007


Barcelona, Hopscotch Records Hop 10 » Agustí Fernández (piano), Derek Bailey (guitar) «

Yes, another Derek Bailey record, and not any of the ones recommended to me by Nate Dorward (see here, and here).

The fifteen-minute opener Senyor Parellada is exploratory, Fernández playing a heavily prepared piano, Bailey sitting in the corner and plucking away, but with what would seem something of a determined expression. It seems like it’s music that has been tamed: they’re playing comfortably, but perhaps while keeping one eye over their shoulder. The second, half as long Botafumeiro is beautifully chilled, the plucking and bit-ting coming equally from both sides.

After a brief power-up Esterri comes the central 23 minute Casa Leopoldo, which is great, everywhere, and the highlight of the set. Starting off contemplative, it moves out into some really textural sounds, moments of some sort of intricate soundscape, with Fernández getting the uttermost out of his effect-laden piano. A musical sound with great depth. Seemingly bolstered by this production, the final two tracks are the most up of the record; 7 Portes is quite dark, whereas Medulio, more excited. I dunno… it’s a bit annoying that the pieces don’t really seem to fit together very well, one after another—it feels like just some random set of recordings that happened to turn out alright—but individually the music is great; accomplished and essentially straight-forward, but with a slight edge of tension to put it out that extra mile.

Evan Parker, et al. — A Glancing Blow

Posted July 30, 2007

Evan Parker - A Glancing Blow

A Glancing Blow, Clean Feed CF085 » Evan Parker (tenor/soprano sax), John Edwards (bass), Chris Corsano (drums) «

A sort of straight-forward Evan Parker trio set, I think recorded live at the Vortex. The first thirty minute piece: Parker sounds quite cool, fairly broody; someone (presumably Corsano) plays around with some sort of pipe, or disconnected mouthpiece, in parts, with Parker matching him there with an almost bagpipe drone. Parker also seems a bit, er, uncharacteristically melodic (which is nice). John Edwards plays a fairly forthright bassline throughout, with plenty of hard scraping, twanging and body-slapping. I’m not sure I’ve ever actually heard Corsano before, he sounds alright here, a bit like a more laid-back Paal Nilssen-Love. The second forty-five minute track is less compressed-together, with quite a lot more space. It’s also a little bit less of a melting pot, coming out more meditatively thoughtful.