Off Minor

Musings of a Jazz geek

Tim Berne: (Paraphrase) ∪ (Big Satan), at the Vortex

Posted March 28, 2007

Tim Berne at the Vortex

I’m just so buzzing right now. Tim Berne was absolutely fantastic tonight (last night); this (Tuesday) was the final day in a three-night residency at the Vortex, organised essentially—I think—to coincide with the release of the new Big Satan live recording Livein Cognito. This long weekend he’s been playing, I gather, in various mash-ups and combinations of his regular touring groups; tonight he was with Tom Rainey (drums), Marc Ducret (guitar), and Drew Gress (bass)—as a quartet—which is essentially a union of his Paraphrase (no Ducret) and Big Satan (no Gress) groups.

I saw Big Satan, also at the Vortex, just under a year ago, and I can’t quite work out the difference between that and tonight; the dynamics were subtly different, I think… Was it just the addition of Gress? Were they playing more strictly tunes, before (or were the tunes just less obvious, tonight)? Every now and then Berne would let slip a fragment of familiar Science Friction-ish melody, but mostly it was two hour-long sets of swirling (what seemed like) pure improvisation.

On record, Berne never really gets to me; when it’s coming out of a pair of speakers in the corner of your bedroom, it over-plays the essentially quite minimalist, deconstructed melodies… and falls a bit flat. Live, it just bursts open; Tom Rainey’s awesome drumming, Berne’s screeching alto driving forward a pulsating, rhythmic maelstrom… Marc Ducret is an awesome presence, himself and his music, teasing sounds out of his guitar as if he’s at one with it… Drew Gress’ bass really pulled things together, filling that little space that’s slightly empty in what I’ve heard of pure Big Satan. What’s great is that everyone is playing together, there’s no obvious “internal dialogue”, no feeding off one another, in the the same way that John Coltrane’s classic quartet had no real “internal dialogue”; they all just play, together, instantly as one group. The brief solos were all fantastic (particularly Gress’, if I may say so), and they’re played to flow through the music; there’s no grandstanding, there’s no everyone-step-back-and-watch, it’s all just sublime… Wow, I think even Tom Rainey cracked a smile…

Bohman Brothers Present, 21/3/07: Dominic Lash / Phil Wachsmann / Bruno Guastella, and others

Posted March 24, 2007

Just some thoughts on last night’s Bohman Brothers Present… at the London Battersea Arts Centre (March 21st; a slight delay in posting!).

Dominic Lash, Phil Wachsmann & Bruno Guastella
I saw Dominic Lash at Boat-Ting a few weeks ago and said I thought he was brilliant; he was still brilliant last night at The Bohman Brothers’ Present…. Last time I saw him, I said I knew nothing about him… Well, I still know nothing but after looking around on google, I discover he’s quite active with the Oxford Improvisers group (and, that such a thing as the Oxford Improvisers group actually exists). Anyway, he has some samples on his myspace page (along with a long list of upcoming gigs), plus some info on the Studio 282 site. I just really enjoyed his playing, it’s all really scratchy and dark and grimy… maybe… not dark and grimy… You probably know what I mean… Excellent… Again trying to persuade me that I really need to learn how to play bass.

Alongside Lash there was Phil Wachsmann, on violin. According to the brief biog on the European Free Improvisation Pages, Wachsmann is coming to free jazz very much from a classical background… That really shows, I think; he’s really delicate, quick on the strings, his lines are really tight… he just exudes the impression of a great accomplished master… I saw him once before, playing with Evan Parker’s Electro-acoustic ensemble, last November, and you know that anything associated with Evan Parker is going to be tight (in that Evan-Parker-tight kind of way)… The third part in the trio was Bruno Guastella, on cello. Because of the placement of bodies (and the fact that I was right at the back of the hall) I couldn’t really see what he was doing. I notice that he and Lash have a CD out, which might be quite interesting, tho I have no idea how to get hold of it.

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FYI: Bohman Brothers Present… March/April 2007

Posted March 19, 2007

I noticed that a few people have been accessing this site, from Google searches for The Bohman Brothers and their improv nights at Battersea Arts Centre? These things don’t always seem to be massively well advertised (at least, if you don’t live in London), so I’m passing on this flyer I picked up at the last one… You must go!! (Click for bigger) (Note this is completely informal and I have no connection to this event.)

Bohman Brothers Present… March-April 2007

Back In Your Town 15/3/07: Ravalico/Khroustaliov, Ashley Wales/etc

Posted March 16, 2007

Two groups at March’s Ashley-Wales-curated-improv-night Back In Your Town, at The Red Rose club, Finsbury Park. (Sorry, no decent pictures, again.)

Maurizio Ravalico & Isambard Khroustaliov
First up was the duo of Maurizio Ravalico (percussion) and Isambard Khroustaliov (laptop). Ravalico was really impressive. (He has a great website with some nice mp3’s, including a few with Khroustaliov…) He had three sort-of upright drums, on top of which he had various things like gongs/cymbals, singing bowls (??), marbles, etc, creating some very captivating pulsating, tumbling textures. Khroustaliov was providing some processed feedback, that helped to sustain these great waves of sound. Ravalico explained that the pieces weren’t entirely improvised; they had been ‘worked out’ somewhat before hand. But this is good; the music was essentially quite minimalist (probably the wrong word, really), but they were able to avoid any dead-air, and it was all really engaging.

The pair have recorded a CD together, plus there are the afore-mentioned mp3s. Check them out!

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Bohman Brothers Present, 7/3/07: Adam Bohman / Alan Wilkinson, and others

Posted March 9, 2007


Back to the Bohman Brothers Present… at London’s Battersea Arts Centre.

Adam Bohman & Alan Wilkinson
Adam Bohman is a genius, scraping all sorts of mad funky sounds out of a table of found objects and constructed instruments composed of bent pieces of wire and the odd fork. He did a solo at the last BBP… I went to, but I liked it better here because I think he was being pushed more by the fiery influence of Alan Wilkinson on saxes (although that meant that there was none of Bohman’s great poetry and jokes). Wilkinson is great, just so loud and powerful. Bohman’s stuff was all miked up and amplified, so it was a perfect match; the guttural scraping, rasping sounds playing brilliantly against the honking lines of the sax. They played a relatively brisk single piece; Wilkinson wanted to play on, but Adam Bohman decided that they had to move onto the next act. However, later there was some sort of agreement that it sounded good enough to record (if so, it’d be excellent if I could hear some more…). I also bought the recently released Adam Bohman / Roger Smith Emanem CD Reality Fandango (which they were flogging on the front desk); I’ve currently only listened to the small 3-minute pieces, but it sounds pretty damn excellent so far…

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Boat-Ting, 4/3/07: Lol Coxhill / Steve Noble / John Edwards, and others

Posted March 6, 2007


Wow, Boat-Ting is just the best thing ever. Back again on Monday…

Steve Noble, Lol Coxhill, John Edwards
These guys were playing at the last Boat-Ting I went to (the last but one-one)… They’re all awesome, but I think I preferred their performance tonight… It seemed to get off a bit more. Tho that might have been because I’d nabbed the sofa seats at the front, so they were playing right into my face.

Last time I wrote that I didn’t really feel like I got Lol Coxhill, but I sure do now… I think I wrote some bollocks about him being more meditative and developing than other kind-of blasting players that just play all sorts of random screams. Well, that’s partly true I think, but he was playing with bursting energy that I hadn’t seen him pull out the (very few) other times I’ve seen him. John Edward’s playing was also really inspired tonight (not that it’s usually not inspired) but there was a lot of inventive sounds coming out; they all seemed like they were pushing themselves just that little bit further. They played three improvisations, the last piece was a cool short thing with Lol Coxhill starting off with some great little melody that exactly showed how it’s nonsense to say that Free Improv doesn’t know how to play tunes.

Still haven’t bought any Coxhill records, probably should have bought something from the front desk :(

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