Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Mikolaj Trzaska, Per-Ake Holmlander, Ken Vandermark - Alchemia 30.11

by Krzysztof Penarski
Because of flight delays and closed airport in Munich Steve Swell and Tim Daisy couldn't play at Alchemia as they were supposed to this day. Fortunately the other two (Mikolaj and Per-Ake) even if with slight problems made it to Krakow and Ken was still here to create an ad hoc concert of solos, duos and trio performances. Which allowed to present two crucial elements of improvised music (very dialectic indeed) - expression of individuality and group interplay.

Per-Ake Holmlander starts with a solo tuba and this is definitely a rare ocassion to see such performance. Per-Ake starts with long, wailing calls, with almost the whole long piece on circular breath. The amazing part is how he manages to play on this huge brass instrument the music that is so light-footed, fragile and agile. He takes a second and says that playing the tuba is pretty much athleticism and sometimes some music is involved :) The second improv includes all the strange sounds one can imagine. Sometimes subtle, windy, airy (very much responding to the white noise of air-ventillation system in the room), sometimes overdrown, picturesque, gurgling sounds. In any case you feel you heard all those sounds but not in a musical context so far, sometimes recalling sounds of nature, animal calls, sometimes strange electronic or mechanical machinery.

by Krzysztof Penarski
Mikolaj plays second solo performance of the day on alto. He starts with the sound of air flowing through the horn, very much white noise again, into which he gradually puts some distortions, then rhythm structure, using sax keys that sound like tuned mini-drums. Quite impressive it is when he manages to add to that (the white noise and the rhythm clapping) the melody over the top. It's been written a lot about his very slavic, romantic nature and the sort of primal lullaby he plays is very haunting. The last part of the improvisation is full of 'non-musical' sounds again, hissing, gurgling, howling, growling trough his instruments, these are hovewer suddenly suspended, interlayered with some very melodic and jazz phrases with wonderful vibrato sound. Very inspring contrast (history dialectics comes to mind again).

 First set finishes with a duo by Mikolaj and Per-Ake with some solid interplay, explosive alto solo by Trzaska, more backed, but still very imaginaive playing by Per-Ake. Mikolaj plays bass clarinet in the second part, the duo exchanges melodies in very much call & response dialogue, and even the softest and hushed moments are very intense. They finish with spontaneously composed war song, with decisive melody, march-like rhythm, accentuated by long notes by Per-Ake, switching the roles when Mikolaj gets into repetitive line and tuba play a short solo.

by Krzysztof Penarski
Second set starts with Ken and Mikolaj on stage as they warm up with sharp and short clarinet duo (Mikolaj on bass). The second piece, the highlight of the evening, is played on alto (Mikolaj) and tenor (Ken) and is a long discussion between lyrical, melodic soul of Mikolaj and Ken's inner-drummer. The most intense moment is when they meet at the crossroad, hit two-notes riff with both rhytmic and harmonic synchronicity that is quite astounding. They end this part of the set with Mikolaj on tarogato and Ken back to clarinet, with a very pensive, meditative piece full of long, ritual calls.

Per-Ake joins them on stage to creat this very unique lineup with 2 reeds and a tuba. The performance could be divided in 3 parts, with short tuba solos serving as bridge (to allow the other two to change the instruments), but there is no sense in trying to do more precise overview (and I'm rather unable to decipher my chaotic notes, and 1/3 of them concerned this last part of the concert). The musical action very rich, full of twists, and, bit surprisingly, very structured. Ken would again invent on the spot some rhythmic figures, short basslines, or riffs, that would organize much of the music. Sometimes he would be joined by Per-Ake, sometimes by Mikolaj. Could be a risky thesis but it very much resembled to me the spontaneous composition strategies used so much by Chicago Tentet, with lot of ad hoc inner-group sections appearing (which sound pretty absurd when we're talking about small group like trio, although I guess it's the smallest line-up possible when you can have this kind of interaction).

While the whole concert was not at the same emotional level as the Ken's solo performance from the day before, it was still filled with inspiring music, with 3 indivudals trying to connect on stage, and, even if struggling at times, fighting through their differences, very much succeeding to do so.

PS1. It seems very fitting that Ken, a figure of such a huge importance to improvsied music in Alchemia, and to the festival, would play on its last concert in this year.

PS.2. This was the last concert of 5th edition of Krakow Autumn Jazz. Thanks to all the musicians were a part of this, thank to Alchemia crew and Marek Winiarski for these 2 and a half months already waiting for the next year.

PS3. As promised, Ken then finished the party with some oldschool funky vibe dj-ing :) Great fun.

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