It would be great to listen to music without having any kind of expectations. I've recenlty been proven wrong assuming Piec'ART is exclusively a mainstream jazz venue (I guess it's still mostly mainstream but it's a big difference). I recently reviewed inspiring performance by JazzTrio Trabant and Adrian Myhr's coming back to Piec'ART was a big reason that I wanted to be there again. Still, I assumed it could very well be another modern-jazz-post-bop piano trio (something I tend to dislike strongly) but I was proven wrong again. And I love surprises like that.
First good omen was when Vojtech Prochazka, while introducing the band, said that it would be a concert of 'improvised music'. Second good omen happened when instead of taking a seat he bent over the piano looking inside and started playing on piano strings with mallets. In fact it's hard to think about this performance as a piano trio as during the extended improvisation that filled the first set (around 40 minutes) Vojtech barely touches the keyboard, instead he plays on strings with drumsticks, mallets, metal objects, ducktape, bare hands. The piano sounds like harp, toy, marimba, machine .... the spirit of John Cage was definitely somewhere near the place. The trio engages in dialogue that is beyond any genre of music, beyond most traditional views on what is called music actually. Evoking eerie moods with unusual sounds, minimal, barely audible hushes, scraping the strings and drums, bowing the plates. With incredible focus and attention to detail. Abstract yet cohere, going into the rabbit hole, right into the logic of madness, where texture, structure, harmony, note, lenghth, tempo become all non-sense terms.
The entire performance (including the second set improvisation - another 40 minutes) was also absolutely egoless, almost no soloing (in sense of making a single statement that proves the musicall prowess on the instrument) - instead a playing that follows the feeling of the moment, the natural (and irrational) flow of the music, without any clear leading part (or, if anything, one provided more often by the bass, not the piano). All three musicians display considerable skills playing both conventional and (for the most part) unconventional ways. Dark, mysterious, full of rising tension, focused performance demanding a focused listening but absolutely rewarding.
With music as intriguing and deserving as much attention as any, much more popular, names in the field of improvised music it seemed wrong that such concert was appreciated by the audience only slightly larger that the number of the musicians on the stage. I strongly hope those musicians will get the recognition they deserve.
ps 1. After the break Vojtech talked again bit more (although I think the audience present had already understood that) that, nonetheless they're playing in a 'jazz club' their music is not jazz at all and it's much better to call it 'just music', a fitting term indeed.
ps 2. Whilre writing the post I'm listening to the "Amoeba's Dance" cd by this trio and I have to admit I feel bit cheated as it is exactly what I feared the concert would be - a piano trio recording (no extended improvisation, no sonic experiments, no prepared piano). In fact it was called by the group 'their best shot so far at playing jazz music' and while it's not bad at all (brings back some compositions by Herbie Nichols, a great cover of Ornette's "Una Muy Bonita" tune and couple of nice originals) the music is not nearly as compelling, gripping and thrilling as the live performance they've just delivered. Which makes me hope that they will record an improvised session soon.
Vojtech Prochazka - piano, prepared piano, whistle, mouth organ, objects
Adrian Myhr - double bass
Tore Sandbakken - drums
Piec'ART. Krakow. 25.05.2011