Sunday, July 15, 2012

Warsaw Summer Jazz Days day 2 - Matana Roberts, Alessi/Mitchell/Helias/Black Quartet / Berne/Malaby/Halvorson/Parkins/Smith

I have just written, on the occasion of some solo albums, that a solo recital is one of the most demanding acts to perform, as it leaves no space to hide, it forces the artist to question themselves, to investigate themselves, it also forces the audience to focus on one instrument only.
Matana Roberts started gently, lines of notes flowing naturally from the horn. Slowly, without haste, without unnecessary need to showcase technical abilities but focusing on inner thoughts, inner images. As Coltrane said - you could play a shoelace, as long as you're sincere. Her solos were stated carefully, thoughtfully, her music flew like a  wind, like a stream - whether it's patient succession of notes or a rapid cascade - as it were the most simple thing to do, the only thing to do in fact. Throughout the set she gradually gained confidence, finished ripping the air with tearing cries although, and only women in jazz can manage to do that, she cried with infinite grace.

Matana Roberts - alto saxophone

The members of the quartet for the last couple of days led a workshop with young musicians from Poland, Italy and Holland. The band showed how modern jazz can be played without loosing its touch with genre's history (among some strong original compositions a dynamic reading Monk's). poignant tone was a pleasure to hear, as well as Mitchell's sharp chordings and Helias's bass, strong and muscular, band's anchor. Still it was Jim Black who stole the show, with unbelievable wide a palette of sounds, of wild gestures. His immagination on playing the drums was the real salt & pepper of the music.  (no video of the band that available so this  Jim Black's solo will have to do)

Ralph Alessi - trumpet
Matt Mitchell - piano
Mark Helias - double bass
Jim Black - drums
To my ears, this was the most anticiptated concert of the entire festival, a stellar group uniting the  talents of the most prominent artists of the New York avant scene, I was especially anxious to see Tim Berne and Mary Halvorson (I remember her playing with Anthony Braxton Septet couple of years back, she was just about to get her name on the jazz scene, now she's generally considered the most original voice of her generation on the instrument). The band kicked right into the night with twisted unisono lines and sharp chords that only announced the set of heavily annotated music that in short, is a study in constructive dissonance. A carefully and precisely arranged picture where even the most casual and off-beat dot is put in the line(s) that follow so many directions and interveawe in so many intangible ways. Ches rocks the drums set (playing with his foot on the tom), Mary and Andrea create together a majestic, massive wall of sound (even the long pauses are, somehow, massive, possible due to the way the hit chords cut them in the middle). Tim and Tony, well, they're just a perfect match on alto and tenor.  Chaos is just a word to describe a structure which level of complexity transcends the comprehension. During the concert I felt sure Berne had to be a composer but it seems Ches Smith is reponsible for the crime, anyway band's music is somehow a methodical creation of circus of total chaos, a disciplined cacophonic madness no bars hold - a total experience. To listen to it is to set for a journey through a maze, blindfolded. Needless to say I loved it.

(the concert was recorded to be released, unfortunately it will have to wait till the late 2013 as to not coincide with their soon to be made available studio release)

Ches Smith's These Arches
Tim Berne - alto sax
Tony Malaby - tenor sax
Mary Halvorson - guitar
Andrea Parkins - accordion
Ches Smith - drums

Warsaw Summer Jazz Days
SOHO Factory. Warsaw. 13.07.12

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