William Parker has quite an experience writing and leading for a big jazz bands but I believe that "Ceremonies for those who are still" written for a full scale 40 piece orchestra is a first of its sort in his musical activity. The amount of colours and textures you can get from such group may be in many ways overwhelming. The composition dedicated to a late friend of the composer, Moscow-based bassplayer Rustam Abdullaev and the mourning aspect of it seemed clearly present the ominous chants by the choir section. The colourfull passages would be linked together by the improvising trio.
|Boguslaw Beszlej phot on jazztopad.pl|
The third day of the festival must have been created specifically for lovers of cello and it starts with five (sic!) of them on stage as Christopher Hoffman and Polish Cello Quartet would present Hoffman's composition "Spirit Suspensions". As per composer's description, the piece was divided into five "suspensions" and order follows a certain relgious, ritual narration - Free / Destroying / Familiar / Grace / Supplication. To begin with dramatic riffs (not unlike the "Apocalyptica plays Metallica") and to end with most delicate tones like a graze of sunlight - the music was very much like a melodic enchantment. Hoffman's used the best effects musician's classical training (tender melodic motives being passed through line, rhythmic counterpoints adding additional tension to the narration) but would also push them off their comfort zone with the elements of thoughtfull improvisation woven into the composed structure.
Tony Malaby's composition for the Cello Quartet and himself would also have a religious inspiration at its core. "Incantations" were born as a simple chant, non unlike the rosary pray where repetitive formulas create a sense of trance in which the singular presence becomes the element of a collective voice. And such would be the composition - dense with obsessive repetitions, melodies transformed and representing itself through the singular voices and ultimately becoming something else through the multitude. Such free-flowing structure allowed plenty of freedom to Malaby who improvised passionately with the group and Cello Quartet's members would follow him quite valiantly at times into the passages of dense tones. Intense performance that stroke a great balance between the fiery improvisation and modern chamber music.
Last but not least Tony Malaby brought on stage his regular quartet project with somewhat of irregular instrumentation of sax, cello, tuba and drums. Malaby has a keen ear for a catching melodies and such would appear, played in joyful unisono by the cello, sax and tuba. Only to be soon enough reformulated by passion driven improvisations. The cello, tuba and sax exchganing exchanging freely the roles and ideas would fill densely the musical space but it was John Hollenbeck's immagination and decisive kick pushed the music constantly forward. Plenty of musical pleasure for the twisted minds of jazz fans with the sax - drums solo (from the minimalistic long humming tones to the the extrovertic cries) being possibly my favourite.
As for the main question of the posed by the commissioned pieces - is it possible to strike the balance between "academical" and "free" - yes it is although it seems to work better in chamber ensembles.
It remains to be said as well that some REAL things were happening afterwards at jam sessions in festival's club Mleczarnia. But that's a different story and I'll try write a separate post about it.
The good news is all of the performances are being recorded for a future radio presentation by polish national radio 2. In the meantime you can check out a direct on-stage meeting between Tony Malaby and William Parker:
William Parker Trio and Wroclaw Philharmony Orchestra (dir. Jan Jakub Bokun)
William Parker - bass, shahukachi, doson ngoni
Charles Gayle - tenor sax, piano
Mike Reed - drums
Wroclaw Philharmony. Jazztopad Festival. 15.11.2013
Tony Malaby TubaCello Quartet
Tony Malaby - tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone
Christopher Hoffman - cello
Dan Peck - tuba
John Hollenbeck - drums, percussion, marimba, rhodes
Polish Cello Quartet
Wroclaw Philharmony. Jazztopad Festival. 16.11.2013