Saturday, November 20, 2010

Barry Guy New Orchestra day 4 - small groups at Alchemia

Agustí Fernández - photo by Krzysztof Penarski
1st set
Evan Parker, Paul Lytton
Sax-drums duos are one of my favourites. Could be since probably the very first 'free' recording i heard and was taken by was John Coltrane with Rashied Ali. It's this kind of setting which give you enough rhythmic support in drums but gives you pretty much all the freedom you want in any other department. Paul gets immediately busy and push forward with mad pace. Evan sticks to tenor and does his explorations at ease travelling through some meandering lines. More or less in the around the half Paul gets more into his percussive sounds and the playing is more lyrical, but still pretty dense. Evan stays very much in the middle register and plays with a round and open tone, very post-Coltrane at times. Still i would like to see more changes, more variety in the playing. 'Good' doesn't cut it anymore for these musicians. I will take it as a 'warm-up' session toward the other sets (although with the pace they played Paul would probably disagree with me on that one).

2nd set
Trevor Watts, Herb Robertson, Hans Koch
And the rule of the 2nd set stays valid for the whole week :) . While Hans would provide some eerie bottom to the overall sound, Trevor and Herb go straight up into high register and produce some explosive and blurry lines, sometimes shrieky, with the sounds piercing the air and ear and getting right inside your head. Hans would mainly assume the more supportive role and take care of melodically organized structure. They stop suddenly when they hit the single note together. 3 remaining improvs would contain a lot of fun-to-watch interplay, Herb and Trevor with spiraling lines circling and entangling each other. Herb also adds his showmanship skills to the mix (during the Trevor-Hans duo he shouts and than does the scared and surprised face as if he didn't know where the shout came from). 3rd piece includes some great Rahsaan-like playing with Trevor doing some harmonics with both soprano and alto, and Herb doing the same thing with trumpet and cornet. Probably the first time i heard 5 instruments at once played by a trio. Lot of buzz sounds also by Herb who has his whole set of mutes and toys and also uses his body to alternate the sound, or the room acoustics, playing in all directions, trumpet up, down or side (thanks to some tricky and elastic mouthpiece he puts on the horn). In the last piece they start building up a chord progression, create the momentum and go toward a very clear end. When Herb (who missed the fun of the previous days because of the flight problems) keeps the piece alive with a single note repeated 10 or more times till the other would join him again. After the last one they look each other suspiciously left and right not sure whether to play more or not. Fun and abstract with some laughs in the audience provoked both by music and the performance aspects of playing.

3rd set
Octet (New Orchestra without Barry Guy, Evan Parker, Hans Koch but with the addition of Trevor Watts)
Simply an amazing set. One could fill up the whole volume trying to describe the succession of all the structures, soloing order, relations that would spontaneously appear on stage. Incredible power of sound. With all the horns put together (tuba, baritone, alto, trombone, trumpet - great line-up) one could have expected a complete chaos on stage. Instead it was unbelievable how the whole set was melodic and coherent. With powerful chords appearing from the thin air. After the first discharge of power they get into another sound exploration (some plastic bottles got hurt), gradually commented by some coordinated outbursts of sound from Johannes and Mats (i guess the common experience, also with Per-Ake, of playing together in Chicago Tentet helps). The mood gets pensive, the beat almost meditative. Mats introduces a two-note riff, leaving enough space for Augusti to fill the gaps (his sound would get lost when all horns would play at once), Johannes and Herb start soloing on that base, while Trevor and Per-Ake would join the riff building-up the tension. And suddenly all would expand the riff into incredible beautiful chord progression and melodies over the top.
When they stop this part, Per-Ake gets to do his magic with some Jabba (from Star Wars) kind of a speech, getting than more cartoon-like. Gradually all the others join and the sound gets massive again (no sense in describing this in more step-by step way) till they, yet again, build this massive wall-of-sound and destroy it abruptly.
Obviously the crowd wanted more and we got it. The encore was dedicated to Marek Winiarski and Trevor said "we better make it a good one". All the hell breaks loose in this case untill some structures gradually appear and another powerful chord is found. After the chord dissapears and there is only a slowly dieing sound of a little plate rolling on the Raymond's snare it could be pretty much over but Trevor keeps the encore alive with a klezmer-like dance tune that could pretty much fill a disco frame (as proved by some neat moves by Herb on stage at this moment). To keep his promise Trevor makes them re-do the whole thing 2 or 3 more times. Outstanding set and unbelievable fun.

After the concert and a dinner (during the weekend-night party in Alchemia with some dj's playing bit funk) Trevor would still seem the most eager to party leading tho whole pack of latin-percussion ensemble that would use pretty much all the material available to play - wine bottles, water bottle, glasses, knives, forks, spoons, plates, tables, metal construction of the stage support,  and a chair (some glasses wouldn't survive the test) . To see Trevor Watts and Herb Robertson (who would be two staying the longest) and others or Augusti Fernandez doing some pretty much alternative moves on the dancefloor, and, in general, the whole pack enjoying the time so much - priceless.

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