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Friday, June 14, 2019

Vision Festival #24 2019 - Day 2

By Martin Schray

After the well-attended focus on Andrew Cyrille on the opening day the “normal“ program started with Marc Ribot’s new band, which emerged from his last project Songs of Resistance, and also referred to his Spiritual Unity group which included Chad Taylor (drums), the late Roy Campbell (trumpet) and Henry Grimes (bass). Grimes was in the audience as well and lots of people said hello to great 83-year-old bass player. Ribot's new quartet features old and new musical partners like Jay Rodriguez on sax and flute, Nick Dunston on bass and Chad Taylor, the aforementioned drummer of the Spiritual Unity band. With his short solo introduction, Ribot created a link to the evening before by making a reference to Caribbean and Latin American rhythms and melodies. Ribot's style is based on heavy rock rhythms and distorted chords, which in combination with the Latin melodies of the saxophone and the driving grooves of the rhythm section makes up an exciting, intense contrast. You might fathom a Latin version of Last Exit. Ribot's guitar runs are deeply steeped in blues rock and always get out of hand in the right places. His music is rich with references: Hendrix, Captain Beefheart, Zappa, James Blood Ulmer. A great start into the evening.

Marc Ribot, Jay Rodriguez, Nick Dunston and Chad Taylor ,sound checking
What followed was drummer Tomas Fujiwara’s 7 Poets Trio, a band he put together for the first time during his Stone residency last year and in which he brought the ubiquitous Tomeka Reid (cello) and Patricia Brennan (vibraphone) together for the first time. Again, there was a percussive approach to the compositions, however the set was more chamber-music-like. Basically, everything was very textural, like a wave that builds up constantly and shifts slowly. This sounds hard to digest but the music had something very light about it, it was swinging loosely. Brennan used a similar warp effect as Mary Halvorson, which gave the music very special, alienating timbres, reminding me of electronic music. There were subtle dynamic differences that sometimes pushed the music towards atmospheric soundscapes, especially when vibraphone and cello were bowed. Brennan is a musician people should look out for.

Tomas Fujiwara’s 7 Poets Trio
After that the evening’s program focused on spoken word. Lyric poets Edwin Torres and Fred Moten met a rhythm group consisting of Brandon Lopez (bass) and Gerald Cleaver (drums). Torres and Moten presented something one might call “screwball poetry“. While Torres had a certain intellectual and self-reflective appearance, Moten seemed more grounded and story-telling. Torres, on the one hand, created a movement which he called "Interactive Eclectrcism" combining movement, audience participation, music and songs. Moten, on the other hand, usually used a stream-of-consciousness approach in his poetry transforming it into something musical which was propelled by the material of language itself. His style was in the tradition of Amiri Baraka, at the end he drew a line from liberalism to neo-liberalism and fascism. Torres’s and Moten’s “dialogue of existence“, as they called it, was supported by Cleaver and Lopez pulling all the stops from polyrhythmic, organic grooves to free sound exploration.

The next show was a project created by dancer and choreographer Davalois Fearon and musical director Mike McGinnis (woodwinds). This mixture of improvised and composed music and dance was combined with a spoken word performance by Patricia Smith. Actually this project was everything in a nutshell the Vision Festival represents: a collaboration of improvised music, dance, visual arts and poetry. Smith delivered some kind of feminist poem in which she referred to an image of a house without windows which seemed to symbolize the situation of women. But the house’s “roof was on fire“ and the woman who was confined to it had no interest in extinguishing the flames because she wanted to see the man burn. In the end, the house with no window also became a deadly trap for the man. Unfortunately, the music only had a serving function, one could have imagined the trio - Gerald Cleaver on drums again, Peter Apfelbaum (piano, woodwinds) and Mike McGinnis - as an independent program item.

Kidd Jordan's tribute to Alvin Fielder
The evening was closed with Kidd Jordan’s tribute to Alvin Fielder, the legendary drummer and founding AACM member who passed away earlier this year. Jordan’s connection with Fielder goes back to the Improvisational Arts Quintet which they both established in the early 1970s. He also had a quartet with pianist Joel Futterman and bassist William Parker (Creative Collective) for more than twenty years. For this tribute performance, Hamid Drake joined Jordan, Futterman, and Parker, on the drums. As you can imagine, the quartet offered classical free jazz. Jordan played more wildly and freely than the evening before, perhaps also because his comrades-in-arms provided a background that made this possible. Nevertheless, he occasionally added small melodies and overblown passages here and there that strongly reminded me of Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders. The set was very spiritual and built up tight atmospheres which were held as long as possible. Futterman often worked with clusters, which reinforced the already very pulsating character of the music. Jordan was so moved by the band's performance that he dropped out and threw in spontaneous chants. And in fact, when you closed your eyes, you could think you were listening to a mid-thirties guy playing. The end was standing ovations for the man and his band, something he enjoyed extensively.