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Saturday, June 15, 2019

Vision Festival #24 2019 - Day 3

By Martin Schray

Good festivals are always well-curated, they’re not just an accumulation of acts. Vision is a good festival. Their main focus is on the community character of art and then they concentrate on certain aspects within the different art forms and try to connect them over the days. Also, they’re able to surprise the audience. The first act on the third day was Yoshiko Chuma & The School of Hard Knocks and her project “Secret Journey, Duo - Stop Calling Them Dangerous." Chuma considers herself a conceptional performing artist and like Davalois Fearon Dance she combined music, dance, spoken word, and visual art. From the very first moment, the show was very tumultuous and the dancers were literally attacking the musicians. Especially Chuma, who bumped into pianist Dane Terry several times. The spoken word parts by Dan Peebles mentioned the chaos in wartimes establishing a link between the atomic bombings in Japan and the civil wars in Afghanistan and Syria. The music itself was a violent new classical music composition with a lot of contrasts between quiet, sad and pushing parts, sometimes similar to a requiem. The whole atmosphere seemed to be transferred to the audience, it was similarly chaotic with people rushing to and from their seats, the annoying click sounds of the SLR cameras, and people discussing. However, the music was very interesting and well-played by excellent musicians like Steve Swell and Christopher McIntyre (trombones), Jason Kao Hwang (violin), Devin Waldman (alto sax) plus the above already mentioned ones. In addition, there was Miriam Parker’s very expressive and energetic dance performance.

God Particle
Energy in its various manifestations was one of the mottoes of the evening. God Particle with Melvin Gibbs (electric bass, conduction), Stephon Alexander (EWI, soprano sax), James Brandon Lewis (tenor sax), Luke Stewart (basses), Graham Haynes (trumpet, electronics), Marc Cary (piano, synth), Ronnie Burrage (percussion) and David Pleasant (drums, body percussion) were said to explore the intersection between theoretical physics, jazz and improvisation. The question whether you can actually “play“ science and link it to spirituality was an interesting one and I have to admit that I had no expectations to that group (although the line-up was promising) and - speaking of surprises - the gig blew my mind. Already the beginning was very unusual: After a very brief introduction Gibbs called the whole band off the stage and the two percussionists of Total Sound Immersion played gongs and bowls preparing the set for the composition. What was to come ten was an actual rhythmic tornado propelled by the two basses and two amazing drummers (David Pleasant was just phenomenal). They created a powerful sound universe against which the wind section defended itself with extended, wide lines. The result was incredibly intense, it almost threatened to blow up the musical framework. However, the dramatic heads were also a resting place in this permanent vortex, in some moments I was reminded of Cecil Taylor’s European big bands. In addition, the heads were also an element to control where the improvisations should go, with Haynes and Brandon Lewis driving the music even further to the extreme. To my mind this was the best and most challenging act so far.

It was a good idea to give the audience some rest at that point and the conversation between Alain Kirili and William Parker just did that. The evening was also there to celebrate the work of the French sculptor, some of his work was projected while the bands were playing. Kirili talked about how he came to New York and his connection to the free jazz scene and how it influenced his work.

The next act to come was D/B/K/LH, an acronym for Whit Dickey on drums, Michael Bisio on bass, Kirk Knuffke on cornet and cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and it was an excursion into a different kind of energy. Dickey, Bisio and Lonberg-Holm provided a fiddly, complex fabric of sound over which Knuffke’s cornet soare with cool jazz lines. The individual parts were separated by solo inserts, the band shifting structures almost imperceptibly, reminding me of large ice floes. Sometimes it was only the volume that structured the improvisation. Simple, but efficient. A very intricate, subtle set.

Alto Gladness
Vision is also always about remembering the late greats. Alto Gladness - An Odyssey of the Eb Saxophone paid tribute to the music of Cecil Taylor, mainly of his time when he taught at Antioch College in the late 1960s and early 1970s. His working band there, the Black Music Ensemble, an orchestra of students who created - along with his long-time collaborators Jimmy Lyons and Andrew Cyrille - a canvas for large scale works. Alto saxophonists Jemeel Moondoc, Bobby Zankel and Idris Ackamoor were parts of the horn section then. Moondoc said that he was thinking about doing this project for a long time and Ackamoor told the story that he hadn’t been sure whether he could play in CT’s band then because he had been recovering from an accident. However, Taylor just responded that if he was able to play just one single note, he wanted him to do that. For this night the three were augmented by William Parker on bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums. They presented three compositions (each by one of the saxophonists), every one imbued with the spirit of Cecil Taylor's music, the heads never being completely unison, but always slightly disarranged. This was very much 1970s free jazz style and the audience appreciated it. The best moments were the duels of these three legends, with Ackamoor being the more powerful and Moondoc the more introspective player. Zankel, in addition, delicately modulated his improvisations echoing the preconceived material very effectively. This is also one of the great things about the Vision Festival: where else would you see such a band?


Melvin Gibbs said...

hello -
thank you for the kind review of God Particle’s performance.

I would like you to know:
1) the drummer playing drum kit and udu was:
Ronnie Burrage
@RoBurrageMusic on Twitter
not Will Calhoun.
We weren’t able to get that corrected in the program before the show.
2) The group that played the gongs and bowls is known as:
Total Sound Immersion
Their name did appear in the program.

I’d appreciate it if you could edit your review to properly credit them.

Again, thank you

Martin Schray said...

Thank you, Mr Gibbs. We've added it.