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Monday, June 17, 2019

Vision Festival #24 2019 - Day 5

By Martin Schray

On the one hand, the Vision Festival is about celebrating and honoring the greats of this music but it’s also about making sure that this music has a future. The evening was therefore be opened by the Visionary Youth Orchestra, a large formation of young students, that is an integral part of the festival and was led by William Parker this year.

Then Darius Jones’ quintet promised a different kind of Alto Gladness (to use an allusion to the Cecil Taylor tribute of the second evening) of the more future-oriented style. The band consisted of Jones (alto sax), Craig Weinrib (drums), Dezron Douglas (bass), Charlie Looker (guitar) and Michael Vatcher (percussion). Jones’ band turned Oliver Nelson's band title "The Blues and the Abstract Truth" into music by presenting themselves clearly rooted in blues and gospel on the one hand, but abstracting the structures of the genre on the other. Especially Jones' musical spectrum ranged from the old spirituals and Hard Bop to Coltrane. The set was divided into five parts, with Jones holding a melody line for a long time in the first one, over which Vatcher could let his percussion fly freely. The great emotionality and the beautiful mess that dominated the music were foiled by the enormous ease with which everything was played. A special moment followed in the fourth part, when Jones brutally and consistently played only one note for minutes and the rest of the band revolved around the eye of the hurricane. This was a very good intellectual, but soulful set. Jones has never disappointed me musically.

Darius Jones Quintet
As in Darius Jones' quintet, David Virelles Mbókò also had two percussionists, but they were much less expressive than Vatcher and Weinrib. Virelles' quartet consisted of Eric McPherson (drums), Román Díaz (percussion) and Rashaan Carter (bass). The music could best be described as Cuban free jazz. Very free passages competed with rather conventional rhythms and harmonies, which reminded strongly of the music of Chucho Valdés and Gonzalo Rubalcaba. Often a clear, pulsating rhythmic basic structure was kept, which Virelles then broke open again and again. The most interesting part of the set was when the rhythm section gave up its fixed groove and played less confined. Román Díaz left the stage at the end and returned dressed as a shaman - a spiritual moment that also referred back to the first evening with Andrew Cyrille.

While the first two gigs of the evening and the complete program of the previous day were completely without dance interludes, it was time to reintegrate this aspect into the festival. The next program item focused on Patricia Nicholson (dance), supported by Cooper-Moore (piano, different instruments), Val Jeanty (percussion, electronics) and Bill Mazza (video art). Cooper-Moore's introduced the set and, as often, used ragtime and stride piano motifs, combining them with Cecil Taylor-like clusters. Then,     Nicholson entered the stage and Cooper-Moore switched to the flute and instruments he created. The set then evoked a more and more esoteric and world music-like atmosphere.

James Brandon Lewis Unruly Quintet
After Darius Jones’ concert I talked to a man who was sitting behind me. He said Jones would pursue Steve Coleman's approach to bring Charlie Parker and James Brown together and would raise the music to a new level. In Jones's music this may not have been so obvious, but in James Brandon Lewis' Unruly Quintet this was clearly evident. Lewis (tenor sax) was supported by Luke Stewart (bass), Warren G. Crudup III (drums), Anthony Pirog (guitar), and Jaimie Branch (trumpet). The band did not only combine Parker and Brown, but also Archie Shepp's Fire Music and the soul of Sly Stone with - say - Wilco’s alternative progrock. The result was an expressive, wrathful development of Miles Davis’ “On The Corner“ album. From the beginning there was no rest in this music, the set was one single string of highlights. The guitar, the bass and the drums were the rock in the surf and offered orientation, while the horns danced around each other like wild dervishes. But even when Branch and Brandon Lewis took a break, the intensity was simply carried on by the rhythm section. Brandon Lewis was constantly cheering them on with hollers and yells. Again and again the music was up to the pain threshold, then took a breath just to cross this border. Before the last piece "Haden is Beauty" Brandon Lewis once again emphasized the importance of the community idea and the political dimension of the music of this project. At the Woodstock Festival the band would have been loved and the audience at the Roulette was also enraptured.

Douglas R. Ewart & Bamboo Constellation for Joseph Jarman
The evening was concluded by Douglas R. Ewart & Bamboo Constellation for Joseph Jarman. Jarman passed away this year and consequently Ewart's project was a reminder of the Art Ensemble of Chicago and the overall concept of this band with performances that combined visual iconography, performance art, and music that was completely original in its concept of sound, silence, texture, and tonal color. Ewart (woodwinds) - like Jarman a member of the AACM - moved with the the whole band - Mankwe Ndosi (vocals), Reggie Nicholson (vibraphone), Mike Reed (drums), Brandon Ross (guitar), Sara Schoenbeck (bassoon), Luke Stewart (bass), Germaul Barnes and Djassi DaCosta Johnson (dance) - in the hall as if we were part of an initiation ritual. Then a different, utopian, sunken, idyllic world was conjured up, which was also illustrated by the extraordinary timbres of the instruments. Also in this project the community idea was upheld. The performance would also have been a great conclusion for the whole festival.


Paul said...

Martin, I've been enjoying your coverage of the Vision Fest, thank you, though I'm not there this year, it's nice to be able to enjoy it vicariously. I know how much it takes to write every night about the festival, especially such an expansive one, so thank you much for this.

Colin Green said...

Agreed, a difficult job well done.

Martin Schray said...

Thanks to both of you. It was indeed stressful but the music was worth it.