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Saturday, August 10, 2019

Jazz em Agosto, Day 6

August 9, 2019, Lisbon

At yesterday's concert with percussionists Joey Baron and Robyn Schulkowsky, Schulkowsky made probably the simplest and most direct statement on the theme of resistance so far. Dedicating a song to civil rights icon Rosa Parks, who quietly stood for her dignity and human rights when she refused to move to the back of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955. Schulkowsky explained, "resistance is not always loud, but it's everyday, and it's inside of you." This is something citizens of many liberal democracies, currently under insidious erosion, should consider ... are you resisting what's being done to your countries, your ideals, your future? You don't need to make a big noise, as much as you need to live up to what you truly believe.

Joey Baron and Robyn Schulkowsky © Jazz em Agosto / Petra Cvelbar

The quietness is where the duo of Baron and Schulkowsky shined. Their set, a series of composed ideas and improvisations, presented a gentle start to the evening. In spite of the vast of array of percussion at their disposal, set up facing each other, the duo played quietly and reflectively. Staring with using their hands, and quickly demonstrating the tonal palette that they'd be working from for the evening, like a splash of the high hat, a deep tone from the tuned timpani drum. This bare-handed exchange lasted for a stretch as they slowly worked out interlocking patterns. The next song "Quiet Resistance", dedicated to Parks, began with the timpani, a splash of the gong, and crash of the cymbals. Then, it became quiet, both musicians had hand percussion, small clacking items, that they proceeded to converse with. The dream like quality of the music continued throughout, even on the uptempo pieces, like the final one which began with a more 'jazz' like pattern from Baron, to which Schulkowsky in kind, but the two never stepping in the way of each other.

Baron, after the show explained, that while they come from different musical backgrounds, himself from jazz, and she from classical, when they play it doesn't matter, they make music.

Tomas Fujiwara's Triple Double © Jazz em Agosto / Petra Cvelbar
I'm not sure if this was because of the setting, but somehow I became much more aware of the staging of drummer Tomas Fujiwara's Triple Double group this evening. The group, consisting of two trios of drum, guitar, and trumpet (or cornet), is arranged in a double formation with Fujiwara, guitarist Mary Halvorson, and trumpeter Ralph Alessi to one side, and drummer Gerald Cleaver, guitarist Brandon Seabrook, and cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum to the other side. Previous times seeing them, it has been where the audience is at eye level, or even slightly below, the group, but in the amphitheater, one could see the whole stage from a slightly elevated position. They began with all eyes on Ho Bynum, who played a spirited opening solo, before the action  shifted outwards to the guitarists. Halvorson and Seabrook, in tandem, played distinctively out solos, and then refactoring the energy with composed lines, the two horns played in unison. Next, the focus shifted to Alessi who's crisp lines sailed over the stage, while the two drummers kept a constant pulsating churn going.

After a bit of fiddling between songs, the group began with a dirge-like piece, a slightly menacing minor progression that slowly grew wilder. Composed passages, like when Halvorson played in unison with the horns, as Seabrook kept the power chords ringing, added momentum until the front-line parted and Fujiwara and Cleaver engaged in a polyrythmic spectacle. This duo of drums engaged much differently than the spacious interplay of Baron and Schulkowsky, here they projected an aggressive, but non-competitive energy, filling all of the small spaces, keeping the sound tight and direct.

Another interesting contrast is with the two guitarists: Halvorson's approach often contains sharp angular lines suddenly drooping like a Salvador Dali clock, and tonight she added additional effects like distortion and, I believe, an octave shifter which let her play bass like lines that at times sounded nearly like a tuba. Seabrook, on the other hand, sometimes seemed like an anti-guitarist, coaxing sound out in spite of how he was approaching it, at one point sounding like R2D2 on a bender. The horns too played with contrasts, Ho Bynum passionate, utilizing extended techniques to express himself, while Alessi was cool and more straight ahead with his tone and approach. Finally, the duo of Ho Bynum and Fujiwara is a constellation of its own with several excellent recordings, and which was featured briefly in the set.

By playing off these contrasts, shifting the focus from duos, to trios, to full group passages, veering between free improvisation, which at times threaten to pull a bit off the moorings, to the succinct composed connecting themes, Double Triple's music is, to my ears, an exciting and vibrant group that I look forward to hearing evolve.

Index of posts for Jazz em Agosto 2019:
Day 1:
Day 2:
Day 3:
Day 4:
Day 5:
Day 6:
Day 7:
Day 8:


slovenlyeric said...

Thank you Paul for your first-rate reporting of the Jazz em Agosto festival. Your description of landscapes (both the sonic landscapes of the festival's many sets and diverse musical genres as well as the physical and cultural landscape of the city of Lisbon itself) are beautifully done. I will definitely put this festival on my wish list for future travel.

Paul said...

Thanks for the comment. Definitely try to make it there, it’s a wonderful setting, a fascinating city, and enjoyable festival.