2 June 2011

Boundaries of the art

The best of the advanced students get into some very challenging music in the later years of their studies and Reuben Lewis’ band was no exception. I don’t find it at all unexpected. For all its glory, musicians can become jaded by the standards repertoire and swing. They’ve done it, heard it, and they have skills and interest to explore the wilder boundaries. The new may not be the music they’ll be making money from, but it’s intriguing and a challenge and there’s an audience that’s passed through a similar history and is there with them. It’s a small and perhaps an exclusive group but it’s willing and beguiled.

The extremities were compositional exercises by Reuben and were mostly unnamed, as such experiments often are. There were two “fragments” (Fragments no.4 and Fragments 2 no.1) that were sketches supporting improvisation. There was an experiment in duration that had a chart a mile long and a stopwatch (timed to 6m52s, I think). Each player knew when to play (eg, play 3m42s-4m03s, play again 4m57s-6m41s) but not what to play, so listening was key. As I understood, Reuben will develop that chart with dynamics and the like, but with no indication of pitch or harmony, and document the development of the piece as his Honours thesis. Another piece sounded similarly free, but followed Reuben handing out an A4 sheet to each player, folded in 8 and obviously first seen then and there. This was all difficult and all intriguing, and it could have been a flop with unable players, but it wasn’t. It had a musical sensibility and involvement that I enjoyed as did some others I spoke to. Nicely done. But it was not all at the icy extremities. There was groove and even some intensely lyrical beauty. Simon provided a latin tune and a reggae. Both sat with long sustained bass ostinatos. The latin was nicely tense with solos that grew with long crescendos and the reggae was more steady and bouncy. I liked them both. And the beauty of the night was Luke’s Just a minute, with long harmonised horn tones, billowing but sparse bass notes, a shimmering background and a sparse melody. I found this a stunner.

I especially noticed some solos by Reuben (sometimes quite experimental with various mutes and other times good solid post-bop lines) and by Max and very sympathetic playing from the horns in unison and harmony. Also some very modern sounding solo piano and a funky organ on the reggae from Luke, considerable percussion from Aidan (the grooves were quite gentle) and a wonderfully rounded but present tone from Simon’s bass. Reuben Lewis (trumpet) led a quintet with Max Williams (tenor sax), Luke Sweeting (piano, organ), Simon Milman (bass) and Aidan Lowe (drums, percussion).

  • Cyberhalides
  • No comments: