27 January 2014

SoundOut2014/1 (Friday night) continues...

Continues ...

I was particularly interested in the paired bassists, especially given one was playing my bass. Slawek and Clayton, both bass, with Cor piano and Sean drums. This was a more conventional format, and the masculine side of the night. Strong from the start, then into tortured, pressured, intense, manic playing. Piano was punctuated and with some harmony; the basses were bowed, pizzed, explored, tapped, loud and intense; the drums were sometimes rabid, never steady, all fills and explosions and space and just some quieter passages. I was interested in the tones and the aggression of it all while somewhat fretfull for what the instruments were enduring, respectful for the search for newness, aware of the excessiveness and volume of it all, dismissive of some of the techniques. (This was an early and wrong impression. I was pleasantly surprised by the bass chops I heard next day from both bassists. But as I've found before, manic intensity at this level drives out the staid traditions and correct techniques of many arts; often, but not always, with justification). If these guys were playing their own basses, I may have relaxed and warmed to it, but as it was, I didn't relax enough to enjoy in this performance. (BTW, the bass was perfectly OK, as promised).

It still perplexes me that new music is so often played on old instruments. Given the traditional instrumentation, I warm to a musician who displays impressive traditional technique or knowledge. I noticed this with bassist Clayton when he was warming up for the end-of-session jam with a very steady and nicely developed bass groove, and also with his traditionally-styled pizz and ostinatoes during that jam. The harmonies and feels may have been new, but the techniques and groove were of long established. The group development was more unitonal and textured and atmospheric, but here was a family or historical connection with other music. So too, Richard's baritone sax in this set, that picked up on the groove and permuted it. The first set had Richard on soprano sax and drum playing with clarinet, two altos and one tenor sax. The whole merged in my ears into a melange of tonguings and tones and drones, but in openings I could pick out some wonderful ostinato lines from Richard, fast, clear, nicely structured around a quick passage and a long note, with slow minimalist change. This was impressive chops and lovely, understated accompaniment. It was not always obvious and sometimes hidden in the mix, but impressive when it appears. So too, with bass clarinetist Krista in this session. She had classical tone, toyed with varying lengthy intervals that sat so intriguingly and gloriously, even contrapuntally, in this busy mix. The distinct tone helps. In another set, Kim's guitar was somewhat a crossover in technical matters. I felt it held its session together with sweet fingerpicking and regular strumming, although only sometimes of chords; othertimes it was open strings or harmonics, so undefined harmonies. But this worked, especially interspersed with a similar-sounding zither-like instrument. It worked also due to clarity of the instrumental mix. Richard on gourdaphone and Reuben on trumpet and these are distinct sounds. This is also where I appreciated the skilled techniques in much new music. I know Reuben as both a bopper and a more experimental musician. Here it was all breath and tongue and unformed notes and mutes. It's a technique requiring competence and training, although not traditional. Not surprisingly, it can take knowledge of the instrument and the form to understand its complexities. Knowing a crossover artist can help.

SoundOut is our local incarnation of this worldwide branch of new music. Not easy, always a test to these ears, but a worthy wakeup call to your own conservative tendencies. Looking forward to another session. ABC FM were recording, Julian Day was MC-ing. You can hear SO performances over coming weeks on Julian's New Music Up Late.

Psithurism Trio + played the first set, Richard Johnson (soprano sax), Rhys Butler (alto sax), John Porter (tenor sax), Krista Martynes (bass clarinet) and Rosalind Hall (alto sax). Second set was Slawek Janicki (double bass), Sean Baxter (drums), Cor Fuhler (piano) and Clayton Thomas (double bass). Last set was Kim Myhr (guitar), Reuben Lewis (trumpet) and Richard Johnson (gourdophone, drum, soprano sax). The end-of-night collective improvisation comprised Richard Johnson (baritone sax), Rhys Butler (alto sax), John Porter (tenor sax), Clayton Thomas (double bass), Cor Fuhler (guitar) and Reuben Lewis (trumpet).

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