Saturday, August 11, 2007

Quartet and Duo Improvisation at the Red Room

Katt Hernandez (violin) / Evan Lipson (bass) / Dan Blacksburg (trombone) / Michael Evans (percussion, alto saxophone) +
John Berndt (soprano saxophone, alto saxophone) / Rose Hammer (alto saxophone)
@ The Red Room, Baltimore, MD - August 11, 2007

John Berndt and Rose Hammer began the evening with three improvisations for saxophone duo. The first and last featuring Berndt on soprano saxophone while the second was a "same-sax" pairing with both playing alto.

The "sameness" of these two instruments does not begin to describe the range these two players work along the parameter of timbre. At times the existence of tone was sublimated into a stripped down sound of air through columns. The responsiveness between them made for a compelling set as they balanced well between contrasting and complimenting one another.

The quartet that followed played an outstanding set of free improvisation. This was my second chance to hear bassist Evan Lipson at the Red Room and I continue to be impressed with his sonic instinct and creative collaboration. Dan Blacksburg worked some fantastic trombone into this sound - often sans mouthpiece - as he continually found ways to match and instigate the constant shifting of timbre and material at work in this music. Katt Hernandez has a remarkable approach toward violin improvisation that seemed to drive a lot of the textural shifts at work in this performance. And New Yorker Michael Evans was the biggest surprise of the evening with his explosively restrained approach toward a haphazard drum kit and box of noise-making toys. These four players were locked in to one another and painted with strokes of varying length and intensity as they filled the Red Room with a great sonic presence. The ability to navigate multiple coherent changes in sound without an individual player dominating a focal point - or adding too much to the overall sound - made it clear how deeply these players were listening to one another. This isn't the first evidence of a thriving Philadelphia-based improvisation scene to grace the Red Room and I'm incredibly curious to hear more of what is going on in that town.

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