Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Chance Encounters with Bass, Bass, Drums and Horn

Chance Encounters @ 21 Grand, Oakland, CA
Thursday, May 14, 2009

Scott Amendola: drums
Mark Dresser: bass
Lisle Ellis: E bass and circuitry
Larry Ochs: tenor saxophone, sopranino saxophone

Free improvised music operates along an inverse bell curve. It is rarely mediocre. Frequently it is either the most sublime creative expression imaginable or an embarrassment of unchecked indulgence. Live free improvised music rarely triggers indifference. These two sets were concentrated doses of the good stuff.

The interaction between the two bassists was rich and wildly varied in texture, range and timbre. Lisle Ellis brings a light - but noticeable - touch with his electronics while Mark Dresser weaves in a subtle counterpoint with the unique combination of pick-ups behind the fingerboard of his acoustic controlled by volume pedals. Together, these bassists provided material that could stand alone - or as in this performance - invite creative improvisers to jump into the pool of sound.

Scott Amendola works a ragged edge between control and uncontrol. A piano wire woven through parts of the drum kit, an over sized necklace of rope and cymbals draped against a gong or a brush protruding within the clenched halves of a hi hat - each struck at controlled moments to set in motion a complicated rhythmic pattern of uncontrolled quality. Each side working along a tension of playing within and outside of time. As a drummer, Amendola is capable of doing both convincingly. At one point Lisle Ellis' electronics emitted a pulsating, repeated pattern that Amendola instinctively locked into and played around its ragged edges.

Coexisting with this intense rhythm section was Larry Ochs on reeds. Ochs alternated between laying out, laying low within the texture and asserting his way into the sonic foreground with tasteful intervals. He featured a taut sound that reinforced the collaborative quality of this music and reflected the mature restraint at work within this quartet.

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