Saturday, June 26, 2010

Two Nights in West Oakland

Josh Berman with Phillip Greenlief/Scott R. Looney/Damon Smith/Kjell Nordeson @ Studio 1510, Oakland, CA
Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Josh Berman: cornet
Phillip Greenlief: saxophone
Scott R. Looney: piano
Damon Smith: bass
Kjell Nordeson: vibes, percussion

Frank Gratkowski/Scott R. Looney/Damon Smith/Kjell Nordeson @ Studio 1510, Oakland, CA
Friday, June 25, 2010

Frank Gratkowski: bass clarinet, clarinet, alto saxophone
Scott R. Looney: piano
Damon Smith: bass
Kjell Nordeson: drums, percussion

Free improvisation can be a flying leap off a tall cliff. An act that calls for timidity to be left behind in favor of a running start and a near blind faith in gravity. These ensembles don't dip a cautious toe into the water or wait to adjust to the change in temperature between musicians. They take that flying leap with the full trust that there are deep waters waiting below.

With the quartet featuring Frank Gratkowski on reeds on Friday night those waters ran with the depth of an ensemble that has developed a working familiarity off and on over the years. The musical ideas forming strong currents as it rushed headlong with the fury of white water rapids. The collective, spontaneous and often instantaneous reaction to every obstruction and bend in the stream made for an impressive rush downstream. The success of this often thick, energetic sound drawing from an instinctive grasp of the role of listening within the group. Musicians laying out and adding only when they had something to bring to the sound with the expert discipline of master improvisers. Extended techniques playing a significant - but rarely primary - role in the experience. Combined with a willingness to allow or subvert grooves as they formed this was a music that balanced mind and body without favoring either.

The quintet featuring Josh Berman on Wednesday was equally fearless as it mined a remarkably different territory. Kjell Nordeson's vibraphone bringing a different kind of harmonic presence compared to his drum kit work on Friday. His exploration of frictions along the keys drawing out a strangely human cry from the instrument. The quintet performance was marked by a sequence of moments that segued neatly along side one another. Moments formed by a conscious decision to allow smaller subgroups to form within. Duos and trios emerging to the foreground by intuitive means. Subgroups born out of selfless dedication to sound.

1 comment:

Jerrie Hurd said...

Nice to know the ears got fed this weekend!