Saturday, March 29, 2008

Two More Glances

There are two more shows in the fray that really deserve special mention and that I’ve been neglecting. To follow, I’ll endeavour to stay more current and to write about concerts more immediately in their wake.

Saturday, 22 March

I’ve now written several times, separately, about guitarist Eric Chenaux and bassist Rob Clutton, who played two sets of improvisation last Saturday night. The duo, in this context, was the residue of Rob’s original plan to play with Teena Palmer and Brandon Valdivia with Eric opening, a plan that got scuppered by scheduling vagaries. Such circumstances, in addition to the consummate affability of both guys, fostered a laid-back, almost ‘down home’ environment that was most welcoming for the dozen or so lucky ones on hand. The music was absolutely tremendous, showing simultaneous playfulness and total absorption by both players. Eric showed relative restraint in the use of his signature ‘wah’ sound and, to my ears, was honing in on rhythmic detail more than he usually does throughout the first set; it was surely a generative area, given Rob’s tremendous rhythmic acumen. The second set had Rob stepping out more, with more declarative melodic ideas. In turn, Eric sought timbral extremes as a kind of accompaniment, and focused at length on sustained episodes of quasi-hardanger-fiddle bowing and harmonic swells. Overall, there was a breathtaking stillness to their music that was amplified by the accommodating ST acoustics, yet it was never overly precious, always amiably experimental. An ideal night of chamber music, all in all.

Since Eric (and some of the audience members) had to run off to the Tranzac to play the music of Josh Thorpe, it wound up being an early night at ST. Good thing, too, since I had to run off early Sunday to Montréal for the Casa del Popolo version of the Barnyard Records launch that happened at ST in February. What a treat it was to play with Lori Freedman, Jean Martin, Bernard Falaise, Christine Duncan, Evan Shaw, and Colin Fisher!

Thursday, 27 March

Speaking of Mr. Jean Martin (about whom I’ve also written a fair bit), I was pretty excited to host his Trio with guitarist Justin Haynes and trumpeter Kevin Turcotte this past Thursday. Their Get Together Weather CD is something of a classic of new Toronto creative music, but I hadn’t heard the group live since they opened for the ICP Orchestra at the Guelph Jazz Festival in 2000. Jean set up this gig in advance of the Trio’s appearance at a festival in northern Québec sometime soon, and the idea was to dig into what is, apparently, a pretty massive book of tunes that they have accumulated. Instead, greeted by a meagre audience of two (Nicole Rampersaud and David Sait, who have great taste) they opted to improvise one absolutely extraordinary set of music and pack it in. Jean and Justin kept shifting the terrain with detail-rich strata of tune-like ideas, grooves, and textures, which Kevin animated in an understated way with his impeccable trumpet sound and ever-intelligent musical ideas. The set ended with an elegant climax that left the us three in the audience rather gleefully stunned.

I’m generally unfazed by small audiences at ST or anywhere for creative improvised music, and recognize how some nights are simply going to be duds, ‘business’-wise. However, Thursday night was the first time I was genuinely annoyed by the lack of attendance. I can hear in my head the chiding that I wanted to broadcast: “People! That was the shit, and you missed it!” But I’m over it now. I will, however, keep reminding readers that Toronto has some of the finest and most creative improvising musicians anywhere, and that, if I may say so, you’ll be lucky to hear them in the intimate confines of ST. Otherwise, if you wait too long, you may be relegated to buying costly tickets to hear them from poorly mixed festival stages, which are, often and unfortunately, the natural habitat for our best and brightest musical performers.

1 comment:

Benjamin Mueller-Heaslip said...

Wonderful blog. Absolutely wonderful!

p.s. your @inorbit email address isn't working. Can you send me a note somehow? There's something I have to discuss with you.