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Second Day at the Meetinghouse

At 3 pm on Saturday, Oct. 21st, Michael Ehlers introduced the first performer of the afternoon who had appeared in the first Meetinghouse Music Festival in 1995. The performer was Lawrence Cook.

Cook played a drum solo in four movements. The structure of the first part was measured. He would place rests among the sounds that rose from the cymbals, the snare and the toms. He gave a character to each instrument while sustaining a steadiness that became similar to the hum of a sewing machine. His electronic drum pad setup and a gong intermittently enhanced the resonance of the acoustic set. Repeated physical motion indicated the sequence of his playing. Crescendos ensued; he juxtaposed smacking the snare with a soft fade of the vibration of the skin. He increased the pace by hitting the sticks on the metal sides of the snare. He increased the volume beating on the base drum pedal to build up to a stop.

In the second part, Cook held two sticks per hand and induced the drum pads to take on a life of their own. Then there was quiet. Then there was silence.

In the third part, Cook’s drum pads offered significant resonance in the company of his pounding the mallets on the toms and occasionally the gong to create a constant whole huge sound. With the continuous movement of two mallets, he turned the largest cymbal in front of him electronic. He let it resonate out, without damping it.

In the fourth part, the snare went rat-a-tat-tat, was rolled on with the sticks and its sound embellished with the bass drum. Cook played a traditionally-oriented riff mostly on the snare, cut in with the tom and cymbals and drum pads. Picking up the tempo, the sticks rapidly hit the snare and toms and cymbals and drum pads successively, in continual rounds. A subtle roll on the snare closed the solo. All along, I thought to myself what is it that pushes him to move from one point to the next. After he had finished playing and received applause, I watched him, a tall gray haired man dressed up for his gig with a fairly conservative jacket as part of his clothing , as he talked to himself, walking through the door, away from his drum set, carrying a cymbal in one hand and sticks in the other, the remaining array of sticks and mallets left in an unrolled cloth case on the floor.

The second set of the afternoon flourished with a performance by Marco Eneidi on the alto sax and Jackson Krall on the drums. Krall used the area around his wooden drum set as the initial performance space. He did not sit down. He shook rattles as if to imitate birds and landed the brushes on the sides of the drums; he walked around the drum set with the chosen instrument of impact, sometimes half a pair of maracas and at others, a stick or a brush. He’d hit the cymbal or the tom or side of the drum, embracing a musical space that he carefully measured out. Eneidi was off to the side doing the same, blowing pitched air through his alto. Then phrases that carried solid weight and tone were heard with silences in between. Krall took over the space again, the horn was out. Krall hit the bass drum on its outside face with one of the maracas, then he stroked delicately with the brushes the length of the tom-tom moving over to the cymbals on which he snapped. Eneidi sparked the reed with a mid-range pitch that evolved to a repeated two note phrase. Krall finally sat down poised with a pair of stiff brushes over the drums. Eneidi’s phrases were separated by long silences. Krall developed a quick to slow pace into a rhythm. The form of the improvisation became the separation of the horn and the percussion and the musicians’ effort to maintain a continuum unto themselves. The alto built a tune as Krall followed in rapid succession around the drums. A slow pace came out of Eneidi’s horn, tremolos kept the separation marked. Krall continued his rapid motion. The resonance of Eneidi’s alto overtook the space; it became fiery and sharp and metallic. Krall was ablaze. The strap to the horn around Eneidi’s neck was outstretched as he held the horn away from his body; his bare feet stepped in place. The notes moved into the lower register and then became soft at mid-range. He quickly moved the valves. The point at which I was compelled to stop taking notes, the two musicians were flying: shrill to rapid; rapid to shrill; horn to drum; drum to horn. Then the music deepened with a switch in key. The bass drum dominated just below the alto’s pitch.

The two seemed to be closing down at which point the defined shape of the music thus far resurged with the alto’s repetition of the same phrases that had been laid out at the beginning of the piece. Neither musician let up. The snare was crackling; the alto was tooting; the hard-edge sound on the snare matched the split tones coming out of the alto. The tempo changed. Eneidi stepped out. Krall smacked the small tom, damped the strike of the cymbal and was off on a solo interlude. He rolled the sticks on the snare, the bass kept being beat; the sticks galloped on the side of the drums, then went to the cymbals. Then there was silence. Tight restrained drumming was rounded off by the bass drum thumping. Eneidi re-entered at mid-range. Eneidi stepped out. Krall’s sticks moved over the bass drum with a slight rhythm. He moved off his seat and patted his hand on the tom. This piece was well done. And how it had cooked.

Eneidi tailored tender notes to construct a tune for the next number. As Eneidi paused, Krall played the cymbals from a seated position. Eneidi fingered up and down the scale on his horn to a bridge of a high pitch. The musical line became more tractable and shaped than the improvisation that had come before. Krall used his mallets to create an atmosphere; the mallets hit the toms, the snare. The bass kept the beat. Krall moved the sticks rapidly, often placing his elbow on the snare to slow down the hiss; the rhythm became steady. He clipped with sound again with his elbow. One mallet beat, then there were two. The bass and the snare opened up with a cymbal crash; the alto came back in twittering to match the swiftness of the way the sticks were moving. The tune that began the piece flew into the upper register of the alto. Krall returned to using mallets on the cymbals.

Eneidi bent his knees; he could not stop blowing the notes of the tune; he stayed in the upper register; the limits he went to were tightly drawn. Krall used his sticks on everything. Eneidi moved into the mid-range of the alto again. The drums worked to contrast the alto. The music was building. Eneidi was blowing like crazy; then suddenly he switched back to two note phrases. Krall played one continuous sound with intermittent smacks. The music stopped as if it still were in motion. The piece was outstanding. I had been taken aback.

The last set of the afternoon was played by the trio of Jemeel Moondoc on reeds, Khan Jamal on vibes & John Voigt on string bass. This was the first band to have played at the Meetinghouse five years ago.

Moondoc poured out a beat on his alto. The bass moved right along with Moondoc. Jamal’s vibes repeated a ringing phrase with the predominating melody. Then the instruments became disparate. The vibes kept the sourness of the alto soft. The bass maintained a standard beat. Moondoc blew notes from all over the horn; he moved from low to middle to high growing deeper into the groove. The vibes paralleled Moondoc by going up the scale. The alto fluttered tenderly. The vibes moved off the beat that was the continuous backdrop sustained by Voigt, who sat on the stage garbed in white damask. Moondoc totally wigged out. The vibes voiced some dissonance. Moondoc moved from low to high to low on his horn; he squeezed out a melody, then aborted it. Jamal’s mallets acted in counterpoint to Moondoc’s tune; the overtones in the vibes’ vibrancy were mind blowing. Moondoc twirled through his improvisation. Then he moved into another tender place. The bass always kept the horn and the vibes grounded. The vibes broke out in a terrific constancy and the alto was sometimes lost in the resonance of the instrument. When the alto was out, Jamal took the vibes off on a single note, then ascending and descending the scale, played successive notes seemingly all at once. The alto came back in with the same volume as the vibes. The vibes stopped. Moondoc soloed with a tune that was like honey. Voigt bowed to match a switch in the horn as it darted out notes in the upper register. The bass and the alto were perfectly mixed. The vibes came back in; the alto echoed the vibes. Every pitch was rapidly fired. The two instruments regulated each other. There was a switch in key in the vibes. The bass was out. The bass came back in. Jemeel sat on the steps of the stage. The vibraphone resonated and the sound was all-encompassing. The accuracy with which Jamal played was incredible.

The bass now had its say. Voigt plucked with both hands at the fret; his hands flickered like butterflies over the strings of the bass with electronic pickup. Moondoc stepped in again, this time with a curved soprano sax. He started with a tweet, then as the bass went down a scale, the soprano wailed the blues. Voigt bowed the bass to enrich the high pitch of the soprano. Moondoc kept squeaking the horn and then he began to produce runs of notes. The vibes re-entered quietly one-note-at-a-time. The soprano became quiet, then bright. The vibes provided a contrasting background to the horn. Moondoc stepped around as he found his notes, and as he found them, he repeated them as if he were climbing a ladder one-rung-at-a-time. When he reached the top, the horn squealed. The vibes and the bass countered that shrillness. Moondoc was absolutely absorbed in what he was doing. His whole body told me so. Jamal played clusters of notes that resembled Reichian chords. Moondoc kept blowing to produce almost no sound. He strained to reach the low register as the vibes kept the beat. Voigt was bowing. The vibes were out . Then the synchronization blossomed. There were longer notes everywhere on every instrument. Every note was dedicated. Until there was no more sound.

This trio set ended with Moondoc playing long drawn out notes that evoked melancholy. Jamal gently stroked the vibes with his mallets creating large deep vibrations. Moondoc pushed out notes on his alto: they were crying, they were captivating. Then he repeated clusters of notes to imitate the vibes then stopped. The vibes repeated clusters to imitate the horn then stopped. Voigt played a descending scale. The vibes and the horn merged in rhythmic content. Jamal beat at the vibes like they were drums. Moondoc continued to move in and out of the music with the alto. There was an increase in resonance to a point that had a Tantric nature. Moondoc was stamping his feet. Then he backed down and played a tune. The vibes and the alto were in unison. Then they were silent. Just like that.

What an afternoon.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Unknown
  • Venue: Meetinghouse Arena
  • City State Country: Amherst, MA, USA
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