Been listening to the left speaker on my "stereo". The right speaker's connection comes and goes; great source of frustration. 'Til recently. Been listening to a variety of things - funk, pop, much jazz. Kinda all over the place from minute to minute, but one common theme - a strange, never before felt openness to the possibility that anything can happen - and I hope it does.
Neil Finn's summer release "Try Whistling This" most in my ears these days. Of all songwriters, he is most consistent in reaching me; pretty and unsettling melodies, lyrics that often mean nothing taken as wholes, but in snippets can hold so much truth in so few words, and his vocal inflection - careful, precise and wrapped tightly in absolute connection with lyric and music. There are no 'throwaway' lines or notes in a Neil Finn song. It's all very carefully plotted and exactly what he means to convey.
I thought I knew this album inside and out. Then that speaker conked out. Ooh, the things I've been hearing lately"! Rumbling, tumbling bass, quiet, barely there harmonies and sneaky snaky little synthesized 'background' stuff that create a whole that says and feels like one thing, but separated into its bits mean more, less, something else" it's like screwing with an equalizer and hearing 'in between' the levels. Makes you feel like an explorer of sorts. Improv does that, too. Been trying to find different ways to 'hear' it. Wanting to hear it from musician's perspective. Can hear as whole and feel like too much noise a times; can focus on one or two players, depending on where they're going and if you follow them, almost making yourself part of the music (at least in your own head); or then go off with someone else simply because they have. Takes concentration. Not passive listening, you gotta be into it.
Got a lot of practice in listening at last week's Time Flies Vancouver Improvised Music Meeting where 11 musicians of all ages, talent, abilities, backgrounds, and experience gathered for various impromptu groupings to create instant music. A lot happened in those four nights, in the brain of this listener and 'out there'. Too much to convey, and much of which will gain more meaning and understanding as it's processed over time. Took very few notes on night one. Musicians getting to know each other. Audience getting to know them. Cautious at being thrown together, but with luxury of knowing there were three more nights for things to unfold.
Most obvious personality (musical and personality pretty much one in the same, in my belief) is Italian reeds player Carlo Actis Dato; punchy, choppy, technically excellent, warbling screams when there's too much going on in his head to contain, but leaves no room for space and absorption - or to hear the other players. Like he issues a challenge to keep up with him, but then drowns them out with what's essentially a big solo anyway. Learned a new term; showboat, and it's most tied to CAD. Canadian-born/Seattle-based violinist Eyvind Kang impressed with dramatic yet slightly trepidatious (first night anyway) confidence that threatens to explode from the persistent tense finger pluckings and gorgeous self-harmonizing chords he powers out, making him the early favourite of these players, and whose work must be explored further. Many more notes night two.
Understanding coming on of who each musician is, especially the more subtle ones. Joe McPhee emerged as seasoned, elegant, beautiful-toned tenor-/soprano-saxophonist/trumpeter with generous improv style. Knows when to get in, out and share space, thus making what is available seem all the bigger and more open for all. Desire hearing his compositions. Dutch Luc Houtkamp's brisk, dramatic tenor sax sound somehow manages to be very prominent without taking over, though with his skill and proficiency it easily could. Mature player who creates a mutual-admiration society through lovely connection with McPhee by fest's end. Surprised to find the two never played together before. Really wished guitarist Ron Samworth would crank it up. Appropriately quietly beautiful melodic Asian-feel distant moon guitar slowed Gianni Gebbia's swirling alto sax down into sweet ballad from a mega-note onslaught, but he's got a guitar! and I know he's got a huge capacity for controlled (without seeming so) space oddities conducive to flights in the mind. Seemed to be lying low.
Italian trombonist Lauro Rossi turned off with seemingly non-stop blaring. No notes on night three. Gestation period turned into a combination of the sense of knowing one another as much as they're likely to after spending several nights in intimate work, many staying in same hotel, hanging out, and with knowledge that there's but one more night. Canadian bass clarinetist Lori Freedman's subtle slinking, space-filled weavings never really get going, never reach heart or brain. Seattle bassist Michael Bisio's openness and desire to connect with all is evident. Seems fearless and displays absolute comfort with his instrument, literally attacking it with a bow slipping off the strings and clawing at wood. Still haven't figured out if inflicted damage is intentional (though maybe the beating he gives the lower portion of strings and wood turning it into a very percussive instrument should be a clue).
Bisio's assault approach in stark contrast to Vancouver-born/Berlin-based Joe Williamson's expressionless, mostly contained simmering intensity. Body shows taut passion, face not revealing anything. Very appreciative of Williamson's precise, deliberate bowing work (seemed almost delicate in comparison to Bisio's roughness) and his ability to draw others to follow him into almost sudden dropped-into grooves. Non-stop, intense note-taking on last night. Trying to capture it all somehow before it gets away. Impossible. Already gone. The looseness, connections made, mutual admiration amongst certain players witnessed, respect, hits, misses between and amongst them"
Last night seems Vancouver drummer Dylan van der Schyff's most open, starting with an attention-commanding percussive exploration on open-topped grand piano beside drum kit; sticks clanging out rough, vibrating twangs on strings, brass cymbal (or bowl?) pushed around on strings for rusty old bedspring insistent taps - eeeeek bowing on cymbals and metal sides of drums, tip of sticks screeching across cymbals, licked fingers scooting creekily across drums" creative search for new sounds combined with knowing when and where to use them impresses more and more, as does desire to listen to, then connect with others. That willingness to share experience and travel somewhere musically with others (players and audience) is what I found myself looking for (and, largely, got) at this four-day event. But I still want more.