Free Jazz at Vision Festival (Part 2)

Rob Brown and Daniel Levin
Kidd Jordan Quintet
Vision Festival 17 @ Roulette
Brooklyn, NY
Sunday, June 17, 2012

After Burnt Sugar’s army of musicians, Rob Brown and Daniel Levin stood as a gentle comment on minimalism’s freedom. Their duo of tenor sax and cello engaged in an elaborate dialogue, not afraid to leave space, or let their interlocutor speak at length, enjoying a momentary monologue.

Their melodic lines intersected in the air like the imaginary trails of two insects flitting about, demonstrating the beauty of chaos theory.

At other times, one would accompany the other. Levin detuned his C-string, turning his cello into a bass. He plucked strings with both hands to give a more layered accompaniment, more orchestral but still with a rounded levity.

Brown accompanied by playing one note, repeatedly, in differing, jarring rhythmic patterns, using tonal shifts to alter the texture and add additional movement. Brown’s method was effective, but he returned to it too often, and at times, it sounded as if he retreated to this repeated note technique when he was at a loss.

Brown and Levin’s brilliant conversation was the prize of the evening. And perhaps the most impressive aspect of the duo is their ability to improvise form. Each piece they began struck out into new territory, and they negotiated together the direction and shape of the piece, giving cues to each other and the audience signaling when the life of this music was reaching its end.

The Kidd Jordan Quintet closed the evening with a ferocious set. Jordan was a powerhouse on the tenor sax, ripping through phrases until the scales themselves were enervated, and his piercing squeals soared like rockets.

J. D. Parran filled the bottom end with a strong bari sax tone. He doubled on bass clarinet and wooden flute, adding a new spectrum of colors to the group’s already saturated sound.

Charles Gayle twisted atonal lines on the piano and pounded away in high and low registers, mashing the keys with full palms, pushing his own body off the bench. Gayle switched to tenor sax for the last song, joining Jordan’s wild sound.

The raw strength of the quintet, however, was also their weakness. The muscled force of the group was simply overwrought.

On drums, Hamid Drake played on top of everything. His creative spirit continually wrestled with his juggernaut style. Eventually, Drake’s playing was like adding too much fuel to the fire — it snuffs it out. I had trouble hearing anyone else, especially William Parker on bass.

The excitement of the first three minutes became stagnation. Without dynamics, loud is meaningless.  But then, that seems to be Kidd Jordan’s message, the reason for his quintet. The contrast is the silence after the music.

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