Cameraderie and Improvisation at Spectrum Thursday Night
Last night at Spectrum, pianist Charity Chan was down from Montreal for an aggressively magical night of improvisation with Mostly Other People Do the Killing trumpeter Peter Evans, bassist Tom Blancarte and drummer Weasel Walter. While everyone on this bill is capable of crushing brutality, this concert was about friendly teamwork, listening, filling in the blanks and turning over all the stones for a richly dynamic sonic mosaic. The fun the band was having onstage, rigorously cerebral as it was, came across powerfully. Evans might be the most precise trumpeter in jazz: his blend of speed and unwavering tonal balance was mind-boggling, throughout one rapidfire ascent after another, all that circular breathing leaving him drenched in sweat after an hour onstage. Immersing himself in Bach has paid off mightily.
He and Chan make a good team: she shares his precision and simultaneous command of minutiae and raw power, with a gymnast’s athleticism when it came to muting the piano strings with an assemblage of felts that she whipped on and then off for unexpectedly subtle timbral adjustments. Blancarte was rock-steady one moment as he held the center and ran circular motives, then looked like he was about to break his strings as he detuned and battered them, first with his fingers and then with his bow, overtones trailing like sparks or looming underneath like smoke rising from a hole in the street. Walter was just as entertaining to watch, whether peppering the sound with nimble runs on woodblocks and muted snare, constantly switching from brushes to sticks to bundles as the waves rose and fell, up to the occasional aghast, cruelly flurrying riff on the toms.
As is often the case with performances like this, it was more about going places with ideas, and rhythms, and camaraderie more than melody. There was lots of pairing and conversations, Chan leaping and bounding as she shadowed Evans’ tireless volleys, yet with a similar nonchalance: she made it look easy. Likewise, Evans followed Blancarte’s murkily resonant atmospherics with whispering, misty, overtone-tinted shades, Walter stepping up in a graceful spit-second when Chan backed away from a matter-of-factly glimmering, judiciously misterioso two-handed conversation of her own. After a dynamically shifting epic that went on for more than a half hour, they took a more percussively staccato, incisive approach for their next two numbers, Blancarte’s wry, groaning bowed attack finally signaling that it was time to take a pause, Walter bringing it down elegantly and enigmatically. It was the kind of concert you walk away from buzzing, inspired and counting all the ideas you’d like to steal.
And apropos of nothing other than global warming-era pain and suffering, scoring a seat in a comfy chair directly under the air conditioner while the band sweated it out up front seemed just plain unfair. Get to Spectrum early and you can sit there.
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