Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Stillness in Queens: Not So Still at Flushing Town Hall Friday Night

When you think of Queens, what comes to mind? Rock Rock, Rockaway Beach? Tavernas and beer gardens in Astoria? Our bedraggled, underachieving Mets? Last night at Flushing Town Hall, pianist Jun Yi Chow and Korean daegeum flute virtuoso Seungmin Cha’s joint improvisation Stillness in Queens sought to illustrate contemplation in New York’s most oldschool cosmopolitan borough. Karen Y. Chan’s low-key videography provided context, whether reminding that Main Street in Flushing is as gritty as anywhere in Manhattan; that you can walk a long, long, long way without ever encountering a city bus; and that Queens remains the indisputable gastronomic capital of New York.

Chow opened the night on melodica, riffing elegantly over a courtly, fanfare-ish pentatonic riff that he’d cajoled the audience to sing – and they did an admirable job, with a bit of improvisation of their own. Switching to piano, then cello, acoustic guitar and back to piano, bolstered by light electronic manipulation, he worked carefully around central tones, sometimes going inside the piano or utilizing cello harmonics for more ghostly timbres.

Cha was a force of nature. Even in the demanding context of free jazz – where if you soar, you really soar, and if you crash, it’s a complete trainwreck – her extended technique was mind-blowing. Just the range she was able to conjure from her series of flutes, from a rumble, to a moody resonance, to fluttery whispers, was astonishing. Yet there wasn’t a single shriek, or squeal, in about an hour and a half worth of music. Microtones, harmonics, and glissandos flew from her reeds throughout a lot of methodical, sometimes deviously playful call-and-response with Chow and frequent solo passages.

She also took several turns on vocals. The tantalizingly brief interlude where she ran a series of simple monosyllables through her loop pedal and spun them back as a flitting, ghostly choir, was the night’s most haunting moment. Another memorable passage saw Chow pushing a graceful but acerbic seesaw groove against the flute. At the end, Chow finally went back to his melodica for the introductory riff, bringing the night full circle as superimposed images of Rock, Rock, Rockaway Beach and a surfer or two panned on the screen behind the stage.

The current ground-floor art exhibit at Flushing Town Hall also deserves a mention. Qyao Yan Jiang’s darkly backgrounded portraiture mashes up classical Chinese iconography with contemporary New York images, imbued with an uncannily vivid photorealism. The most stunning of all the tableaux on display is what appears to be a tired bunch of 19th century immigrants on Ellis Island looking toward a contemporary steel-and-glass Manhattan. You want relevant?

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September 16, 2017 - Posted by | avant garde music, concert, experimental music, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews

1 Comment »

  1. […] https://lucidculture.wordpress.com/2017/09/16/stillness/It’s always great to play with wonderful musicians and dancers in NYC! […]

    Pingback by NYC archive_Trip in progress (2017) | Seungmin Cha Music | September 19, 2017 | Reply


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