Gigs, dance, art

November 23rd, 2009: Pina Bausch – Masurca Fogo

@theatre de la ville

Obviously not new material, but I knew that even when I booked for this show. At that time, I just wanted to take a second look at a show I saw a decade ago, Pina Bausch’s death turned it into a farewell. It’s still early to say for sure, but I don’t think I’ll be going to see shows I’ve seen before, except maybe a few of the last ones which rekindled my interest. The way these show sell out, I might as well leave my seat to someone more motivated.  So it might have been the last time I saw these dancers, especially Ruth Amarante, Rainer Behr, Andrey Berezin and Ditta Miranda Jasjfi.

The show itself was OK, but still a bit too much of what I eventually got tired of. The comedy bits were relatively few, but it still had these tiresome postcard snapshots from a place — lisboa this time — even though it also showed a better grasp than most such themed shows.  And it featured some of the solo parts that came back in each show in those days, which was the price to pay for going each year.

On the other hand, some of these were real good, and there was this amazing use of music, not as a neutral backdrop or a blueprint for the dance, but more as an independent partner to be engaged, followed or challenged. The long cello cover was a definite highlight in that respect. And the small details that don’t mean much at first but ended up seared in my memory. Foremost among these was Ruth Amarante’s loud breathing at the very beginning.

As a kind of closure, this show reminded me of the place of water in her shows, and maybe that’s why I’ve singled out Ditta Miranda Jasjfi even though her role was again limited. Her dance has a flowing quality that makes her a representative of what I like best about these shows.

November 28, 2009 Posted by | Dance | , | Leave a comment

November 22nd, 2009: Chris Corsano – Alexandre Bellenger – Christine Sehnaoui / Prince Rama Of Ayodhya / Amen Dunes / Mim

@les voutes

I didn’t like the first half or so of Mim‘s set. I guess that was blues, but it seemed the textbook kind to me, and left me with the impression that he was out to try every possible style — in that case, I would suggest yodeling country, now that would be unusual and potentially entertaining. The second part mixed the influence and that made it both more personal and more interesting. He sounded good enough to be worth hearing again, hopefully with more of the second than the first.

I like Amen Dunes, but I was wondering how that would translate live. Better than I thought, actually, with a nice intensity. What I liked best is the music had an additional roughness that I liked a lot. Anyway, getting a different feel from the records is part of the point of gigs, and they did that well. He did a live session for the station in August, but I haven’t checked it out yet.

Prince Rama Of Ayodhya was the main draw for me, and I’m glad to see they recovered from having their equipment stolen. It seems that the benefit shows and call for donations worked. They also have a live set at WFMU available for download from the free music archive. I liked this show a lot, and I really like how the drumming was much more present than on the record. Generally speaking, I think the live setting serves them well, as the records sometimes put a little too much emphasis on the voice for my liking. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with her voice, but they’re a good live band and there was a better balance here.

I’ll admit I didn’t expect much from the closing trio. I like Christine Sehnaoui and Alexandre Bellenger, but I’m not that fond of Chris Corsano, and they’re so different that I thought the set had a real chance to fall flat. It turned out great. At first I thought each was remaining on familiar ground, but they quickly found each other and the set just took off. I probably wouldn’t say it was loud, but they did go for it and it was louder than I expected. A good set and a nice example of the good that can come out of improvising.

November 26, 2009 Posted by | Music | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

November 21st, 2009: Jayanthi Kumaresh


Another installment in my attempt to figure out at least something in classical Indian music. Not much luck so far, that much was clear most of the times one of the performers would mark the beat. When I like the performance as much as this time, it’s no big deal, though frustrating because I just know I’m missing a lot because I’m that ignorant.

I really like Jayanthi Kumaresh‘s play. Her skill was obvious from her precise control over the strings and the many modulations she got by pushing and releasing them, but she kept the music coming first and I never got any hint of unwarranted virtuosity. Not really understated either, it just sounded right. And she did let some room for the mridangam and ghatam too. I guess it’s part of the style, but here again she handled that just right.

The veena is a very nice instrument, and I think the combination of frets and relatively few strings made it more accessible to my untrained ears. Far less overwhelming and distraction than the sitar, for instance. Not that the music is simple, but there’s a bit less going on, and that made it sound clearer to me, and I sure can use help. I think it could be a gateway into this stuff for me, but it’s not that common, unfortunately. She did say she would come back, but I have slightly more confidence in that kind of talk than in the classic “you’re the best audience” or “I just love playing here”. I’ll keep an eye out nonetheless.

November 26, 2009 Posted by | Music | , | Leave a comment

November 20th, 2009: Jean-François Pauvros & Charles Pennequin

@centre pompidou

I’m not a fan of the place, and I usually don’t like spoken word, but I do like Charles Pennequin, and his pairing with Jean-François Pauvros just made the show more appealing to me.

It had been a while, but I thought his delivery was slower this time, but that’s just a remark, and it didn’t take anything from the performance. For most of the set he read his texts standing and with little movement, except for a his circling around the audience with a megaphone a couple times.

Pauvros was more active after a static intro bowing one of his two guitars. His role was mostly supportive, though he got louder and took a more assertive stance as the show went on. I liked the way he did it, doing plenty of different things, from banging the guitar to building up loops to playing with a corner of the booth to mock-spearing Pennequin. I think he was pretty good playing that part, even though the role limited what he could do. If anything that made me eager to hear him again soon — though I’m not sure that’s enough to make me take another chance on Evan Parker.

It worked OK, but I’m not sure it was that good to both: I think Pennequin too is better on his own, as he doesn’t need any support and at times it felt like they both were being a little too respectful of the other, leaving a little too much space and hesitant to fill it. Interesting experiment though, definitely worth a shot.

November 22, 2009 Posted by | Music | , , | Leave a comment

November 18th, 2009: Kuupuu / Noyade / Samara Lubelski / Peace On Earth

@la suite

Unfortunately, I didn’t pay enough attention this time. I had a wisdom tooth pulled out in the afternoon, and my mistake was taking those painkillers before leaving for the gig. I had a hard time focusing until those wore off, and that only came during the last set. Too late.

Peace On Earth started with a peaceful keyboard melody he then disturbed with various loops and the occasional drumpad burst. It’s basically what he often does, but the details are always different. The finer stuff was lost on me, so the drum bursts where the main thing that came through. I liked those short sequences, they were purposefully irregular and looped with enough silence to interfere with the rest without establishing a rhythm. Too bad I missed most of the rest.

Samara Lubelski‘s set was the one I most failed to get. It’s quiet to begin with, and her voice was so faint I could hardly hear it. Same goes for the drummer, and the keyboard and guitar dominated far too much — I was told these two are in Metabolismus, that would explain their forming a tighter unit. That music required more attention that I could muster from my codeine cloud.

No surprise that I think I didn’t like Noyade‘s set as much as the last time I’d seen them. The guitar was familiar, and the effects had some nice moments, but I was just too dazed to make sense of both together, or to grasp the set. I was basically struggling not to nod off by then.

Thankfully pain finally broke through during Kuupuu‘s set, and that woke me up. She used a bunch of objects and toys, and tapes too — I’m partial to that medium. I like how she can weave a coherent whole out of these disparate building blocks, one with a definite personality. There something light and joyful but not sugary, fragile but strong, meandering but going somewhere. I like her music a lot and she’s the reason I dragged myself over there, and I’m glad I did, even though I really want to hear all of them again in a better condition — mine, the venue is great.


November 22, 2009 Posted by | Music | , , , , | Leave a comment

November 13th, 2009: Nudge / Lotus Plaza / Blackthread

@espace b

At first I wasn’t into Blackthread‘s music, the main reason was that I don’t like his voice, just too much vibrato for me there. But as the set went on I had the feeling his nervousness lifted a bit and that extra confidence made a lot of difference. I still don’t like his voice, but the samples and loops started coming together beautifully, each one adding something to the mix. Even the voice made sense of a couple of songs, its contrasting emotional overload was just another apparently disparate element brought together into something that had legs. That made the set worth it, and judging by his being so tense, he’s bound to get better as he gets used to playing live.

Lotus Plaza had by far my favorite set of this gig. I loved it so much I even bought the CD, which is nowhere near as good by the way. Another good thing, I like musicians who are better live, as it often means performances will be different and worth hearing. Guitar and voice with loops and drum samples. He was very good with those loops, not using them to create an accompanying background but piling sometimes conflicting patterns that took the result in a direction none of the separate elements really hinted at. It could get dronish at first, and his rather dreamish vocals could have supported that, but his choice of beat loops undermined that. They actually got more driving as the set unfurled, and that extra dimension is what put that set apart for me. Those beats nicely balanced the somewhat experimental guitar and reverbed voice, probably not into somewhat one could dance to — not that I would know about that — but making it easy to get into yet with something interesting going on beneath. I totally loved that set. I have to say I don’t know much about Deerhunter, I feel I should check them out now, live of course.

I guess I wasn’t all that open to Nudge‘s stuff after that, so it took me a while to get into it. In a sense it felt a bit coldly intellectual to me, but they had a quite impressive way to fill up the space, drumpad, keyboard and guitars each staking some ground. I just felt these were not interacting/interfering enough though. They were joined by Lockett Plundt later on, who solved some of that, but not much. Maybe it was just too quiet for me, but I think the main hurdle was that it came on the heels of that great set and that clouded my reception. Their sound was really good so I’m inclined to think I missed a big part of what was going on. Not paying attention enough.

November 18, 2009 Posted by | Music | , , , | Leave a comment

November 9th, 2009: Steve Coleman & Five Elements

@new morning

I enjoyed this shew, but I had higher expectations.It’s a fine line, and I put that squarely on the drummer  Don’t get me wrong, Marcus Guilmore  is a good one, but I like Tyshawn Sorey so much that going back to the regular drummer alone made the show less than what I hoped.  On the one hand, there was Jen Shyu‘s voice — when will I get the chance to hear her doing her own thing? — and Steve Coleman‘s great leadership, on the other hand this was a regular jazz show and having experienced their ability to get way beyond that, that was  a bit of a disappointment. Just a bit, because these regular shows are also a way to look as what the baseline is, even though I think my favorite thing about Coleman is his ability to integrate other elements — pun intended — into his music, Opus Akoben going even further in that I think their common performances brought both bands beyond what they could do on their own. Here it was Coleman and Five Elements only, so I didn’t expect that much. But still, I expected more, which was bad news for me, another trip into the hell of high expectations.

It’s all about expectations, because they played for close to to three hours, and most of it was very good. But this one poorly compared to previous performances. It went closer to regular jazz, first, and I’m probably not that sensitive to this part of their music. Then there’s the Gilmore/Sorey thing, that’s really a matter of taste, I don’t think it can be debated — again, Guilmore is good, but his style is different from Sorey’s, especially when it comes to the relative use of cymbals, and I happen to like Sorey better.

Coleman played a lot in my opinion, but still left a lot of place for the others, a trait which makes him my favorite jazz leader. He’s so good at this I wish he would do workshops on that part alone; how to be in charge through getting everyone to be highlighted in turn; how to be confident enough to make a statement then walk aside, or not, depending on what the music calls for. I do think he was more assertive than in previous shows, but that’s just another way of saying I think the band didn’t come together as well. I don’t know why, but I felt unity was lacking, in that there was Shyu and Coleman, Finlayson and Albright, then Morgan and Guilmore. Those sub-units worked very well, but I felt communication wasn’t that smooth between them. That’s my number one gripe, because I’d been so totally impressed to far with Coleman’s performance as a leader — second to Bill Belichick, but he has had his share of misses as well.

On a totally personal take, I’d say I wish there had been less Guilmore soloing and more Jen Shyu. Then again, that was another not exactly subtle plea for a Jen Shyu performance around here. I really want to hear her on her own, with her own call on where she wants to take her voice.

November 14, 2009 Posted by | Music | , | Leave a comment