Gigs, dance, art

February 5th, 2011: Zeritu / Jazzmaris

@cité de la musique

For the most part, I liked Jazzmaris. A lot in their music comes from the standards from decades ago, but the bass and drums give it a more recent sound, and the guitar adds elements from other genres. They certainly know where the music comes from, but they seem to want to let it go places as well. That’s fine with me: even though I didn’t like everything, it means this fine music still lives as the legends get older. I did have a slight problem with the sax though. To me it felt a little too neat, and I thought he stuck to a grid far too much, but maybe that’s just unfair because he played a song I saw Getatchew Mekuria play several times, and I’m just stuck on his interpretation, which just felt more free. That’s not a fair comparison, and anyway it was an enjoyable set on its own terms.

They were all part of Zeritu’s backing band, and again the guitar stood out for me, though I wasn’t fond of the songs where he was in the forefront. Then again, I wasn’t fond of much of the music, it was just too smooth and quite mainstream for me. Zeritu has a beautiful voice and a lot of charisma, but that wasn’t enough and I ended up feeling pretty bored. Just not my kind of thing, that’s all I’m saying.

February 14, 2011 Posted by | Music | , , | Leave a comment

February 4th, 2011: Azmaris

@cité de la musique

After the religious music that was the main event, there was a free concert by azmaris at the same place, but not in the concert hall itself. That was more my kind of music, but the place was way too cold — the architecture, not the temperature — and the high ceiling felt very wrong to me. But the music was pretty good, and Melaku Belay was his amazing self. There was another dancer this time, Zenash Tsegaye, and though I didn’t think she reached his level, she had memorable moments too. Again, the language barrier probably made me miss a sizable chunk of the fun, but the musicians were good despite less than ideal conditions: Abbebe Fekade, Eyerusalem Dubale, Mimi Zenebe, Sileshi Demissie, and Asnake Gebreyes, who looked familiar. I think I saw him perform before, but I’m not sure where. Maybe with Mohammed Jimmy Mohammed a few shortly before his death. Anyway, that show made me wish I could see them in a more suitable venue.

February 14, 2011 Posted by | Music | , | Leave a comment

February 4th, 2011: Debteras choir / Alemu Aga

@cité de la musique

Alemu Aga plays the begena, which is an amazing instrument with a unique buzzing sound. He sang too, in a quiet voice sometimes sounding like a whisper. That made me pay attention even more, though not understanding a single word certainly took away a lot from the experience. Then again, it’s religious music, and I may have been turned away by the message. There was also something soothing about the similar start of each song, and the repetitive phrases within each song. Something more hypnotic than insistent. The lone exception was the one he played with a plectrum, for a more assertive sound featuring chords instead of notes. But it too had something quietly focused. A very nice set, totally different from what I’m used to, even though I did hear that instrument before on a record out on Terp.

The second set was a choir of debteras. This one was mostly vocal, though they did use a drum for part of the set. For some reason they reminded me of some Japanese styles at times, especially when the drum was more a punctuation than a beat. Some interesting moments, but I have to say I dropped out along the way. Maybe I just lack the kind of focus to stay into religious music for so long.

February 14, 2011 Posted by | Music | , | Leave a comment

February 3rd, 2011: Lol Coxhill & Michel Doneda

@instants chavirés

I like Lol Coxhill, but I wasn’t expecting all that much from this gig because I felt like I had heard Michel Doneda a little too much. In a few words: I was wrong. This was a very good show, and I had sorely underestimated Doneda.

Their styles are pretty different, with Doneda playing more with textures and sound itself, while Coxhill used more regular notes with a usually smooth flow. But there were just tendencies, as each could foray into the other’s territory, and did so every so often. And it didn’t really matter anyway, because even when they were sounding very different, there was communication and exchange, as they listened to each other and took turns pulling the music into new directions. And when they could have gone back to ground they had covered, they stopped. Both sets were living, evolving dialogues with a lot of freedom and without any obvious preset direction, whose meanderings may or not have gone somewhere, but what mattered was the road and not the destination. This was a rewarding trip.

February 9, 2011 Posted by | Music | , , | Leave a comment

February 2nd, 2011: Debashish Bhattacharya – Ganesh Rajagopalan – Subhasis Bhattacharya – Satish Kumar

@théatre de la ville

A big part of the appeal of this concert was supposed to be the meeting of southern and northern tradition. As I understand neither, I’ll ill placed to comment on that. I was less obviously lost than usual within that music, but I suspect that’s because they were somewhat tentative, or that the music was deliberately watered down. It might be high time I give up altogether on Indian music. I’m just not willing to study it enough to get it.

The concert itself was enjoyable, if a bit flat in my opinion. The two headliners were Debashish Bhattacharya and Ganesh Rajagopalan, and they’re definitely good, as were their supposed sidemen. But when they were alternating playing, it felt flat, as if each was holding back. It was much better when they played together, and sometimes it got great when it was clear even to me that one was playing part of what the other or someone else should have been playing. There it got really interesting.

I probably would have like some voice, though the violin took up that part nicely. The slide guitar felt a little too pure to me, but there were some very nice moments when they played together and something felt like up in the air as to the division of parts.

February 5, 2011 Posted by | Music | , , , , | Leave a comment

January 31st, 2011: Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker – En Atendant

théatre de la ville

Anytime I get to see something by Rosas is a special event for me, one I’ll usually have been looking forward for a while — like since the last time I saw them. En Atendant was a rich performance for me, bringing new things, new twists on older things, and a sense of continuity that reached back many years. This marked the thirtieth work by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker that I’ve seen over the years — not counting films and those I have seen more than once — so maybe the past tends to skew my perception toward picking up this kind of thing.

There was live music this time — ancient music — but not all the time, usually for group sequences. Actually I think there was more silence than music. Those sequences with music felt the most intricate to me, often involving pairs of dancers, but maybe that’s just because I was too close to the stage to really get the big picture. That’s why I like to see her pieces more than once from a different point of view, but she’s so popular it’s become tough to get that second ticket. There was a lot of walking, like in The Song, but with more lines this time. Another recent trend is her work with support, both in groups — piling on in one corner then freezing, getting back up and freezing again, but the best was what went in around and between these poses — and in pairs. I especially liked a sequence with Sue-Yeon Youn and Cynthia Loemij because of the way the support evolved into just fingers touching then just barely so, with a hint of that much later in the piece.

I saw a lot of these fleeting hints at something that came before, phrases or single movements or even just bits that echoes earlier things, like shoulders moved forward or a foot pushing on the back of the other leg’s knee. Sometimes much earlier, as a couple of hip movements reminded me of Microkosmos. Of course the continuity was much stronger with The Song and Zeitung, mostly the legs, bending, coiling and support, but I saw things that echoed earlier works throughout her career — though I do have a big blind spot there in the late eighties. There even was a bent arm or two that reminded me of the first part of April Me, which I hadn’t thought of in a while, but which fits somehow.

But all there fleeting moments were just that, and didn’t hinder the flow at all. They just gave the piece a special kind of richness for me. There was enough going on not to dwell on this flashes. New things stood out too, like the violent burst of a solo ending close to exhaustion. Still precise, but with a different kind of geometry, different angles and a sense of pushing some limits, control without restraint. One pretty impressive thing is that the very different elements — groups, pairs, solo; silence, music; even pauses — fit together in a kind of polyphony spread out over time. It all felt connected into a whole that made sense. It felt so rich on so many levels that I’m sure I missed more than half or what was there, a convenient excuse to fuel my desire to see it again. Yet, there was a lot of space too, but not empty, the kind of space that is needed by what’s in there. Kind of like you need some silence to have notes.

Speaking of which, one of my favorite things in Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s choreography is when a dancer will lean before fully moving, something which makes movement start not just from stillness, but from within stillness. In music, I love Miles Davis’ silences, and I think that’s related. But sometimes dance takes it even further. That’s another reason why I was so happy/relieved to see Cynthia Loemij dancing. Sometimes I can see her start slightly before she actually moves at all. I guess I’m just picking up some slight visual hint of tension, out of the familiarity built over eighteen years of seeing her dance Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s works, without being able to point out anything. The same thing goes when she stops. It’s a blink of an eye, but it makes a whole lot of difference to me. She was not in The Song, and that probably shocked me out of taking her for granted. This is not a post about my appreciation for her though  — maybe I will write one someday — but what I want to say is this: Anne Teresa De Keermaeker is my favorite choreographer, though Padmini Chettur comes close. But for me nothing comes close to seeing Cynthia Loemij dance Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker.

February 2, 2011 Posted by | Dance | , | Leave a comment