Gigs, dance, art

April 17th, 2009: Prezens: David Torn – Tim Berne – Tom Rainey – Craig Taborn

@cité de la musique

I didn’t know anything about David Torn, but I’m always game for an opportunity to hear Tom Rainey, especially when Tim Berne and Craig Taborn are there too.

This performance was completely different, obviously thanks to David Torn. He and especially Craig Taborn were building a quite dense sound environment, with Taborn more subdued maybe but still present, while Torn was at times using enough feedback and harsher effects to come closer to my usual noise than I can remember in a jazz setting. Tim Berne and Tom Rainey were closer to their usual styles, though Berne was obviously less in the foreground and actually went along with the sound sculpting aspect. Torn was foremost on that front, and created some great textures, a part of his play that I found more interesting than his occasional more melodic forays.

Paradoxically, even though I’m still a huge fan of Rainey, his play was excellent as usual, but that was exacty what helped me put my finger on what bothered me about this performance. Even though there were a lot of great sounds and it had an unusual side, I had the feeling it was too locked down. Not the music, more the part that each performer played, so that even though there were some fruitful exchanges, these didn’t include any kind of role reversal and that made it a little predictable over time. So in the end I felt it could have been more free and involved more chances. Then again it was a relatively short one, about one hour, so maybe I just didn’t have enough time to get beyond the obvious. So even though I did like it, I came out with a feeling it could have gone further. The downside of high expectations, again.

April 20, 2009 Posted by | Music | , , , , | Leave a comment

February 27th, 2009: Drew Gress – Ralph Alessi – Tim Berne – Tom Rainey – Craig Taborn


There were a few other interesting gigs at the same time, but there’s not all that much that would keep me from hearing Tom Rainey. Even though I don’t like the pricey venue much, and the consistent dissing I heard from musicians isn’t improving that any. But hey, there was not just Tom Rainey, but also Tim Berne and Craig Taborn, so that’s three fourth of Science Friction — and I loved their performance last year — and I didn’t have to know the other members of 7 Black Butterflies firsthand to trust that they’re just as good. Which proved right, of course.

Drew Gress was the leader, and even though I sure would have liked more free elements in the music, it had beautiful moments, especially some times when they would all play together but quite different things, an intricate mesh with no compromise, a whole made stronger by the power of its components. Sometimes it was a little too pretty for my taste, but it also had a rougher side, and the sheer range was a definite plus.

As musicians, there’s no question they’re all excellent. That was especially obvious when three would stop and one would go on for a while with Tom Rainey — an arrangement I didn’t mind one bit. But I think it was most impressive when they played all together, because I could usually track each one’s path, but often didn’t lest I miss the forest for the trees.

That said, Tom Rainey was clearly my favorite in the band, no surprise here as he’s just as clearly my favorite drummer right now. The sheer range of what he did was impressive, and I heard him do other things before, so it wasn’t a full display of his ability. Quiet or loud, fast or slower, easily flowing or rougher, he seems able to do everything, and to change smoothly or abrutly at will. It was tempting to focus laser-like on his play, but that would have been missing another side as part of what I like about him is that what he does meshes so well with what the others are doing. I guess that’s more the case with people he’s familiar with, and tonight looked like one such occasion.

March 2, 2009 Posted by | Music | , , , , , | Leave a comment

November 21st, 2008: Roy Campbell, Joe McPhee, William Parker & Warren Smith / Hasse Poulsen, Tom Rainey, Guillaume Orti, Stéphane Payen & Henrick Simonsen


Back in August, when I first heard about this place from a coworker’s roommate, I talked with him about Tom Rainey being my favorite drummer, and he said he wished he would come and play there — with Tim Berne — instead of the more expensive tourist traps. Then in October I found a flyer for that place and I immediately notice a tribute to Albert Ayler, and that was enough for me to decide there and then to go. I only read the fine print on my way there, only to learn that Joe McPhee was part of that tribute, and that Tom Rainey was part of the opening set. That made me worry about getting in and wishing I had booked in advance, but I did manage to get in, so all was right. Still, I guess I should pay more attention. Very nice place, by the way, I’ll definitely be checking out their site.

The opening set was a project put together as a celebration of guitar player Hasse Poulsen‘s tenth year in France. Named Progressive Patriots, this project features Guillaume Orti and Stéphane Payen on saxophone, Henrick Simonsen on bass and the great Tom Rainey on drums. I did like it, but thought it was missing some exchanges and interactions, but maybe that was because they may not have had time to develop more interesting group dynamics. There were some very good moments, but I had the feeling the compositions were too constraining. Again, that’s probably because a lot was new material, and this was a brand new project as well. Of course there was a great Tom Rainey solo, starting with the bass drum only then expanding. But somehow something feels off when I focus on a solo or on his playing when there are five of them. Probably my fault, but I still think there was something missing.

The tribute to Albert Ayler was exhilarating right from the start, when Warren Smith went through the audience with a small bell. I felt it was a great tribute because it went through many aspects of Ayler’s music, including some of the mandatory classics, but without too much respect. Just enough, but with a will to make it their own, and of course the ability to do it, no surprise with these veterans. Besides Warren Smith on drums, the quartet featured Roy Campbell on trumpets and flutes, Joe McPhee on saxophone and pocket trumpet, and William Parker on bass. These guys are so good it’s hard to highlight a part of the show — Truth Is Marching In and Our Prayer do stand out, but only because they’re personal favorites. They even went into a Obama shout out that felt all the more appropriate for me because it was the first time I heard that during a gig, and how fitting that these guys would do it, for so many reasons, including personal ones I won’t get into. I had a great time and just feel grateful for this tribute project that gave me this opportunity to hear some of Ayler’s music, and what’s more important to feel a bit of the spirit that I had only experienced through records. That’s no subsitute.

November 23, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

April 20th, 2008: Science Friction


I was more nervous than excited about this: I’ve hearing about Tom Rainey and Tim Berne for about a year, especially with Science Friction, so I guessed I was ripe for a fall. That also my first time in that place, even though I’ve been upstairs a few times. It all started bad enough: the place was packed and very hot, and the tiny seats had me feeling hemmed in, and I’m pretty much a gnome. No wonder many people left during the break. When the first set actually started, the unbridled velocity of the guitar and sax made me fear the worst, but that was short lived, and it went uphill from there, as soon as the drummer joined them. To conclude with the bitching section, I was too close to the guitar amp, and the sound was not that good: the saxophone was drowned out at times, and I could barely make out the rhodes. I did think there was some problem with it, by the way, and they confirmed that later.

Science Friction is Tim Berne on saxophone, Tom Rainey on drums, Craig Taborn on rhodes and Marc Ducret on guitar. I warmed up to Marc Ducret’s playing as the evening went on, slowly getting a clue about the finer points I had missed in his initial outburst. I’m glad I could hear Craig Taborn better during the second set, because he did pull of some very good tricks despite the technical problems. Tim Berne was impressive in many different ways, leaving me unable to pin down anything like a specific style yet with a voice of his own; he proved able to slow down or speed up at will, and didn’t seem like an overbearing leader — hopefully it’s not just my not hearing him all that much. And even though I had heard a lot of praise for Tom Rainey, he proved even better. As in completely amazing. He did so many different things, often at the same time. It really took a conscious effort for me to take my attention of his playing enough to notice the others. But that was very worthwhile because they went through moments of grace where the intricacy turned from daunting to evident, and they just sounded as one entity. Of course there were some times where it didn’t jell as well, but the peaks were so high.

I was taken aback when the first set ended, and the second was just as great. The few times when I was not that interested felt like breathers actually, before another steep climb. And anyway there was always Tom Rainey. I know I’m repeating myself, but I was in awe; he’s clearly my favorite drummer ever right now — that could change, but the few that I think even compare just don’t have his range, and I never heard any that comes close mix it all this way. Speaking of range, the performance was amazingly diverse, it even went into some dirtier experimentalish noise that made me feel right at home. Not for long, but that was a lighter moment for me. I’m not familiar enough with this kind of music to feel at home, and I’m grateful for that. It’s as close as I’m likely to come to a vacation, and it’s just exhilarating being swept in this way.

Either I’ve been very lucky, or maybe I should take more chances on jazz gigs. I mean these have made of lot of the strongest impressions on me lately. It’s not always that way, but another pattern is that the ones that really blew my mind were based in New York. My east cost bias is nothing new or surprising, but that might be a worthwhile lead to guide me later on.

April 21, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , , , , | Leave a comment