Posts Tagged ‘Creative Differences’

I’m still alive, and I saw Bloodcount!

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

So. Long time no nothing. Since I last wrote anything of consequence, I’ve had the privilege of seeing four concerts, all of which were quite awesome. Seriously, one of the better streaks of shows I’ve had. At each of them I managed to take photos for the first little while, then settle in and just listen and enjoy the music — best of both worlds. I’ll tackle them in chronological order over the course of a few posts.

Way back when on February 9, I had the privilege of seeing Tim Berne’s Bloodcount play their third show since something like 1997. I don’t make much of a secret out of the fact that Berne is one of my favorite modern composers and bandleaders, and some of the stuff that Bloodcount put out in the 90s is up there with the best of his work, in my opinion (the first disc of Unwound is just astonishing). So to get a chance to see the quartet reformed was a real treat. They played two sets; the first consisted of mostly shorter pieces, which seemed more focused than the old meandering compositions of the 90s, and really condensed the energy of the quartet to great effect. The second set was a change of pace, as they played one piece over again (Berne’s performance the first time around, when they opened the first set with the song, was apparently flawed — I didn’t notice — as he said after the piece ended, “Well… the score is 1-0. I’m losing.”) but then unleashed a 45-minute behemoth on the audience. It was classic Bloodcount, unfolding in ways that were sometimes difficult to follow; attention-demanding but extremely rewarding. After the fact, Berne wanted to know if anyone had recorded that second set, and I can see why: it was fantastic. (Sadly, I don’t think anyone was recording.)

Photos of the show below, in black & white because the colors in the performance space at An Die Musik do not exactly translate well into film (they show up as kind of a sickly yellow that also tinges the skin tones… gross).

Bill Frisell @ An Die Musik

Thursday, November 1st, 2007

Last night I saw the semi-legendary guitarist Bill Frisell, which was curious because I’ve never been a huge fan of his. He was playing in a trio with Jenny Scheinman (I do like a lot of her work, but have never really been able to get into the album I have with her as a leader, 12 Songs) on violin and Greg Leisz on lap steel and pedal steel. The overall sound of this trio was extraordinarily chill, occupying a space somewhere between bluegrass, Americana, jazz and classical. They opened with a piece that lasted around 45 minutes, which featured some really beautiful melodies, but when Frisell was doing his exploratory solos I quickly lost interest. He has a certain sense of melody that I find difficult to follow; it’s fractured in a way that doesn’t appeal to me all that much. He spent a really long time playing those fractured semi-melodies, in his clean-as-a-whistle undistorted tone, using a lot of looping and some pitch manipulation, and when he was noodling away I was mostly bored. But when the band came together — man, they were beautiful. Scheinman tended to dominate the obvious melodies, and her playing was immaculately tasteful.

The highlight for me, though, were the moments when Leisz — the only one of the three musicians with whom I was not familiar beforehand — took the spotlight. Like Frisell and Scheinman, his playing was invariably low-key and tasteful, and his lap steel playing was just beautiful. Whenever he was in the lead or playing any kind of lyrical melody, I felt like I was listening to soundtrack music to an old black and white western. Just really evocative stuff. These moments were more frequent in the three pieces they played after that one 45-minute piece, perhaps because those pieces were more composed with less emphasis on improvisation (though to be honest at many times I had a hard time telling what was written and what was played on the fly).

Not a transcendent experience, then, but I wasn’t expecting one. I went mostly because I really wanted to see Scheinman, and while I was lost for a little while, there was enough there to keep me pretty happy. That’s actually kind of surprising in and of itself, considering that my taste in jazz runs almost exclusively to the energy-jazz side of things, and this show was pretty much exactly the opposite.