“To compose the Quixote at the beginning of the seventeenth century was a reasonable undertaking, necessary and perhaps even unavoidable; at the beginning of the twentieth, it is almost impossible. It is not in vain that three hundred years have gone by, filled with exceedingly complex events. Amongst them, to mention only one, is the Quixote itself.”
– Jorge Luis Borges
from “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote,” in Labyrinths, Selected Stories & Other Writings (New York: New Directions , 1964), by Jorge Luis Borges, pg. 41-42.†
One concert was left out from the last Notes bulletin: the duo performance at Elastic with Haavard Wiik that took place on Thursday, August 31st. I’ve only played duo with a pianist on a few occasions (with Sten Sandell for the “Two Days In December” sessions thathappened in Stockholm several years ago, and in concert and at the studio with Pandelis Karayorgis during January this year for an upcoming album for Okka Disk) so the setting still feels pretty unusual for me. Haavard and I approached the show like a Free Fall performance, using compositions from that book of tunes and also playing some completely improvised pieces, in this case as solos. Working with the Free Fall material seemed like a good idea since we had been working on it for the recording session earlier that week and were quite familiar with it. Even though we rearranged the compositions to account for Ingebrigt’s absence, playing the pieces as a duo felt extremely strange and proved to be surprisingly difficult; showing once again how much a simple change in context can alter the music.
SONORE PT. 1
I left for Europe on September 18 to begin the tour with Sonore in Oslo. We played at Blå on Wednesday the 20th, our first gig together since our show in Hasselt, Belgium during the Chicago Tentet tour in May. It may have been my jet lag or the fact that it’s been a while since our last steady work as a trio, but things felt a bit rusty, particularly in the first set. This may have been my last performance at Blå, the primary staff is leaving to start a new club elsewhere in the city. Time to say goodbye to another important place for contemporary creative music; I can’t even remember how many times I’ve played there over the last years.
The next morning we flew to Stockholm for a concert at Ugglan. This went much, much better- the music felt as if it was playing itself. We were supposed to only perform one short set but this was switched to two when we made it clear that we wanted more of a chance to work together. Peter Brötzmann kept each set really going, driving the music and the time well past the half an hour requested. When this group is in sync the freedom to present three simultaneous perspectives on improvised music is complete, and the presence of each individual in the sound is always there whether they are playing or not. Great music, great crowd, and we sold a ton of cds to help out the budget.
Friday the 22nd was another flight and another concert, this time a trip to Bielefeld, Germany. During the two hour train ride from the airport I was forced to sit next to someone who had a coughing fit every 20 seconds. The train was packed, no chance to move, so I sat there knowing that by that time tomorrow I’d be the recipient of a nice cold. To add insult to injury, on this night everything went wrong musically, a complete reversal of the previous evening. Things are seriously off when you have to struggle to get the communication going with improvisers like Mats Gustafsson and Peter. Usually everything is direct and clear in the music of this band, but after the concert I felt completely confused by what had happened. This problem continued for the first set at our gig in Weikersheim the next evening. Backstage at the half we discussed what was, and wasn’t,
going on. Peter suggested that we were trying to push the music too much, shoving it “forward” rather than letting it become something organically. This considered, the next set was a return to form, music breathing again. After the show I expressed my relief to Peter. In response he said, “Well, you know, sometimes it’s good to have experiences like Bielefeld and the first set tonight after a concert such as the one in Stockholm, where you feel that anything is possible, because that isn’t true and finding that out makes you realize that we’ve got to really work in order to keep the music moving.”
© 2019 Ken Vandermark – musician & composer | Disclaimer