10 September 2011

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Lean Left headed to Brussels where the band played on a double bill with a sax-driven group called SIC. The soundcheck went well but the gig became a sonic nightmare- the tenor was so loud and shrill it made my teeth hurt. This differential between the soundchecks and the concert acoustics will haunt the quartet throughout the tour… Had a great time hanging out with Koen Vandenhoudt and Christel Kumpen after the show. Belgium is fantastic- the audiences, the cities, the food, the beer… I already look forward to a vacation in Antwerp planned for mid October. The next day the group went to London to play 2 nights at Cafe Oto. I got stuck in the Brussels train station due to immigration hassles but was still able to make the set up for the gig on time. On the 1st evening the band played as a quartet for a set, then Ab Baars sat in with the group for the 2nd set. Full house and strong, strange music; the set with Ab even more unpredictable and unique. Since the 2 tours I did with Ab and his trio it seems that his playing has moved much further into personal territory, any elements of Von Freeman’s approach to sound have been pushed out, only Ab’s voice remains. His playing is like nobody else’s on the planet. The concert on September 12th forced me to face my limitations and provided an epiphany. I always have a sense of confusion when playing with Lean Left- much of what I use to communicate in other groups is negated or uprooted in this band, improvising languages and structures I “know” don’t work here, and the volume transforms the sound of my instruments, giving me much less control over how I express myself. Dealing with these facts provides an incredible challenge for me and this buy online canada creative test is incredibly inspiring, plus Terrie, Andy, and Paal are 3 of the best musicians I’ve ever played with. Throughout the 1st set (again played as a quartet), I felt completely lost, unable to find my way in or through the music; everything I tried fell apart in my hands. After we finished I went for a walk to clear my head- I realized that I was dealing with one of the essential issues for the saxophone, the fact that, as Derek Bailey said, “whenever the saxophone is played, it’s Jazz.” Lean Left is an incredible improvising group, but the band is NOT playing Jazz, and whatever I played felt out of place, my reference points were gone, etc. I realized that I had to start from scratch, that I had to build each performance from zero and move from there. When I came back Lean Left hit the stage with Steve Noble as a guest- the result was one of the best performances by the band in its career. Steve Noble (not only the 1st time I’ve ever worked with him, it was the 1st time I’ve ever heard him play live) was absolutely brilliant, he and Paal were in complete sync throughout the set. An incredible experience, and such a high point after the complete frustration I felt after the 1st set. Both nights at Cafe Oto were completely packed, the audience completely in tune with the music, ecstatic with the results. An added bonus- all 4 sets were recorded; a strong feeling the new album is there. To make the London experience even more amazing I got to spend Monday afternoon with Terrie at the Tate Modern, walked out with a book of interviews/writings by Phillip Guston, and a monograph of Adolph Gottlieb’s work. Dynamite. Footage from the Steve Noble set: