My experience at Okka Fest 4 greatly improved after my interaction with American Airlines was over, I had my baritone back in tow, and got to enjoy an nice brunch organized by Bob Szocik for all the musicians at the festival. That afternoon (June 9th) I performed in a trio with Tim Daisy and Nate McBride at the Palm Tavern, one of two bars in Milwaukee that Okka Disk director, Bruno Johnson, runs with his wife, Adrienne Pierluissi. The Palm is a small, intimate room with great acoustics; some of the best concerts from the past Okka Fests have taken place there. The bar was packed with anticipation for the trio, but I felt that it took midway through the concert before the music clarified itself and really took off. Improvised Music is meant to be risk taking, and when you’re out on a limb it’s not always possible to find your way back. In this case we did, and sweating in the “green room” afterward (sitting on a sidewalk in the sun outside the bar) was a happy experience.
This meant the rest of the weekend easy for me, I could just listen to concerts and enjoy the great social atmosphere that surrounds the festival (in this case, friends from Vienna were in town- Lisi Schweizer and drummer DD Kern- among others from the Midwest area). The music continued Saturday night in the back room at the Sugar Maple: the 1st set a trio with Jason Adasiewicz, Joe McPhee, and Paal Nilssen-Love; the 2nd a performance by the Dave Rempis Percussion Quartet, which I thought, alongside Joe McPhee’s solo concert Sunday afternoon, was the standout concert of the festival. The rapport that Dave has developed with Tim Daisy, Ingebrigt Haker Flaten, and Frank Rosaly is exceptional, and I think it was the strongest set of music I’ve ever heard Dave play- which is saying a hell of a lot since he’s such an incredible musician. The night was long and fun after the music was over, it was good that the concert didn’t start until late afternoon on the 10th. McPhee’s solo performance was truly beautiful, and I was lucky enough to be asked to sit in at the end of his set to play a couple of duos, including a version of his piece, “Goodbye Tom B.,” one of my favorites.
The Thing (Mats Gustafsson, Ingebright, Paal) followed, with Joe added for the second half. It was the first show of a U.S. tour, and based on their performance that day I know their trip together must have been stellar. From my point of view this was the most successful Okka Fest yet- the strongest music, the smoothest logistics (aside from my baritone…), the most fun between sets. The event concluded appropriately, some barbecue and beer at the picnic tables outside at the Sugar, hanging out with good friends and good musicians- it doesn’t get better than that.
Excerpt of Joe McPhee and I playing duo:
Another point of view on Okka Fest 4: http://www.downbeat.com/default.asp?sect=news&subsect=news_detail&nid=1928
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