05/19/14: I arrived in Zagreb after flying from Montreal, did some basic work and practiced, read a lot of Colin MacCabe’s Godard biography. Getting ready to start a series of 3 concerts with DKV: in Zagreb, Belgrade, and Cerkno…
05/20/14: When I woke up I found out that the Belgrade gig with DKV had to be canceled due to a horrible flood that hit Serbia and Bosnia. I arrived in Zagreb 2 days early, which gave me a full day off after the transatlantic flight, and I took advantage of this by focusing on an image/soundtrack project that I’m developing for the autumn, transcribed notes and ideas that I’ve been jotting done from day to day over many months. I walked around Zagreb and took photographs in the streets. It was so refreshing to see students outside at cafes talking to each other instead of just checking their “smart” phones all the time. Ended the day reading more of the Godard bio and beginning the Christopher Williams exhibition book, The Production Line of Happiness, which turned out to be much more effective and interesting than the show itself.
05/21/14: I visited the Zagreb museum of Contemporary Art, which is less informative about communist period Yugoslavian art and artists than I had hoped. There was some striking work but it was scattered throughout the museum in a way that lost it in a sea of visual information. The lack of clarity and specificity made a chaos out of what could have been both highly thought-provoking about mid century Yugoslavian art and influences, and those whose work stood out and stood up individually in the greater international landscape.
Then more logistical issues hit: Hamid Drake arrived but his luggage was lost, so his stick bag was missing and the only option was to buy cheap drumsticks at a music store right before the show. This made playing an almost disconnected experience for him. In addition, the shipment of the Trost CD and LP of Sch8hof was lost- Austrian mail said they tried to deliver the package twice, Croatian mail said the package never arrived. So… a lost gig in Belgrade, lost luggage, lost merchandise- a tough start to the first multiple gigs DKV tried to play in Europe in more than a decade. Try as you might, however, it’s simply not possible to overcome the indifference of a brutal act of nature, the airlines, and an international postal service. The last time the trio played in Zagreb it was 2002- twelve years that went by much too fast.
There was a lot of forward energy to the concert when DKV hit stage but it took some time for me to find a rhythmical and structural platform which allowed me to connect with Hamid and Kent Kessler, things kept shifting under me each time I felt like I had some musical ground. It seemed like we were all putting out idea after idea but unable to decipher the direction or flow as an ensemble. Then suddenly things fell into place and took off from there. DKV was lucky to play for large audience (150-200) who loved the music. After finishing a long stretch of music and hitting a closing piece that was the most coherent and focused of the night, the trio decided to just take a bow rather than play an encore, to keep things at a high point at the end of the night, but after doing so the crowd just kept applauding and shouted for more music, so we played a shorter introspective ballad which worked well to end the evening.
05/22/14: Kent and I traveled to Cerkno, Slovenia. Hamid had to head to Belgrade because he had a flight to catch from there to Berlin which had already been booked- he had a gig with William Parker and Charles Gayle near Berlin, to celebrate the memory of Peter Kowald. Another day off so I enjoyed the beautiful countryside, and music of the first day of the Jazz Cerkno Festival. It was particularly nice to catch up with Axel Doerner, and to listen to Barre Phillips talk about meeting Rahsaan Roland Kirk back in the 70s in Brussels, recounting a story of Kirk driving the organizer’s car down narrow streets, pausing at intersections by listening through the open windows of the car. When Kirk got to a busy street he apparently hit the brake and said, “Okay, someone else take over, I’m bored.”
05/24/14: After another day off (this is what is meant by a working vacation! very strange!) I had an actual concert day which started with lunch at the organizer, Boštjan Cvek’s house in the mountains. Then I heard Barre Phillips play a solo bass set, something I’ve been hoping to do for decades. I was not disappointed. His performance had a complete economy of means, like Fred McDowell’s guitar playing or John Tilbury at the piano, and was filled with self-deprecating humor (“this is music for a nap, feel free to turn on your cellphones- it’s just a bass solo”). Phillips stated that he had been playing solo concerts for 50 years and was understandably amazed by the fact, as was the audience. That night Rob Mazurek’s Sao Paulo Underground played before DKV and were magnificent, the best compositionally-based band performing improvised music that I’ve heard since Tarbaby in November. The keyboardist, Guilherme Grande, was outstanding, in terms of sounds and time and ideas.
There were high expectations from fans and friends in Cerkno during the days leading up to the DKV show, the final show of the festival. Following Marurek’s gig put the pressure on for sure. It felt to me like it took a bit of time to pull the performance together, but soon things completely took off and the communication within the group was focused and driving forward throughout the rest of the set. The audience response was incredible, it was definitely necessary to play an encore. Hamid suggested “Brown Rice,” but when I started to play the encore I couldn’t locate the melody in my memory, so I created variations on an impression of the composition, moving back and forth from this space to Don Cherry’s, “The Thing.” Kent and Hamid joined me for a great rendition of the piece, Cherry’s music and our interpretation felt like we were closing the festival and opening it up at the same time.
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