Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Van Hove-Lytton / Rutherford / Demey-Laffut - 26/10/2004, Brussels

Okay, sometimes you just have to get off the fence: I like free jazz, but don't like Euro free improv very much. Peter Brötzmann with William Parker and Hamid Drake (and possibly Toshinori Kondo), the Brotherhood of Breath, Brötzmann's Chicago Tentet, the little Anthony Braxton I've heard: very much yes; this other stuff, not much at all, no. I've always thought that the main difference was one of rhythm and that was highlighted by the 10-15 minutes of the first duo I caught last night.

Belgians Jean Demey on bass and Léon Laffut on piano may have been making lots of weird noises, but rhythmically it sounded more like W.A. Mozart than C. Parker, to me.

Then English trombonist Paul Rutherford did a 20-25 minute solo set, flutter-tonguing, multiphonicking, ultra-low murmuring, droning and even real noting his way around in playful fashion. Actually, compared to the Englishmen, the Belgians seemed to totally lack a sense of humour: Rutherford's was expansive, Lytton's deadpan, but the the Belgians were just kind of gray and serious.

As a comedy climax, Rutherford took his slide down as far as it would go - and kept on going, sliding it off completely. He then proceeded to pour the spit accumulated in the slide over the remaining half of the trombone, play with the slide, with half of the slide on, then finally put the whole thing back together.

The main act came on after an intermission: Fred Van Hove on piano and Paul Lytton on drums. I've never heard him on CD, but I've seen Van Hove 2 or 3 times now and just don't like him. It may have something to do with the visuals: I find myself irritated by his limp-wristed playing style. An early climax (while I was still paying close attention?) was pretty cool, though, with the pianist playing mysterious and sparkling two-handed upper-register glissandos.

Lytton, despite playing on a mere standard drum kit, had a huge palette of sounds thanks to a veritable arsenal of jangly implements. Early on he crushed a small plastic cup onto his snare drum, later on an eerie calm reigned as Van Hove rubbed the piano strings to make slide guitar sounds as Lytton rolled small metal balls in a small gong. During the short second piece, Lytton dropped in heavy bass drum kicks, which seemed to bounce like a heavy ball atop the ambient clatter. Still, the pickings for me were pretty slim. A Rutherford-Lytton duo would probably have been better, though.

Just when I'd sworn it all off, they announced a Chris Burn Ensemble concert in January, including John Butcher. I caught a fascinating 15 minutes of Butcher a very long while ago (playing with Phil Minton and Veryan Weston), so now I have to check it out. Maybe I'm still on the fence.

Some great descriptions of the early efi (1974) days in the programme notes, particularly the mention of the front of the audience at a Van Hove-Brötzmann-Bennink concert having to move back two rows because of exploding sticks and flying woodblocks, cymbals, branches and miscellaneous percussive objects.

As I stepped back into the car, Marc van den Hoofd was starting his jazz show, focusing on Bill Evans. As "Philly" Joe Jones bashed at a clave-ish beat, I thought I could just about make out a transhistorical and transatlantic link to Lytton.