Thursday, May 05, 2005

Henry Grimes Trio - 04/05/2005, Brussels

Henry Grimes - b
Marilyn Crispell - p
Andrew Cyrille - d

First of all, long live whoever was responsible for last night's concert being non-smoking. Being able to breathe freely and not coming home smelling of smoke is such an enjoyable experience that I'm surprised that anybody could still plead for the "atmosphere" of smoke-filled environments. I was a bit less taken with whoever was responsible for the concert starting an hour late (the musicians walked into the bar 45 minutes after the official starting time). Behind the beat, I guess.

I know fairly little of the three musicians. Grimes mainly from Don Cherry's "Complete Communion" (he was wearing a pink plastic medallion around his neck containing a picture of Cherry and him taken at that recording session) and the story of his re-appearance after several decades; Andrew Cyrille from a Trio 3 album and Marilyn Crispell pretty much not at all. A pretty good learning opportunity for 5 euros.

Grimes kicked off the concert with a long solo consisting of noise interspersed with rough-hewn versions of familiar intervals and progressions. When he picked up his bow and Crispell joined in, the amplified bass and the crappy piano joined forces, creating a poorly-audible result. Interestingly, during the 15-20 minutes that all this went on, Cyrille inaudibly rustled his brushes on a tom. When the drummer finally cut loose, the trio broke into very dense free improvisation, the kind that lacks dynamics, harmony or rhythm: like a cliff's sheer facade of natural granite, its pleasure resides precisely in this relative featurelessness, combing with imposing presence and visceral power.

Cyrille demarcated thematic sections (I feel like calling them chunks) of this 50-minute piece with a sudden, single, loud cymbal and drum crash. Crispell started to mull over a series of Spanish-tinged, percussive motifs to a quieter accompaniment, so that when the energy level returned to earlier levels, the music was clearer and less forbiddingly austere. The piano found itself heading in an atmospheric direction filled at first with swirling, dissonant arpeggios and later with "pretty" and even syrupy playing, while the other two provided a consistently (relatively) quiet-but-turbulent background.

The second piece was quite different in feel: Grimes was walking, the piano played in a more linear fashion, Cyrille was set on a sort of loose-limbed loop, so that there was a sense of tempo, of swing even. A loud cymbal-washing/daybreak/Coltranian intro section gave way to a concluding arco bass drone and simple and hopeful folk dance-like modal playing from Crispell. Just before that, Cyrille had produced a crowd-pleasing solo of various straight-up dance rhythms.

I thought that, at 11:15, the concert was over (and I wasn't alone in thinking that), but at midnight the musicians took to the stage (well, to the floor at the back of the bar) once more. I'll admit to not having been very focused (hey, I woke up at 6 that morning), but I did enjoy some unexpected quasi-Abdullah Ibrahim joyous hymn playing from Crispell.