Monday, November 28, 2005

Free jazz big band - 27/11/2005, Brussels

By the time I got to the F#, they were out of the quiche that had so enhanced the Llop Borja concert and the orange juice was of a different brand... The room was full of twentysomething musicians (and so smoky by the end of the night that my eyes were stinging). I did somehow manage to find a dancer to talk to during the break.

This was the premiere of a new experiment: 3 conductors led a hirsute congregation (2 flutes, 2 singers, 2 pianists on one piano, violin, cello, all sitting on chairs in a semi-circle; 4 saxophones, percussion, double bass, drums and occasional guitar). The conductors subbed in and out, sometimes double- or triple-teaming the band. The result was a mash-up of jazz/free jazz, groove, cacophony, weirdness and vocal elucubrations. The shorter and much weaker second set ended with a sort of classical chorale, but I thought they could have done with more classical moments. It was interesting seeing the jazz players take control of their own destiny when they felt the conductor's grip slacken. A particular highlight was watching the bass player put down his instrument, step out front and deliver a jaw-dropping collection of vocal noises and exclamations. If my concert recording listenable, I'll be sure to post that moment. I imagine that this kind of thing was going on a lot in New York's Loft and Downtown scenes back in the '70s and '80s, so it was great to witness it here.

Organiser Clément hadn't even finished declaring "That's it. Thanks for coming. And for staying." When the big band's irrepressible drummer ferociously kicked off the jam session. Compared to jams at which it takes five minutes to settle on a tune, musicians are sluggish to get on stage and you hear chorus after bland chorus, this was a breath of fresh air. No tunes, just a constant jostling between soloists and accompaniment, hard-blowing and driving, then suddenly dropping down for a bass solo or sax duet, building up an impromptu group riff, a direction being shattered as a new participant boisterously jumped in. It was like a very, very rag-tag Brotherhood of Breath.

I knew maybe one or two of the musicians, which was great: I felt like I had stumbled upon this incredible and unsuspected cache of young musicians who were willing to play this ragged, adventurous, fun, catastrophic, lively music. If every sunday is like this one, the F# is definitely the place to be to close out week.