Saturday, February 03, 2007

Courvoisier/Eskelin/Courtois - 23/01/2007@Vooruit, Gent

Sylvie Courvoisier - p (website)
Ellery Eskelin - ts (website | myspace)
Vincent Courtois - cello (website)

[Followed the Paolo Angeli set]

This trio has done a number of tours over the last few years. Though they started out using compositions and more traditional instrumental roles, they're now resolutely into the kind of total improvisation that requires fluidly finding an appropriate place in the flow of events. As such, leads were passed freely, or disappeared altogether, as each member swam in the others' sounds. They laid out liberally, creating space and silence and vast expanses of possibility just by standing (or sitting) there and intently observing whoever was playing. Ellery's frequent use of breathy, almost unarticulated lines seemed to sum up the band's sense of barely-there looseness.

When Courvoisier unleashed short, furious motifs amidst stormy flurries and elbow slams, Cecil Taylor came to mind, but she maintained a surprising and delightful amount of lightness, like lightening without the thunder. Her use of prepared piano* was always apt. Courtois made discreet use of a distortion pedal, to similar effect. When it created hums and static to accompany piano clatter and breathy tenor drones, a desolate, lunar surface was evoked.

While there was a significant amount of free floating, no-one hesitated to dig into a groove or melody. After several minutes of listening to Courtois develop a sombre melody, Ellery's first intervention of the concert was to play a wavering, thin-voiced version of it and progressively digress and gather strength. Sometimes Courtois happened upon a busy thrum that echoed more classic free jazz, but overall, the concert was like an improvised negotiation within which each member knows when to cede and when to make demands.

* Courvoisier associates this term with John Cage's notated and rigorous kinds of preparation and employed a different one in the post-concert interview to describe her own improvised use of implements to modify the piano's sound, but I can't remember it right now.