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IMOO's "quiet" concert #31 ends a successful first year

"Ahh, that coffee sounds great." Linsey Wellman creates sound texture with slurped coffee. ©Brett Delmage, 2011

IMOO Concert #31
Sunday, September 4, 2011
Umi Café

 The official Improvising Musicians of Ottawa/Outaouais (IMOO) announcement described it as a "Quiet Music" show. The musicians: Linsey Wellman on flute, bass clarinet, alto sax and coffee mug, Craig Pedersen on laptop and various electronics, and Ryan Purchase on (muted) trombone, guitar, leaky ice-cube-tray water drum, percussion, and spoken word, delivered exactly what they promised. The show was an exercise in ear-training, where the audience and musicians all had to dig deep into their listening skills, as the trio competed with the air conditioning system and subdued street noise outside Umi Café for quietness.

It was the kind of show one might expect following the informal pre-show discussion between OttawaJazzScene.ca editor Alayne McGregor and Craig Pedersen, about whether the lip smacking from eating his delicious Umi sandwich could be made loudly enough to serve as an unamplified sound element in a concert. I started on the wrong foot, by wondering aloud what the unusual clutter in the corner of the Umi Café that I would have to deal with in my photographic compositions was (an ice cube tray on a clothes rack). I was soundly corrected by Ryan Purchase that it was a musical instrument. A leaky one, but that's the way it worked best.

The three moved fluidly and unexpectedly between their traditional instruments and ... fluid. Wellman delivered finely modulated slurps on the coffee mug. Later he smoothly disassembled his flute so he could use it as a giant straw to gently blow bubbles in his water thermos, precisely playing against and responding to his colleagues. Focusing solely on the auditory experience, the bubbles were not soapy. Purchase added percussive elements with his dripping-water drum at different times and his unusual playing of a guitar.

Throughout the show, Pedersen was generating complementary music from his laptop, cell phone and, not to be outdone in the liquid department, a water glass wired for sound. His sounds were often harmonically quite interesting against Wellman's sax, and his sound level was nicely balanced against the other instruments: asserting their own voice but not overwhelming, as electronics sometimes can be played.

This is not to suggest that the concert was comprised mostly of these unusual sound textures. Rather, they augmented more standard melodic journeys and interactions on their traditional musical instruments.

As is hoped for in an excellent improvised concert, sensitive reaction to not only other musicians, but the environment was observed. A barking dog that could be heard outside the cafe at one point was quickly put to use as an sampled musical anchor to reflect and build a theme on. This was one of many surprising improvised elements of this show that kept the listeners resolutely motionless and quiet, possibly in fear they would make a sound and then become a formal part of the concert without yet having paid their musicians' union dues. I was greatly concerned that my chair would squeak, forcing a huge, unexpected turn in the music.

Despite the greater demands placed on the listeners to function at a higher (or is that lower?) level, many smiles, occasional laughter, and hearty applause confirmed their appreciation of individual pieces and the two sets.

Concert 31 was the final show in IMOO's first year of concerts. Pulled together quickly, after other musicians were not available to perform on the last long weekend of summer, the concert clearly demonstrated that IMOO co-founders Wellman and Pedersen still have a lot of unexpected and engaging musical ideas in their heads to share, even after IMOO's first full year of varied and compelling concerts.

    – Brett Delmage

All photos © Brett Delmage, 2011