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Split Cycle plays intricately-woven modern jazz (review)

Split Cycle
Thursday, May 16, 2013
GigSpace Performance Studio

Split Cycle, a group split between Montreal and NYC, performed Thursday in Ottawa on GigSpace’s new stage. They played tunes from their new self-titled CD, and some brand-new tunes written right before the tour. They played intricately woven modern jazz that swung and that rocked, that softly brushed, grooved in time, and freely escaped the constraints of time.

The band played music they are passionate about, music that was intense harmonically, melodically, and especially rhythmically. The collective of musicians would take turns counting in their own tunes, while the others buried their faces in their music stands.

The night started off with the leaping intervallic melody of “Samuraikatagi”, before falling into its 13/4 groove on which guitarist Aki Ishiguro soloed as bassist Nicolas Letman-Burtinovic and drummer Martin Auguste swung behind him. After returning to its melody and deceptive non-ending, saxophonist Samuel Blais took an unaccompanied alto solo that caused the band to slowly erupt, returning to the 13/4 groove and then ending with a pretty and new melodic section.

The group then played an entirely new piece called “Delian Folksong”, which began with quasi-flamenco style tremolo and body taps on the bass. The band followed with groove and melody and then a beautiful section free of pulse.

“Ménage à Trois” was counted in by the soul-patched, beret-wearing Letman-Burtinovic. It was a rhythmically-dense tune that changed pulse, inciting a drum solo from Auguste followed by an electrifying alto solo which defibrillated the piece into another plane of life. The guitar soloed over an intricately arranged drum and bass groove with full of twists and turns and stops.

Blais took out his baritone saxophone to play the following piece, “-35”, which was a more rock-influenced tune. It had the musicians so intent on the music that their faces reflected that intensity, and Ishiguro rocking himself back and forth during his solo.

Afterwards was the calmer “Round Patience” a brushy ballad that had a motivic bass solo and then “Wiggle Wiggle”, both by Ishiguro. The latter of the two was in 11/4 with a feel switch from hip hop to swing and back again.

The seventh piece of the evening was written and rehearsed the day before the tour by Blais, and was named after the bass player’s pedal board: “Space Station”. It featured a dyadic bass solo that was then prepared with a cardboard paper towel roll. The guitarist then soloed over a rock feel, and the sax over a swing feel.

“L’Assomption” is a piece written by Letman-Burtinovic named after Blais’ home town, which is situated on the outskirts of Montreal. It was calm, yet dark and eerie. The next piece (title not announced) featured an electronic-style jungle beat, and Ishiguro’s phenomenal picking technique.

The last piece of the evening was also a yet-to-be-recorded piece entitled “Quebec City Werewolf”, which featured Blais on baritone and a groovy Les Claypool style technique on the stand-up bass. The piece is based on the idea of a werewolf hitching a ride to the moon to escape the problems of transformation, and then realizing he wants to go back when he’s stuck on the moon.

The members of Split Cycle continue their tour at Montreal’s Dièse Onze on May 17-18 and in Quebec City on May 23, 24, 25. Go out and see them!

    – Justin Duhaime

Set List
  1. Samouraikatagi
  2. Delian Folksong
  3. Ménage à Trois
  4. -35
  5. Round Patience
  1. Wiggle Wiggle
  2. Space Station
  3. L’Assomption
  4. (title not announced)
  5. Quebec City Werewolf

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