Improvising Musicians of Ottawa-Outaouais (IMOO) #158: Our first house concert
with David Broscoe, David Jackson, Rory Magill, Linsey Wellman
Sunday, May 7, 2017 – 7:30 p.m.
A new concert location gave inspiration for new sounds from four of Ottawa's mainstay improvising musicians at the most recent IMOO concert.
With IMOO temporarily between regular locations – the House of Common space has been re-purposed and the General Assembly is not yet finished renovations – the Ottawa avant-garde jazz concert series needed a place for its bi-weekly concerts.
IMOO regular listener Bradley Evans stepped up, offering his suburban house in North Kanata for their next show. Evans' basement rec room turned out to be a fine location, very quiet and with lots of resonance, which the musicians took full advantage of. Evans brought down chairs from around the house and set up a simple concert space in the room, with hockey action figures cheering on from the high windowsills.
Rory Magill carried the different pieces of his xylophone around the bends in the stairs, and reassembled it. David Broscoe brought down his alto and baritone saxophones in their cases – plus a bag of interesting assorted musical accompaniments which included tuning forks, mallets, a metal tart pan, assorted pop cans, a Nigerian cowbell, a Chinese gong, and ceramic pieces from knob and tube electrical wiring, which he spread out on a cloth in front of him.
David Jackson opted to not bring his usual electric guitar, but instead to make music with a laptop, on which he had samples of himself playing his guitar, and with his iPad and assorted effects boxes (a looper, a mixer, two synthesizers, and a noise generator). Linsey Wellman decided to travel light, with just his alto sax and impressive lung capacity.
Often in free improvisation, the order of who plays when isn't decided until the moment. For this show, though, Broscoe developed charts showing who would be playing when and with whom, with bars indicating for how long. The charts bore a strong resemblance to the Gantt charts used for project scheduling – all too appropriate with all the high-tech companies nearby!
Most of the time only two or three of the musicians were playing, although they all joined in near the end. It made for a more nuanced, intimate presentation in which every sound from each musician could be heard. The show opened with Jackson generating pulsating lines which modulated up and down and then split, a steady bright tone contrasting with harsh crackling. After a little while, Wellman added light breathing and attenuated squeals through his saxophone. Their sounds dissolved in and out in an atmospheric creation which fit the grey, overcast skies outside.
Jackson's lines started fading out as Magill added patterns of bright taps on xylophone over extended, deeper sax lines from Wellman. Then Wellman left and, after a xylophone solo from Magill, Broscoe entered on baritone, creating resonant sounds like radio static. He and Magill both sped up, with repeated harsh baritone riffs over a fusillade of xylophone notes.
Then Magill stopped and Wellman entered, and lines from the two saxophones encircled each other, created a high-pitched and full-out duet reminding me of dolphin squeaks. It modulated into a more melodic form, and then Wellman continued alone, playing very fast circular lines before become softer and softer. Broscoe started ringing his tuning forks together with the ceramic insulators while Magill contributed fleeting xylophone riffs – two different but harmonically-compatible tonalities.
The musicians continued alternating and combining for the remainder of the 45-minute first set until all four were playing. Even with everyone contributing, you could hear each individual texture and pattern and how they overlapped, finally culminating in a last wall of sound and then fading out. There was a momentary silence as everyone came back to reality and out of the music, and then strong applause.
After a break and lots of conversation, the quartet played another 40-minute set, with the charts reversed. Broscoe opened with percussive pops on baritone sax – with three pop cans inside the sax bell to create a more complex sound. The soundscapes in this set reminded me of rushing water and building storms, with a tense momentum added through Jackson's vibrating synth lines, swelling joint sax lines from Broscoe and Wellman, and rushing rivers of notes from Magill. The sound varied from classically-influenced to dissonant to hesitant. The music ended with a strongly textured yet quiet collaboration, with long alto sax lines from Wellman, dramatic background throbs from Jackson, constant xylophone patterns from Magill, and ringing percussion from Broscoe.
Despite a smaller turnout, the applause was consistently enthusiastic and the vibe friendly and warm. The audience members were clearly carefully following the constantly changing musical soundscapes being produced. Broscoe's charts added a useful outside structure to the music, without predetermining the sound, and made it more varied, allowing individual voices to stand out more clearly.
The next IMOO concert will be held at Black Squirrel Books in Ottawa South on Monday, May 22. Cellist Tristan Honsinger from the Netherlands and bassist Nicolas Caloia from Montreal will perform from their just released CD, In the Sea.
– Alayne McGregor