Overcoming jams (of the traffic kind) on highway 401, drummer Jesse Stewart made sure he returned from Toronto in time to play with Toronto alto saxophonist John Oswald and trombonist Scott Thomson at IMOO on Sunday, December 30, because, as he told the audience, it was a show he did not want to miss.
While Oswald and Thomson have a regular duo, this was the first time all three had played together. But, as musicians long accustomed to improvisation, they easily fell into sync, playing two sets of free improv in which each of the instruments provided both the rhythm and the melody, and nothing was predictable. When Thomson played sweeping bass notes on his trombone, Oswald countered with punctuated high notes. Thompson produced a range of sounds from the light and breathy to conjuring up a full winter snowstorm. Stewart used his sticks in unexpected ways: dropping them together onto an upside down tom or the floor, and banging their ends into drums. Both Thomson and Stewart dismantled their instruments in various ways in order to produce new sounds. Stewart's percussive playing of his upside-down floor tom's legs against the floor led to the first time we've felt an IMOO performance through our feet. All three played a full dynamic range in their music, taking advantage of the near-silent venue and snow-muffled street outside to play to the possibly softest level heard in an IMOO concert. It was a concert which explored musical edges yet was still approachable.
Despite the freezing cold weather and the holidays, the trio attracted a sizeable audience, which enthusiastically applauded each of the four improvisations.
The IMOO concert series continues in January, 2013 with more Sunday performances off the well-worn path: Torontonians Tena Palmer on vocals and Bob Vespaziani on percussion appear on January 6, and IMOO regulars David Broscoe and Bernard Stepien will make music from sax, woodwinds and accordion on January 27 – only one of many upcoming concerts, as it was also announced at the concert that the Umi Café will continue to host the successful series for another year.