Review: Evan Parker's Might I Suggest Festival at Vortex

Mary Oliver, Tristan Honsinger, John Russell at Vortex
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. © 2013. All Rights Reserved


Evan Parker's Might I Suggest Festival 2013 with ICP Orchestra at the Vortex
(Night 1 of 5, Tuesday 29 January; review and drawings by Geoff Winston)


The opening night of the ICP Orchestra's 5-day residency at the Vortex, curated with great sensitivity by Evan Parker, got off to a gloriously spirited, high-octane start with two small groups and a bonus of a surprise third set of virtually the entire ICPO weaving a spell of marvellously controlled anarchy.

The Amsterdam-based ICP have been together since its inception in 1967 by Misha Mengelberg, Willem Breuker and Han Bennink (who vigorously propelled the evening's last set from the drum seat), and its steadfastly loyal multinational personnel have remained true to its principles of collectivity, artistic open-mindedness and exceptional musical quality ever since.

The ICP's celebrated co-founder, Misha Mengelberg was sighted briefly at the front of the audience from where he smilingly offered a trademark offbeat contribution of soft whistling which followed Tristan Honsinger's purposefully feral vocalisings as he wiped his cello bow to announce the start of proceedings. The remarkable modernist string trio of Honsiger with violinist Mary Oliver and guest guitarist, John Russell generated a feverishly angular, juddering staccato drift that kept on accelerating with dampened chords, spiky jabs and judders, all held together with an astounding virtuosity that was to be the hallmark of the evening. They momentarily found a slothful refuge from which plaintive, melancholy harmonies drifted, before regrouping and restoking the furnace for a final lightning-fast assault on the three fretboards, leaving broken bow strings wafting in the breeze.

Claude Deppa, Tobias Delius, Gail Brand, Steven Noble, Ernst Glerum at Vortex
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. © 2013. All Rights Reserved


The creative sparkle and breakneck momentum was maintained by the hefty brass trio of Tobias Delius and Claude Deppa with Gail Brand, and the masterly rhythm section of bassist Ernst Glerum with drummer Steve Noble The brasses sparred joyously. Deppa's elegant, rapid runs on his beautiful deep copper trumpet blended perfectly with Delius's roaring, expressive tenor and his occasional clarinet foray, and with Brand's assertively articulate trombone, which saw her applying mutes as she revealed various un-sounds hiding in the instrument. Through the improvisational mists a marching band was evoked which Noble and Glerum picked up on with humorous gusto; brass oompahs, thuds and precision snare rattling along in tandem. Glerum's powerful, purist bass technique eschewed gimmicks and Delius let loose puzzling, whistling pitches to keep everybody guessing.

As if two master classes weren't enough, a spontaneous set by nine of the ICP Orchestra, put the perfect seal on the evening's events. Thomas Heberer's glistening trumpet highlights, Ab Baars' resounding tenor, Michael Moore's authoritative alto and Wolter Wierbos's rampant trombone were the additions to the mix. Pursuing their unique brand of deep improvisation mixed wickedly with compositional references, each member of the ensemble contributed a unique voice to a devastatingly singular, flowing outburst. Jumping from funk to cabaret to Ellington's Caravan with all manner of excursions in between this was an awesome incarnation of the 'small' big band. The sound of a co-ordinated brass section blazing, blasting and sparring individually, then blending in honey-smooth harmony without a breath between was extraordinary. There were onstage chuckles as Bennink's micro-sharp percussion flipped in to the irresistibly catchy rhythms from the ICP's wonderfully witty film, Steigerpijp. Each musician was so adept at reading the situation, and each other, that there were no stars - because everybody was a star!

This is fabulous music - anybody with the slightest interest in what is so good about jazz at its joyous, inventive best should take this rare opportunity to get out to see the ICP Orchestra while they are here all week.

SET 1:
Mary Oliver (violin)
Tristan Honsinger (cello)
Guest: John Russell (guitar)

SET 2:
Toby Delius (saxophone)
Ernst Glerum (bass)
Guests: Gail Brand (trombone)
Steve Noble (drums)
Claude Deppa (trumpet)

SET 3:
Mary Oliver (violin)
Tristan Honsinger (cello)
Toby Delius (saxophone)
Ernst Glerum (bass)
Ab Baars (saxophone)
Michael Moore (saxophone)
Thomas Heberer (trumpet)
Wolter Wierbos (trombone)
Han Bennink (drums)

3 comments:

  1. great review, couldn't agree more!

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  2. Thank you.

    Hope lots more people get to see them.


    Geoff

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  3. yes, hasn't been that busy so far, although the next 3 nights don't clash with Roscoe Mitchell which should help...

    2nd night was fantastic too

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