REVIEW: Black Top with Peter Evans at Cafe Oto

Peter Evans at Cafe Oto
Photo credit: Peter Freeman


Black Top with Peter Evans
Cafe Oto, Dalston, 13 February 2018. Review by Tony Dudley-Evans)

The concert followed the well established Black Top pattern with Pat Thomas on piano and electronics and Orphy Robinson on electronic percussion playing with a guest, on this occasion the trumpeter Peter Evans. This was only the second time the three of them had played together, the first time being in what they call Evan Parker's Big Band at a festival in Sardinia.

Together they played two outstanding sets of improvised music. This was music with the intensity and occasionally the volume of avant-metal bands such as Sunn O, but also with the improvisational and technical skills of the very best free jazz.

The first set featured one extended piece lasting about 40 minutes; it started with an explosion from Pat Thomas inside the piano matched by a similar effect produced by Peter Evans playing in close proximity to the mike. I remember Peter Evans' reply to a question about how he moved from a structured setting to an improvised setting; he said 'I just play'. That is precisely what he did producing a stream of fluent and fertile ideas on both piccolo and regular trumpet. In the first set he started on piccolo trumpet moving between long lines in the beautiful high sound that the piccolo trumpet creates and effects produced by placing the mike inside the bell of the trumpet. For the first 15 minutes or so Evans was the dominant force with Thomas and Robinson providing a kind of commentary of what Evans was doing. But gradually the two of them came into the mix with Thomas leading on the piano abetted by Robinson on the xylosynth and percussion.

In the second part of the set Evans mostly played the regular trumpet, muted at first resulting in much more of a group sound. The music constantly developed, taking different and surprising directions, notably the conclusion with a groove that reminded me of jump jive bands.

The second set moved through three shorter pieces, all concluded naturally in the way free improvised groups always manage to do. Again Evans moved between piccolo and regular trumpets interacting throughout with Thomas and Robinson creating a strong group identity. At times Evans played lines that recalled his playing with Petter Eldh's Amok Amor group, at others he generated interesting effects through interaction with the mike

This was a concert of improvised music of the highest order. Black Top's approach with its use of electronics often with a groove feel makes its improvisations different from other forms of free improv; Peter Evans fitted in with this brilliantly, and, as ever, the music developed its own structure.

Peter Evans will be performing along with sound artist Sam Pluta and the BEAST sound diffusion system in the Bramall Hall at the University of Birmingham on Friday 16th February, and also conducting workshops on Thursday at Birmingham Conservatoire and on Friday at the University of Birmingham. PREVIEW HERE.

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