Monday, June 26, 2006

Vancouver Jazz Fest: Orkestrova Electric Ascension at the Culch, The Thing at Ironworks

Mini-review of the Orkestrova Electric Acension show at the Culch tonight: conversation between myself and Larry Ochs as he put away his sax:

Ochs: I need an ear cleaning after that.
Me: That wasn't ear cleaner enough?
Ochs: That was an ear blowtorch.
Me (after a pause): Fire cleanses.

Nels Cline: how do I say this? For some weird reason, I enjoyed him, Scott Amendola, and Devin Hoff MORE WITH THE ORKESTROVA than I did during their own set the day before! Playing together as a trio, they occasionally PROMISED to free themselves of all constraints and explode into infinity, but the delivery on that promise happened TONIGHT, where Nels gave more than one truly amazing solo, pushing things to a level of intensity far beyond what I have seen any other guitarist do live, rock, jazz, or otherwise. (Nels cooked with Dylan van der Schyff, too, mind you, but tonight he CAUGHT FIRE). Amendola and Hoff also really showed their stuff, which I didn't really feel like I got to see THAT much of at the Nels Cline Singers show. All three Singers, the previous night, seemed far more cautious, appearing to stick closer to composed material than full-on improvisation (tho' with their music it's not always easy to tell; one suspects that they have the ability to improvise things that SOUND completely structured). Kinda weird how that worked out; tonight was the night to have seen them.

The Thing, meanwhile... More mysteries. They look like soccer hooligans, or maybe soccer players. They play with more sheer muscularity and rock force than any jazz band I've seen (I've yet to see Zu play live; they also look like soccer hooligans/players). I wonder if they eat only health food and exercise daily so that their playing will be in top form...? Could be. Their discipline and passion and the output of energy exceeds what even great rock bands, like Nomeansno (who play Thursday), usually put out; I don't know that I've seen a band at the jazz festival play more intensely. At one point, Mats blew into his horn so hard that a small drop of his spittle (or maybe his sweat) flew twelve feet across the room and landed on my lower lip (I was in the second row). I do not understand the nature of the life form that is The Thing. Having watched the band twice, I can vividly imagine, based on their performance, the members playing soccer, fucking (women, each other, or "sheeps"), beating people up, and playing instruments; otherwise, whatever they do, whoever they are, is a mystery to me. Paal Nilssen-Love, probably the most gifted drummer I've seen, could be a young banker, from the looks of him; I can picture him in a suit with a briefcase. Bassist Ingebrigt HÃ¥ker Flaten (the bald guy on the left) looks like the joker in the bunch, & could be one of the bank robbers in Killing Zoe. Mats is a compact powerhouse of a man, my physical antithesis if there ever was one. All three are the type of men, it seems who WOULD/COULD be able to hit on Maja Ratkje (see below) and maybe get somewhere. Their discipline and force truly left me in awe. Plus they ended their set with a cover of "Iron Man," for fuck's sake. Amazing.

Alex Varty's interview with Mats Gustaffson is revealing about their influences, by the way; and he got something a bit more psychologically sophisticated out of Nels Cline than I did, while we're at it. Wonder where he was tonight? How could he possibly have found someplace better to be?

Anyhow, the jazz fest is off to a rocking start. It seems like there's almost this thread of heaviness being strung across each night to lead us up to a Nomeansno orgasm on Thursday (didja notice that they have a website now, by the way?).

Walked out of McCoy Tyner, meanwhile. Charnett Moffett's bass playing was really driving, but the abysmal acoustics of the Centre for the Performing Arts made the gig more a pain than a pleasure, as did the oddly mechanical, forced nature of audience-performer interactions, limited to mechanical herd applause after every solo, every time; never does one hear the spontaneous whoops and joyous cries of a REAL jazz audience at the Centre, and there is never, that I've seen, a sense that COMMUNICATION is occuring) . I never REALLY hooked on to what Tyner was doing, but everything was so echoey and tinny from where I was sitting with my volunteer ticket that his playing actually sounded better from the men's room downstairs, where I stopped on the way out. If I'd wanted to hang out in the toilet I might have enjoyed the show.

Anyhow, tomorrow the gigs to see are Rova at 5:30 at the Western Front and the 11 PM Zu/Gustaffson show at the Ironworks. I have a ticket for the Bobby Hutcherson group, but it's also at Centre for the Performing Arts, so if any other volunteer out there wants to trade...

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