Monday, June 23, 2008

no blood on THIS ice

It's kind of funny. Musicians, like people in any other field, CAN be a competitive bunch, wanting to show off what they can do, but last night at the Ironworks, where the alleged purpose of the hockey themed night was to defeat the other team, to adopt the model of a competitive sport, people were as polite and supportive as can be; the Swedes very nearly out-polited us, and there certainly was no clear winner. Team captains Houle and Gustafsson introduced their players, each doing a solo set (with one Swedish player - lacking muscles because he's been teaching philosophy for fifteen years, Gustafsson joked - being absent: "I sent him to training camp.") Goalie/drummer Dylan van der Schyff was absent for the first set, since he was swinging with Michael Blake elsewhere (which, I'm told, he was marvellous at); Houle joked that the absence of a goalie was a measure of Team Canada's confidence.

There were few surprises on the Canadian team, since I've seen all these players before; when Dylan did arrive, to start the third set, it was one of those times where I really delighted in what he did and thought he acquitted himself brilliantly (as opposed to those times when I find him an unsubtle, too-dominant, too-damn-drummerly drummer - as when he played with Fred Frith, or Roswell Rudd, a very long time ago; there was a period where I actively avoided van der Schyff concerts, truth be known). Peggy and Torsten were a pleasure to hear as always (our team, which also featured Jesse Zubot, was "stringier" than Sweden's, tho' we did have two horns, Houle and Korsrud); I've also heard people criticize Torsten for being a bit too noisy and heedless of what other players are doing, but this is something I have never noticed myself. The only thing that seemed altogether new from Team Canada was Jesse Zubot bowing the BACK of his violin, while still fingering the strings: a new trick, and an interesting sound; he was nominated MVP by Gustafsson, which was no surprise.

I was less familiar with the Swedish lineup, so a bit more excited to hear what they would do: I thought Kjell Nordeson did some lovely, subtle stuff on vibes, and their most valuable player, Raymond Strid, whom I have not seen before, was delightful - a shambling, kidlike, joyously experimenting drummer whose percussive techniques - often involving little objects and odd tools, dropped, rubbed, or slid over the surface of skins or cymbals in a tingly, scratchy clatter - were not wholly separable from the noise he made rummaging on the floor around his kit to dig new things up. Like Han Bennink, he's a drummer that's a lot of fun to watch.

After the solos, what we got was more or less what we would usually see at a Time Flies event - different permutations of players, in pairs or small groups, improvising together. One joking bit of "high-sticking with a clarinet" that Houle directed at Gustafsson aside, and a few loud thumps from Strid or van der Schyff, there wasn't much that was aggressive in the night, and certainly not much sense that anyone was setting out to "defeat" anyone. There were a bunch of hockey jokes between numbers, and a final group improv where everyone got on stage. I drifted and dreamed and enjoyed my beer for most of it: there's something so comfortable about the Ironworks (as opposed to the ass-crunching seats at the Roundhouse) that makes it pretty easy to enjoy yourself, even if deprived the vicarious bloodlust of a hockey brawl. It'll be interesting to see if, as the piece develops - through the next Time Flies and Jazz Festival, with a trip to Sweden in the works- the players get a bit more aggressively nationalistic about things. I kind of hope so. Hell, I may even go there myself... I never would have thought it a few years ago, but after last night, I think we might actually be able to beat these guys...

That said, tonight's the show I'm most excited about, though, and it's a Swede and two Norwegians; nationalism be damned. I may bring a pillow, though. I wonder if my sore ass was one of the reasons I didn't get into the Ab Baars/Ig Henneman - Free Fall show so much?

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