Monday, June 25, 2012

Terrie Ex, Han Bennink, and Brodie West

What a magnificent (if slightly short) set of furiously improvised jazz this was! Brodie brought a bit more blues to the plate than Han or Terrie, which was most welcome, since those two particular Dutchmen are wild enough that, left to their own devices, they can provoke each other into a sort of mandible-clacking, bugfuckingly Out There cacophony that can be quite a challenge to hook onto (Mr. Bennink gave me a copy of one of their past collaborations, some years ago, and I confess to not having been able to enter it very far). Add one Canadian alto sax player, though, with one foot firmly planted in the land of Ayler and Coltrane (despite his playing the wrong instrument) and another in folk forms, and you have one powerful free jazz trio; the references to the blues made the wildness seem all that wilder and gave the audience a path into the madness that ensued, for which I for one was grateful. Terrie looked very Euro in his rugby shirt, did a sort of two-step back-and-forth pacing through the faster, freer moments, tension coiling through his body, working his guitar - which looked rather like it had seen action in Vietnam - with drumsticks, rubbing it against the Ironworks wall, even sticking a drumstick under the strings on the neck and playing manic plinky "tunes" that ended up structures to jam around. (A friend assured me that the guitar he played was very much a destroyed one, for all intents and purposes; you couldn't play anything like a normal tune on it). He's one versatile guy; I begged him after the show to bring The Ex to Vancouver - it's been far too long, and those who don't know them and like their punk creative and political should pause for a second to listen to this. Han, meanwhile, was his usual showmanlike self, with gestures ranging from pure theatre (as when he leaned forward on his kit to tap the leaves of a potted flowering plant on the stage, which produced, of course, no sound) to exuberant locomotive-like virtuoso drumming, with various points in between (when he hits the drums with towels, or puts a towel on his floor tom, slaps it hard with a drumstick, then lifts up the towel to inspect the damage beneath, there is definitely an element of the theatrical at work, but all the same, when he does such things - or suddenly starts kicking cymbals with his boot or putting his leg up on his kit and soloing around it or frenetically tapping with one drumstick on the other, stuck in his mouth - the amazing thing is, it always sounds exactly right; clown or no, he never sacrifices a beat for a gag). Brodie, his hair in place and spectacles on, was far more an agent of control than chaos, but still followed (and sometimes led) Terrie and Han into an intense, cathartic ruckus. Terry's weirdly-tuned, noisy "figures" aside, he was the man in charge of most of the tunefulness in evidence, but no means does this suggest he was a slouch as an improviser. Funniest moment of the evening: Han held his white towel up to his neck, smiled, and pointed a drumstick in recognition at the dude with the (long white) neckbeard, whose name I have long since forgotten, who regularly comes up to jazzfest events, and whose neckbeard has become one of the great visual signifiers of improvised music in Vancouver (when you see the beard, you KNOW it's going to be a good show). Some cellphone photos follow... hope y'all enjoy the rest of the jazzfest, this is going to be all for me this year...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

what a fucking amazing show that was. THE EX in vancouver would be something incredible -- TERRIE EX's playing was absolute fire. it's so rare to see a group of musicians go straight to the frenetic core of the piece as soon as they step up to their instruments. really stunning how much energy & humour BENNINK has left in him - at 70 years old he's still got it.