Friday, February 02, 2018

Paolo Angeli's Vancouver return: a real (rare) treat for guitar lovers

Welcoming Paolo Angeli back to Vancouver!

I used to be a lot more involved in the avant garde music scene in Vancouver - noise nights, pancake noise breakfasts (or was that "noise pancake," to differentiate from the sound of the noise MADE by pancakes?). I wrote a Wire article - my only one so far - largely focusing on the Fake Jazz Wednesdays scene and Vancouver New Music, also speaking to people involved at 1067,  and tipping hat to bands like Shearing Pinx and the Mutators (unfortunately, some editor capitalized my And, making them into one band, but ah well, by the time I saw it the article was in print.) I think I got Dave Chokroun, Flatgrey, Harlow McFarlane and Josh Stevenson in there, maybe under a band name in some cases. I missed a couple of obvious names - Bill Batt and Jeremy van Wyck deserved to be in the article, for sure (Anju Singh was only just getting involved in the scene, though I did plug the Her Jazz Noise Collective). But I was focusing on the fear of impending venue closures, and talked to wendythirteen about the Cobalt instead, not knowing either Bill or Jeremy at that time and trying to keep my interviews manageable. The punk in me was glad to get wendythirteen into the Wire, but missing Bill and Jeremy seemed a mistake afterwards (I don't even recall if I mentioned Bill's band at the time, Stamina Mantis, who I'd only barely heard of). Besides all that, I paid a little more press than was maybe strictly warranted to my friends in Ejaculation Death Rattle (but what can I say, I dug what they did, members of the band were my "in" to a lot of the cooler stuff I was aware of, and, I mean, that's a great name for a band). I also blogged here a lot on any of the noise events I went to - go back ten years or so. And I frequently volunteered at Vancouver New Music events, selling merch for a long list of very cool people: Paul Dutton, Fred Frith, Maja Ratkje, the Her Jazz Noise Collective, Sir Richard Bishop, Diamanda Galas, and one of the guys from Negativland (Mark Hosler, I think his name was).

Those merch table nights were really fun. I often bought a ton of merch myself; I sold merch to some cool people (Alex Varty and I both bought Kick the Dog, a live Fred Frith album that you just don't see in stores); and sometimes I got to have very interesting conversations with the artists in question (including a long talk with Jaap Blonk that didn't ever end up making into the world, if anyone is hungry for a Jaap Blonk interview; it's one of about five major interviews I've done that for one reason or another never actually got published). Often I would be sitting at the merch table, "guarding" it, instead of going in to the venue proper (we're talking the Scotiabank Dance Theatre, here, so there was definitely a separation between the merch tables and the performance area).  Frequently that meant hanging out with people who were waiting to perform, or just winding down. I missed Koichi Makigami's set but I got to see him do a little bit of warming up in the anteroom. I had a long, enjoyable talk with Paul Dutton. I got Otomo Yoshihide to sign a CD, and confirmed with him in my broken Japanese that his family name was indeed "Otomo," not "Yoshihide" (the program got it wrong). Got to meet Maja Ratkje, too (much less terrifying when not performing). And of the five, I think, Vancouver New Music festivals (and a couple of stand-alone concerts) that I did that sort of thing for, by far the set that got the most buzz was Paolo Angeli, at the Guitars! Guitars! festival (or was it "Guitars! Guitars! Guitars!"...?).

I had no idea who Paolo Angeli was at that time. I was keener to see Rene Lussier that night, if memory serves, doing a combination of traditional French-Canadian reels and improvised electric guitar stuff, so I decided to just stay on the table and let a co-volunteer go into the space. But when people came out, after Angeli was done, they were totally excited about this masterful performance they'd seen, of moving, tuneful music played on a totally unique prepared guitar/ cello that gave him a much richer, bigger sound than you usually get from a solo performance. People cued up to buy his CDs in droves - it was Tessuti that he was touring at the time, involving his covers and homages to the music of both Fred Frith and Bjork (!) - and we sold all but one or two.

Mr. Angeli, after the performance, came out to square up, saw that he'd sold almost all his merch, was very surprised and happy, and - this was the only time, as I recall, that this happened - he gave me a tip: a copy of his CD. He tipped me! (That didn't happen very often).

It was terrific. I took it home, put it on, and commenced kicking myself for having missed his set. Understand, this was not really avant-garde music as the term is usually understood. It was fresh and new and virtuosic, sure, but there was none of the demanding/ indulgent/ noisy quality generally associated with the avant-garde. It was utterly beautiful to listen to, but also very earnest and down-to-earth, something that could easily bridge the gap(s) between people who liked classical music, jazz, experimental music and pop. I can't imagine anyone who likes guitar music, regardless of his or her background or tastes, spinning the album and not enjoying it (unless they really needed to be able to pigeonhole the genre, which I imagine would be frustrating). If you like music, you'll like it (and I'm tempted to say if you don't like it, you don't like music). And while I have sold off most of the CDs and LPs that I bought during that time, and almost never listen to anything remotely avant-garde anymore - the odd Eugene Chadbourne disc aside - I think I'm going to make up for my error and go see Mr. Angeli's Vancouver return performance on February 10th, again, put on by Vancouver New Music.

That's all I can really say about it, but an excerpt from the press release from Vancouver New Music follows. Note, fellow vulgarians, that in reading this through, I initially thought he adjusted tunings "on his fly," not "on the fly," which error lasted long enough in my head that I formed a mental picture of what it might look like.

Vancouver New Music presents
Paolo Angeli (Italy) – Solo Performance
Saturday, February 10, 2018; 8PM
Free pre-show chat 7:15PM 
Pyatt Hall at the VSO School of Music (843 Seymour Street)
Advance single tickets: $29 general / $21 senior / $12 student
At the door: $35 general / $25 senior / $15 student
(includes taxes and venue surcharges; ticket vendor surcharges extra)
Vancouver, BC – Virtuoso guitarist Paolo Angeli (Italy) returns to Vancouver on Saturday, February 10 for a one-night only, solo performance for prepared Sardinian guitar and voice at Pyatt Hall. This concert will be the final Canadian stop on his world tour for his new album, TALEA, which will begin at Carnegie Hall in New York City. 
Whatever you want to call it, nobody else plays music quite like this. Angeli, the Sardinian sorcerer, creates beautiful, multi-layered music from his unique prepared guitar: a hybrid orchestra of an instrument with strings that go in all directions, foot-pedal-controlled motorised propellers and hammers. Creating shimmering drones and bass-lines, Angeli bows, strikes, plucks and strums while producing rhythmic musical atmospheres by treading on a plastic bag and adjusting tunings on the fly. With this singular instrument he improvises and composes unclassifiable music, suspended between traditional music of Sardinia, free jazz, baroque, post-folk and pre-everything else. Every performance is lived through the practice of free improvisation, and represents for Paolo the chance to mould the sounds generated by his ‘orchestra’-guitar. The result is an ever-changing portrait where, in real time, can be found remnants of the ‘canto a chitarra’, Tasgia choirs, free jazz, punk noise, drum & bass, and avant pop. 
He has collaborated with Pat Metheny – who used Angeli's guitar in Orchestrion – Fred Frith, Hamid Drake, Iva Bittova, Butch Morris, Ned Rothemberg, Jon Rose, Antonello Salis, Evan Parker, Takumi Fukushima, Louis Sclavis, Paolo Fresu, and others. 
"Paolo Angeli is one of jazz’s best-kept secrets. The Sardinian guitarist (of sorts) has the ability to conjure incomparably beautiful multi-layered music, all from just one instrument. Playing a one- of-a-kind guitar/cello/motorised hybrid, Paolo bows, plucks and even provides his own percussion all at the same time without any need for loops." – Jez Nelson - BBC radio 3

More on the event here, and on Paolo Angeli here. Check him out on Youtube and tell me that it ain't lovely. Maybe we see you there?

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