Seattle Improvised Music Festival Day 4

February 17th, 2007

Gallery1412, Seattle WA

The final day of the 22nd Annual Seattle Improvised Music Festival was an eclectic and varied mix. I had an idea how Andrea Neumann would be solo and was one of my more anticipated sets of the fest. Andrea and Nate are a great paring but after Nakatani’s solo set of the set before I wasn’t sure if he’d fit in. I’ve seen Shoup and Horist before so I knew this would be a free jazz blowout – not too bad a away to wrap it all up I suppose.

Andrea Neumann
Andrea began with eBow’s on the lower register of her piano innards generating a low tone which was supplemented by a more electronic sound perhaps from her pickups or a contact mic.  Gradually she added layers and layers of sound to the this base using additional eBows and then running a small electric fan across the strings. On the edge of the piano innards is a flat area which on the upper portion she has set down her various manipulators, but the bottom is a metallic plate that must have a mic or pickup in it. This can generate more percussive sounds and it is to this that she turns after an extended period of using the fan. She attacks this with a  series of short percussive strikes, along with a harsh scraping sound in a rather insectile fashion for a decent interval before stopping dead. She turns up an input and immediately a buzz comes up, some sort of internal feedback that she allows to become dense and multilayered, almost loud but not overbearing at all. She begins to cut this feedback out, glitch like, stuttering the sound while plucking the occasionaloccaisonal string in an almost music box kind of sound. She keeps this up for a bit, altering it so it almost has the sound of a manipulated turntable then begins to bring it down. Slowly and subtly she lowers the volume and then concludes by rubbing her hands gently over the strings. She bows to use and grins at the applauding audience. A really nice set, nice use of the solo idiom. Interesting sounds, well placed deep and attention holding.

(for Alastair and Richard; Andrea was wearing a red and white checkered long sleeved shirt under a grey sweater vest. Dark slacks the same as the day prior. Hope this helps. )

Andrea Neumann, Nate Wooley, Tatsuya Nakatani
It turns out that my early misgivings were justified regarding this set. I began all right with Nakatani bowing his gong in a fairly restrained manner. Neumann added in a gentle electronic wash and Wooley a subtle hiss from his trumpet. This went on for a bit and while a bit droney thanks to the overtones of the bowed gong Nate and Andrea added in some nice textured and spikier elements. Eventually though Nakatani tired of this sound and began to move through his bag of tricks. Pretty much the same sort of sounds and techniques from his solo set and it became increasingly difficult for Nate and Andrea to find a way in. Nate has played with Nakatani before and clearly has played free jazz in the past but I don’t know if he was moved on, or just felt it wasn’t appropriate for the circumstances but he increasingly laid out as Nakatani got more and more dominant. He did occasionally rise to the challenge with the metal sheet over his trumpet bell he could almost compete with the volume of the percussion. Andrea’s washes, low volume plucked strings and sonic detritus seemed to fare the worst against Nakatani’s assault. Lost in the background as it were even though she too tried to add to the maelstrom with some blasts of feedback and percussive attacks. One memorable segment in about the middle of segment involved Nakatani with about a dozen brass bowls on top of his floor tom first hitting them and then shaking the tom generating a terrific racket. Neumann and Wooley laid out competlely and for quite a while as this rose to a fever pitch. Nakatani eventually was crawling across the floor pushing the floor tom ahead of him and then pulling it back as he reached the audience.After all the bowls had been shaking loose, he picked up the floor tom and held it above his head so that with his head thrown back he could blow raspberries on the drumhead. Several times during this display I caught Nate and Andrea looking at each other in disbelief. v After this monumental display of egotism Nakatani sat back down and rattling things around for a bit finally settled again on bowing the gong. Andrea and Nate finally came back in with some rubbed and plucked strings from the former and a gentle tocking from the later. Nakatani slowed down his bowing until there was nothing less and this mess was over.

Nakatani behaved pretty much exactly has he had during his solo set, not listening nor really paying much attention to his fellow musicians at all. There were some nice bits where he was more restrained or taking a monetary breather but for the most part he was just engaging in the worst form of egotism. Disappointing and rather a waste in my opinion.

Wally Shoup, Tatsuya Nakatani, Bill Horist
This was pretty much what I was expecting having seen the bulk of this musicians before. Wally Shoup is a free jazz player of the fire music school and Bill Horist plays prepared and effected “laptop” guitar rather in the O’Rourke vein. Nakatani of course plays solo regardless of whether there are others playing or not. In fact while I’m not a huge fan of the free jazz this set was again marred by Nakatani. Wally laid out quite a bit and Bill as well or would provide support but Tatsuya was always full bore all the time. Bill can generate some interest sounds with his instrument, especially when he stuffs various cymbals under the strings, but this was often lost under the cacophony. One bit was truly depressing about the most irked I’ve been at a live show in recent memory. Bill was making this great fragmented tones with a combination of eBow and cymbals under the strings, very delicate but rich with subtle spikes and skittery static. Wally sat out during this but through the entire segment Nakatani with this disturbing stoic expression on his face play marching rhythms on his snare. Just absolutely abysmal. There was some good long tones from Shoup and some firey blowouts as well and occasionally Nakatani’s soloing fit in well with the proceedings, but overall this was actually worse then I was expecting.

The end has finaly come to this festival (and to this series of reports for which I must beg forgiveness for the delay) which overall was a really well programmed affair. Some great out of town guests and locals and really I think only Nakatani was a mistake. Some sets were less interesting then others but really only a couple of bad ones. And there truly was some inspired music played. I got to spend a but of time talking to Bonnie, Andy, Kyle, Andrea and Gust and it was great to hear their thoughts on playing this music. I also was able to pick up a lot of music at the shows, which is the best way to support the musicians. A whole lot of fun and I look forward to next years festival.