Tuesday, September 18, 2007

From Between Trio. Sanctuary for Independent Media. September 15, 2007.

The From Between Trio is a collaboration of three musicians from three continents: Michael Doneda (France), on soprano and sopranino sax, Tatsuya Nakatani (Japan) on percussion, and Jack Wright (US) on alto and soprano sax. The group demonstrates an extraordinary sense of three minds working as one.

Although I sat in the front row for the view, the moment they began their first set I lowered my eyes away from the performers. I diverted my gaze because I wanted to absorb only the sound and not get caught up in its production. What they do would inaccurately be described as "free jazz," from my experience of it. And I didn't get the sense either that they are playing to serve their own self expression. In the way that a field recordist can document small sounds and subsequently amplify the audio, magnifying the details beyond what is normally audible, the trio created a type of soundscape of layered events approximating a natural environment. They create an ambiance of hissing, fizzing, scraping and rattling. Appropriate to this immersive experience, no particular player is a featured soloist at any one time.

Their first set lasted an hour, although it felt half that long, and it was the one most resembling the forces of nature. The second short set, before the break was about 18 minutes, and was more celestial, leaving more space among the parts. The last set was only about 15 minutes and the only part of the evening when the playing was a bit more aggressive, and perhaps urban.

When I wanted to examine how it was all being done, they were fascinating to watch. Of course, drummers tend to dominate one's attention because of the variety of movement necessary just to make a noise. However, Nakatani is a different type of percussionist altogether. He specializes in resonating his instruments not always by striking, but often by bowing, rubbing and vibrating them. At one point, he placed a small cymbal on the surface of his snare and lowered his face to blow through the hole in its center, resulting in a rich alto sax-like tone. He even got more than one note from it. For Nakatani, a snare isn't just a drum, it's a resonating surface to place a cymbal, a wood block, and a small bowl - all at the same time. Nakatani has lots of bowls, at least a dozen, which he tapped with tiny metal sticks. As he performed, bowls, cymbals, and even his tom tom, fell over at one time or another, sounding not unlike the style of his playing, which seems to be a series of orchestrated wabi sabi accidents. Only rarely did he simply take a stick and strike a drum.

Nakatani solo:

Doneda and Wright, the two wind players, have a repertoire of personal approaches toward their instruments. Doneda coaxed animal rasps from his sopranino, as well as modulated wind noise, and sometimes the sound of a broken tape player in fast-forward. Wright sat with his mouthpiece turned on its side so he could mute the bell of his alto with his leg. His soprano, when muted, emulated a bassoon, shortwave radio, or the chanting of the Koran.
It would seem destined that these three would meet and match their talents as a trio. Each of them has played with dozens of others over the years, but together they have an extraordinary way of orchestrating intuitive sound-making.

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