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Friday, October 15, 2010

Aki Takase & Keith Tippett @ Kings Hall, Newcastle

Listen: when things spiral beyond serious, the gloves are off, just as today, laid flat behind them on the floor of the Kings Hall, the great black lids were off the Yin & Yang joined Steinways, scattered inside with the contents of an improvising pianist's man/woman drawer - ping pong balls, blocks of wood, curtain rings, chopsticks and old combs - to bounce, zing, excite and frustrate the normal reactions of these majestic pianos.

Keith and Aki walked on together, took their bows to welcoming applause from the more than ample lunch time audience and then sat at their just-married instruments in contemplative silence, as collective vapours of ideas seemed to condense from the very ether of this beautifully resonant old hall. Emerging from his meditation, Keith stands and applies a piece of softwood to the cross-over treble strings, zzzing! as Aki makes her introductory percussive statement on the keys. I close my eyes in tonal absorption as the improvisations take off in such artful conversation, I have to open them for a periodic reality check to drag my out-of-body down from the ceiling - and of course, to keep an eye on what the two players are up to. Like the crossing wash of two grand boats passing starboard to starboard, the performance is never predictable and yet perfectly anticipated as the waves chop and splash on our aural harbour steps. Keith establishes a punching rhythm in the bass register, damped so that only the sound of the hammer mechanism can be heard, transporting us to an old cotton mill, where the shuttles fly back and forth as Aki applies a chromatic warp and weft punctuated by her colourful crashing chords. This is such an amazing telepathic improvised jazz duet that each player seems quite relaxed to introduce old friends as at a lively party: Keith, you remember George Gershwin and Aki, this is Abdullah Ibrahim - they go back to exciting the lips of their harmonic cocktail glasses. The control is never forced and rises and falls so gracefully from crescendo to diminuendo that you imagine they could be pilots with independent controls of the same aerobatic aircraft - we look skywards but never feel like running for cover! And, just as in the art of conversation, the end game is as important as the dizzy heights of the performance: Keith's fingers dart around inside a tinkling musical box on the inside top treble while Aki turns gently on the keys ; they play their au-revoirs as they had begun, with such respectful finesse we seem to be awakened from a dream, convinced we really can do whatever it was we dreamed we could do! A wonderful performance. George M


Unknown said...

Wow George! What a superb piece of writing.

George Milburn said...

Thanks Blue!

Lance said...

In the words of the immortal Irving Berlin (I Love a Piano) "...a fine way to treat a Steinway..."

Russell said...

Hi Lance

Aki's forearm smash was delivered lovingly.


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