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Today

As we all know there are no live gigs taking place in the immediate future. However, any links to jazz streaming that are deemed suitable - i.e. with a professional approach - will be considered for posting.

Friday, December 08, 2017

The Improvisers' Workshop Ensemble - “Magic Mirrors" @ The Jazz Café - December 1

Nigel of Coalburns (Voice & Toys) / Gabriele Heller (Voice & Objects) / John Harrison (Saxophone) / Thomas Dixon (Saxophone) / Karen Rann (Saxophone) / Crispian Heath (Acoustic Guitar) / Martin Donkin (Electric Guitar) / Paul Taylor (Keyboards) Tobias lllingworth (Keyboards and other instrumentation) / Wesley Stephenson (Drums and Percussion)
(Review/photo by Ken Drew).
“Gathering monthly for sessions at The Bridge Hotel 'The Improvisers' Workshop' is a space where people interested in sound and improvisation gather to play, discuss and explore the nature and mysteries of improvisation. These sessions often result in different games and strategies used as vehicles for the improvisation that takes place. "Magic Mirrors" was such an idea that was conceived for a performance by the ensemble.
As a durational piece “Magic Mirrors” explores the space where a large group ensemble works in unison, and the way that unity dissolves and breaks into smaller groupings of players or soloists, which may also be symbolised by silence. Through mirroring and a Chinese whispers style of communication, the growth of the music is shaped by the decisions of the players and the way they choose to mirror, this could be rhythmically, tonally, texturally, emotionally or any such inspiration of their own choosing.”
Part 1:    A quiet start, building on individual notes & timbres, nicely demonstrating the use of voices as instruments, then building to include all performers. The rhythm of the piece changing many times, from steady to percussive single beats. Then it slowed to a more contemplative section, with the sounds of wafted paper ('other devices') taking over from voice. Then into a longer section of disparate sounds including vocal utterances from Coalburns, and wailing saxes. The piece continued to develop around the group where you could detect the flow of ideas being passed around. Pleasantly quiet ending, with keys (lllingworth) and small bells gently struck by Coalburns.

Part 2: This was a longer piece, introduced by shimmering notes on the keys (Taylor this time) and gentle sax (Harrison initially, then Dixon). Initially more meandering, but developing with the addition of voices and soprano sax. In fact getting quite heated as more voicings joined in, Heller in particular becoming quite frantic with vocal exclamations. The small bells rang and brought in a quiet section which heralded the introduction of a wide range of pitches and timbres from all. Then to close, the keys brought in a mellow flute-like tone to gracefully fade. This piece certainly explored the sonorous nature of a range of instruments, and their interaction, whilst still flowing as a single improvised piece.

Part 3:  Starting with a profound drum beat initiated by Stephenson, with saxes and voices joining in, this quickly became quite an energetic piece with all contributing. At one point it took on an almost marching-band funky rhythm, but only fleetingly. Then back to a quiet section, with Coalburns adding vocal effects sounding as if the wind were gusting outside, or maybe you were overhearing just the bass tones of a distant conversation.  No matter, a distinctly odd sound, but one which held the piece together as the others continued to exchange and interpret sonic ideas.  Heller and Rann then struck up such a conversation, taken further by Rann and Harrison to close the piece.

Overall, this was a good demonstration of live improvisation. Of the 3 pieces, I had no particular favourite, as they each flowed differently, yet each stood alone in their own right. I was actually struck by how different these pieces were, given the short pause between them giving time to ‘regroup’ their thoughts and start again from pure silence.   This performance was appreciated by the assembled audience, and a good advert for the output of the monthly Improv Workshops held by JNE at the Bridge.
Ken

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