WILLIAM PARKER with JOHN OSWALD , ANDY YUE , NICK FRASER , PAUL NEWMAN'S OPEN HOUSE and DAVID MOTT as part of AIMToronto Interface Series at Arrayspace, January 11. Tickets: $15. Attendance: sold out. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
It was easy to imagine the liberty Village loft - experimental composition group Arraymusic 's space and the location of a packed free jazz concert - as an out-of-the-way factory studio in New York circa the 1970s or 90s.
That was due to the welcome presence of William Parker , who was on the scene at both the inception and resurgence of this extemporaneous style. The surreal June-like mugginess of the place only added to the delirious atmosphere cooked up by the players.
Parker's double bass technique was spontaneous and deeply exploratory. The night saw him holding his arm against the neck while plunking the strings, rattling his bow percussively against the belly and fingerboard and grazing the bow over the strings in a circular motion.
Parker also played the strings below the bridge, and slapped out notes with the bow during the climactic points of his performances. To the audience's agreement, he'd make a grunt of satisfaction, a reaction to the bass whenever it squawked out a complex sound.
Playing as part of two collaborative sets on Thursday night, Parker embedded his off-kilter bass lines into the cacophony stirred together by his accompanists. He opened on the tuba, joining the sensitive John Oswald 's sensitive alto sax, Nick Fraser on drums and Andy Yue , who played an augmented electric keyboard, its stubbly synth textures adding the perfect random element to the strangely beautiful clamour.
Yue later switched to grand piano, adding Latin jazz touches, and Fraser's percussion became a brittle backbone that streamed off into multiple rhythmic tangents.
This night was a stimulating experience, forcing the brain to rearrange the dissonance and lock onto ever-slipping-away rhythms and themes.
The second performers, Paul Newman's Open House , played loosely structured compositions balancing a sense of unhinged freedom with unified motifs that pulled everything together at key moments. Seated off to the side, the red-fleeced Parker quietly enjoyed the quartet's work.
Best of the evening was the eminent guest's finale, a duet with David Mott on the baritone sax. The sounds they produced together ranged from extreme brass bombast to haunting, plaintive, at times strangled notes. Both players displayed impressive endurance, continuing together for well over an hour, sweeping the rapt audience through an intensely urgent performance full of unpredictable vitality.