Free Improv session at Robadors 23 – 22 Jan ’15

Ramon Prats (drums)
Àlex Reviriego (bass)
Míriam Fèlix (cello)

An interesting departure from the usual instrumentation this week, with the addition of Míriam Fèlix’s cello and the subtraction of any type of woodwind whatsoever. That’s what I love about these Thursday evening sessions – the recipe changes every week. So, what we have is practically a string section plus percussion, all under the regular free improvisation paradigm.

Whether it was the different sonic palate available, or the reduced dominance of testosterone on-stage, I’m not sure but the resulting soundscape was a little less chaotic and frenzied than usual; albeit no less intense and passionate, to be sure!

To begin, an atmosphere of string scrapes, sonorous whispers, harmonics and disarming yet sinister arco playing, against a backdrop of almost pointillistic percussion. The obvious route for two such similar instruments would have been for MF and ÀR to alternate their arco and pizzicato techniques so as to differentiate their playing clearly. But thankfully ‘obvious’ was not the game here. Instead, they often utilised the same traditional and extended techniques creating a density of sound and sculpture in which, as listener, it became impossible to tell from where a particular note was emerging. It felt that RP was sensitive to the unique possibilities of the combined strings and took – for the most part – a very supporting role. That said, if you could tear your ears away from the ‘frontline’ the variety and subtlety of the brushwork, delicate rolls, and general rhythmic acrobatics was well up to his usual impressive and creative level. (To put it another way, I liked the drumming, could you tell?)

There’s always a distinct moment of perfect coalescence in every performance/session and this week it came towards the end: a slow, building almost kettle drum rolling, a bass-heavy droning, and a sequence of long searing mid-register notes from the cello. Yet another fleeting moment of enlightenment…

As you might imagine, I take a few notes at these gigs. This week I couldn’t help but notice that the guy sitting next to me also had pen and paper in hand, but he was sketching not scribbling. We spoke afterwards – he turned out to be artist and musician Miquel Jordà and he kindly sent me a copy of his picture to include here:

Rob23 - 22Jan15 - pic by MJordaTo sum up? Drones, rumbles, scrapes, pin-drop near-silence, melancholic whines, sudden crashes, plaintive cries for attention, metallic sorrow, thumps, bumps and beautiful dissonance – and all the while a kind of twisted quasi-classical flavour hovering in the background. Nice.

http://23robadors.wordpress.com

Elena Márquez was there, camera in hand, and a selection of photos can be found on Tomajazz.com – as usual, each one is worth a thousand words.