Free Improv session at Robadors 23 – 5th Feb ’15

Ramon Prats (drums)
Àlex Reviriego (bass)
Iván González (trumpet)
Tom Chant (tenor and soprano saxes)
Ove Volquartz (bass clarinet)
Josep Maria Balanyà (piano)

In the pre-gig build up on Facebook, someone (it might have been Iván González) referred to this line up as “heavy metal”. With three horns at any one time, that’s certainly true of the frontline, but there’s also a weight to the foundations as Prats and Reviriego are joined by Balanyà’s truly rumbling storm-like piano.

In fact, the start does have a tempest feel, plenty of thunder and lightning, with Volquartz’s bass clarinet adding a pleasing bottom end to the woodwind soundscape; providing extended, questing (certainly more jazz-like) lines that contrast with Chant and González’s more pointillistic phrasing. As ever, though, order emerges from chaos, before succumbing to the forces of entropy (repeat as required). At one delicious point, I can actually feel the fragile structure dissolving, blurring at the edges until we return to some primordial soup of sound, out of which, naturally, life climbs yet again: the three horns lock (I use the term loosely) into an interweaving spiral of mutual ascension, each constantly rising while swinging first towards its fellows, then apart, in a rhythm of repeated conjunction and separation around which I’m sure I could stretch some laboured metaphor but, what the hell, let’s just sit back and enjoy the sound already…

As ever, once the initial frenzy eases, people start laying out in turn and we get to hear the different layers and possible combinations. A clarinet-drums-bass trio interlude emphasises that Volquartz is ploughing a more lyrical furrow than he did last night across town at Soda. Clearly in this company, he’s moved to play something a touch sweeter and more fluid? Or maybe it’s just the contrast with the fiercely non-idiomatic partnership of Chant and González?

Thanks, as usual, to Miquel Jordà’s pen for the visuals!

Rob23 - 5Feb15 - pic by MJorda (1)

The second piece starts more sparingly, light contributions from the horns allowing the tense arco bass and isolated piano chords to stand out dramatically. In fact, Balanyà is a highlight of this section. Up until now, he’s taken a more percussive role – whether his hands were on the keys or delving inside the instrument’s guts – but now we hear an extended and remorseless wave of sound that threatens to drown us all, culminating in a primitive yell, hands thrown into the air – a moment of climax with González and Prats left to play us through the afterglow.

Heavy metal? Certainly. But also a spiritual element tonight, fused with the usual rich improvisatory stew.

(Some great close-up photos were taken by Joan Cortès, published on Tomajazz.)

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