Memoria Uno at Sala Fenix – 4th Mar ’15

Iván González (conducting)
24 musicians (whose names I didn’t all catch, but they were playing: drums, bass, saxophones & clarinets, a little flute, piano, bassoon, violins, violas, cellos, trombone, tuba)

This was a treat. Less than a week after posting a review of Memoria Uno’s album, “Crisis”, they’re playing a live gig in the heart of El Raval. Of course, it’s not the full 40-strong improvising ensemble but at 24 musicians, I think we can safely expect the sound to be… big. Still, only a few days since I praised the album (yes, I liked it – if you want to know how much, click here) so rather than regurgitate the same old hyperbole, let’s restrict ourselves to a few words about the live experience…

To start with, audio overload – from bar one, González lets us hear just how much noise 24 musicians can make in a space probably better suited to half a dozen. Then he reins everything back in and starts playing his 48-handed instrument. To begin with, just the strings buzzing at us, then a dab of tenor sax, add the sound of drums, dial up the tenor a notch or two, bring in the brass section for a quick-yet-classic big band blast, then everything is cut away leaving… just the strings again. And so it goes…

©Elena Márquez

Having heard the recording from last June, it’s a fascinating process to see happening before you. The impression is one of precise control, but actually it’s mostly the choice of who is playing and the dynamics that are conducted. Once they’ve been ‘triggered’ or cued in, each musician has a degree of freedom over what to play; it’s just that that freedom exists within the constraints and boundaries set by the hands of González.

But as well as the one mind directing, there are 24 creative musical minds pushing at (while simultaneously respecting) the boundaries and in that sense, this is still a free improvisation session, albeit one that has a singular vision imposed upon it – let’s face it, chaos is wonderful but for the event to be comprehensible, a little order helps. And that means, it’s not like the recording. The piano plays a less central role, the sense of humour (does it belong in music?!?) is more evident, and basically, as the audience, we can see the joins – which only makes it a more fascinating experience by effectively inviting us to participate. This is the proof that the freedom exists, that what results is created in the moment by a gestalt process and therefore is not only unrepeatable but also does not repeat what has gone before.

What is it Eric Dolphy says at the end of the “Last Date” album…”When you hear music, after it’s over, it’s gone in the air. You can never capture it again…” That.

150304_Memoria Uno-Sala Fénix_0091(The album “Crisis” can is available to download from Discordian’s Bandcamp page or physical copies of the CD can be had direct from Iván González, contact him via rubencin_83@hotmail.com.)

(Photos courtesy of the lens of Elena Márquez)