Memoria Uno – BCN ImproFest 2017

Juan Berbin: drums
Ramón Prats: drums
Vasco Trilla: drums
Martín Leiton: electric bass
Marc Cuevas: double bass
Àlex Reviriego: double bass
Dani Pérez: guitar
Diego Caicedo: guitar
Hilario Rodeiro: laptop
Joan Bagés: laptop
Ferran Besalduch: bass & sopranino saxophones
Don Malfon: alto & baritone saxophones
Tom Chant: tenor & soprano saxophones
Albert Cirera: tenor & soprano saxophones
Joan Mas: alto saxophone
Marcel·lí Bayer: bass clarinet, alto saxophone
Luiz Rocha: bass clarinet
Vicent Pérez: trombone & effects
Pablo Selnik: flute
Ilona Schneider: voice
Iván González: conduction

What is Memoria Uno? Memoria Uno is… a series of large band conducted improvisations by Iván González (though occasional guest conductors have appeared) on the conduction principles established by Lawrence D. ‘Butch’ Morris. Memoria Uno is… a revolving cadre of musicians, including some of Barcelona’s most dedicated improvisers. Memoria Uno is… a concept? an experiment? and experience? Memoria Uno was… appearing at Barcelona’s annual BCN ImproFest and coincidentally, the concert featured the 100th conduction

As a long-term follower, I must admit to not completely enjoying the recent move to a smaller regular venue – smaller ensembles, less attentive audience, more background noise, etc. – and so, it’s good see a return to form for this festival appearance. The larger, purpose-built venue (at the Centre Cultural Albareda) with room for the music to breathe and expand, plus the larger roster of musicians (19 + conductor on the first piece, boosted by Luiz Rocha to 20+1 for the second) plus it being the 100th conduction seemed to galvanise all concerned. Whatever the reason, I’d say this was one of the best MU concerts I’ve seen. Much of the quality of Memoria Uno stems from the quantity. This is one improvisational circumstance in which more is more!

Highlights? Here are a few favourite recollections:

  • A 3-drummer, 3-bassist temporary sextet, volume and density from skins and strings that was then folded into a dense electronic soundscape, with swathes of ‘sci-fi noise’ that in turn gave way to a quasi-classic big band era sound, all swelling horns and grandeur.
  • Caicedo and Pérez’s muted and tortured strings creating a harsh and demented duet – the sound of tortured strings.
  • The skronk battle between Tom Chant and Don Malfon (note: all skronking is bellicose to the listener, it’s impossible to have a ‘skronk chat’).
  • The startling contributions of Vicent Pérez: trombone + electronics = drenched, saturated, squelches of impossible sound.
  • A brief retro jazz-noir refrain from Joan Mas’ alto.
  • Ilona Schneider’s non-verbal soprano vocalisations against a fleeting, droning, almost doom metal rhythm – the yang and yin of aural light and dark.
  • The ‘two-band technique’. González conducting the two halves of the ensemble into totally different sonic realms, creating a dense, layered chaos. The left side had two drummers and the voice of Ilona Schneider, but the right fielded dense electronics and the triple horns of Albert Cirera, Marcel·lí Bayer and Don Malfon. Call it a draw.

And finally, a charming moment: as a drummer (Vasco Trilla, I think it was) scrapes and scratches at the percussion, Bayer crafts a minimalist bass clarinet solo, and a small child in the front row utters a few words of unintelligible wonder. Sums it up.

For a brief visual & auditory sample, here’s a clip from Antoni Robert’s YouTube channel which is doing a great job of documenting free improvisations performances in Barcelona:

(The title photo for this artice is courtesy of Roberto Domínguez.)