Susana Santos Silva (trumpet)
Tom Chant (tenor and soprano saxophone)
Vasco Trilla (drums)
Is it me, or is there a larger than usual crowd here tonight?
If so, it’s hard to say who’s the ‘draw’. Chant and Trilla are both well-known (and well-respected, naturally) on the Barcelona scene, not least for their unpredictably puckish approach to improvisation. Silva hails from Portugal but plays quite widely and is seen in town often enough to be a known name – I saw her last year at Luz de Gas with the Orquestra Jazz de Matosinhos (as a featured soloist she stood out for pushing the limits of some fairly tight arrangements) and I know she played Robadors 23 around the same time. Well, whoever we’re all here to see (possibly the combination of all three) here we are, listening to Oliver Nelson’s “Blues & The Abstract Truth”, waiting…
…but not for long. Unlike a lot of free improv sessions, the beginning doesn’t feel tentative. Despite the fact that Silva and Chant have only played together once before, what comes across strongly is an immediate rapport. Pointillist stabs and ‘backwards’ notes abound and mesh so tightly it might as well be one instrument, or two instruments with a single player (if that’s not too Roland Kirk!) Meanwhile, Trilla surrounds them with elaborate, precise, complex patterns of sound and movement involving subtle movements of cymbals on drumheads, fingertips and knitting needles (yes, knitting needles) as the two horns morph into a series of growls, gurgles and quiet roars.
Nice to see Miquel Jordà here in Gràcia with his sketchbook, too:
A particularly lovely moment: Silva appears to loosen a valve and then produces a series of high, almost whistling tones; Chant is purring, shortly to sound like a radio tuning into a theremin programme; and Trilla is bowing the edges of his cymbals for an air of delicate eeriness. Trilla just doesn’t stop moving, from one sound to the next, his economy of motion is almost as impressive as the sounds he makes. At one point, he bends low, blowing through the hole in a cymbal resting on the drum before him – so hard as to lift it momentarily – while simultaneously detuning the drumhead; the resulting vibration fills the room. VT is the clockwork alchemist of percussion.
Part-way through there’s a lovely John Cage-ish moment. As a series of long, drawn-out notes wash over us, a tiny, tinny voice is heard from somebody’s mobile phone. Somehow, it doesn’t spoil anything; quite the opposite – everything is grist to the improv mill.
(The usual great photos can be found on the blog of Elena Márquez.)