(Vortex, January 25th 2010, review by Geoff Winston)
Firstly, TYFT – Hilmar Jensson (gtr), Jim Black (dr, electronics- photo above) and Andrew D’Angelo (alto sax, bass clarinet) – are superb musicians. Engagement guaranteed.
The trio achieve a formal balance in propositions which fuse different layers of musical interpretation required from each of the protagonists. The first hints of melody came through D’Angelo’s sax overlay to the severe, rock-based riffing which underlies several of Jensson’s compositions. With Black’s exceptional percussive palette, the music could have gone in any direction, so it was reassuring to see the musical landscape change quite subtly through the evening, and, had it remained static in any single zone, we could have been disappointed.
So many references – from a straight stadium rock backbeat, to Hendrix in his jazzier moods, to the self-indulgence of jazz-rock – mind-numbingly riffy at times, only just rescued by the trio’s musical interplay – to Ornette’s free-er zones and the later Miles, to Stockhausen and to some of the more recent Scandinavian atmospherics. At times one was reminded not so much how close jazz is to rock, but how close rock can be to jazz. And this is what gave the two high-energy and demanding sets that extra dimension, keeping the audience rapt.
D’Angelo, the on-stage spokesman for the band, joked that the Icelandic title for a composition late in the set translated, aptly, as ‘Relax’, after the preceding ultra-high energy contributions. The intense concentration and physical demands of his alto playing are a vital part of the trio’s sound, complemented by his bass clarinet where the clicking of the keypads adds an eerie abstraction. Black’s drumming has such range – hammering a cymbal to within an inch of destruction, or playing with bright, fluid elegance.
Jensson, technically accomplished, was capable of musical surprises of pace and tone, and gently stamped his authority on the evening’s sets and the enthusiastically demanded encore.
The Vortex again proves that it can provide an intimate and intense setting for music that sets out to ask questions from the first note.