Review: Buffalo Collision

Review: Buffalo Collision
(Vortex, March 1st 2010 -2nd set. Review by Peter Horsfall,
line drawing by Geoff Winston)

In a set of completely improvised music, it was pianist Ethan Iverson ’s (also of The Bad Plus) playing which proved by far the most concise and constructed. He was the glue which held the ensemble together at times when the gigantic individualism and originality of each performer threatened to detract from the possibility of a cohesive group sound.

Saxophonist Tim Berne, who has attained a kind of cult status amongst many generations of musicians, proved himself here as the great extemporiser upon themes which Iverson invariably fed to the group. Ethereal in the higher register yet earthy and with a wide-vibrato in the lower, Berne’s incomparable saxophone sound was captivating. His stage presence was also something to behold, swaying as a tree in the wind, totally engrossed in the music, even when not playing his horn.

Cellist Hank Roberts was at times drowned out by the rest of the quartet, especially when exploring the textural possibilities of the instrument. However, his influence was at its clearest when employing quirky cyclical motifs. He bound the quieter sections of the music together successfully.

There was a moment midway through the set when drummer Dave King stood up and started pounding the floor tom with his fists. The more aggressive sections of the music, building to a frenzied state of abandon, were stoked up frantically by King. For most of the gig he barely stayed sitting on his drum-stool.

The freedom and the passions of this totally improvised set occasionally led to a relatively common occurrence: each of the musicians attempting to explore and develop every possible aspect of the music all at once. However, the discipline and the focus given by Iverson made the gig both incredibly exciting and comprehensible. And that is no mean feat.

Categories: miscellaneous

1 reply »

  1. A regular LondonJazz reader commented by email

    I was there, too – it was a brilliant set, full of unusual dynamics and interplay within the quartet. I wouldn't single out any of the musicians over the others; as with their last visit to the Vortex they delighted in musical surprises and in their intuitively integrated performance (not all improvised, I would venture to suggest). Iverson is a great mixture of the minimal and the baroque – Basie meets Rachmaninov. Berne's tenor was authoritative throughout – a reflective and soulful powerhouse. Roberts was brilliant – animated, amazingly subtle, pulling out all kinds of abstract sounds, echoes, and reverberations from his cello as well as using it to span the bass and melodic middle ranges. Dave King is such a creative percussionist – like Roberts, he uses his kit as a way to densely explore, push to the limit, and interact with his co-musicians – at one point, almost silent, physically pushing the air within a tom-tom, and then intensely dynamic, yet still thoughtful in his delivery.

    Great to hear such high calibre jazz in such an intimate setting. Congratulations to the Vortex. I hope we can look forward to a return visit to this great venue from Buffalo Collision!

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