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.