Tony Marsh, Louis Moholo Moholo, Evan Parker and John Tchicai
(Vortex, Friday 14 October – night 1 of 2 night residency; review and drawing by Geoff Winston
A programme of two duets and a final quartet maximised the daunting cumulative experience of these four masters of improvisation.
John Tchicai, playing his first-ever Vortex gig, carved out a highly personal, rustic path of flowing flute and natural rhythms with an acoustically bright and inventive Tony Marsh. Marsh rose to the nuances of Tchicai’s playing – soft brushes to complement the pattering of the flute’s keypads; a vibrating, bass propulsion, à la Ginger Baker, when Tchicai moved to his blasting tenor; and holding back to allow space for Tchicai’s wavering scat and surreal poetry – “The sound made by the yellow fence …”. An unrestrained honking ‘Last Post’, echoing Tchicai’s one-off collaboration with Ayler, crept in to bring a raw clarity to their lengthy closing sequence.
Perhaps the greatest delights of the evening were the three numbers which Evan Parker and Louis Moholo Moholo crafted as a light, chattering dialogue, combining tight, tapping tom-tom and subtle cymbals with ethereal, trilling runs. Even as they gathered momentum, Moholo gently took his foot off the pedal and Parker turned the wheel to go down a metaphorical B-road, all shadows and flickering sunlight, exchanging smiles as their musical conversation clicked sublimely.
All four joined together to continue the harmonious themes. Rarely were two tenors so well matched for tone and intensity, and their empathy, as they read and pursued each others rippling phrases, was masterly. The two drummers were in rolling synch, with Marsh picking up the riffs as Moholo purposefully laid down the beats. Tchicai patted the small hanging cymbals in Marsh’s percussion set-up, as if to emphasise the democratic, dynamism achieved by the quartet, before a quiet fade which tipped into perfect silence.
Tony Marsh: percussion
Louis Moholo Moholo: percussion
Evan Parker: tenor sax
John Tchicai: flute, tenor sax and vocals