Review: Steve Noble/Ikue Mori duo and Pat Thomas solo at Café Oto

Steve Noble and Ikue Mori at Café Oto
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2013. All Rights Reserved

Steve Noble/Ikue Mori duo and Pat Thomas solo
(Café Oto, 24 June 2013; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

Rarely does a percussionist get the opportunity to give a solo recital. To find two percussionists in duet is even more elusive. In this case the imaginative empathy between London-based acoustic drummer, Steve Noble and electronic percussionist, Ikue Mori, a New Yorker since 1980, has just yielded their new release, Prediction and Warning. Mori had made a rare appearance behind a conventional drumkit, with Body/Head at Meltdown (read Geoff’s review HERE) a few days earlier, and this was their third duo concert at Café Oto since 2010. An additional bonus was Pat Thomas’ solo piano performance which set the tone of the evening in dramatic style.

Pat Thomas commandeered Café Oto’s new Yamaha, like Keith Tippett and Alexander von Schlippenbach recently, to stretch out to the limit and make use of its superb acoustic qualities to articulate the full range of nuance and expression he summoned up in an intense round of rich improvisations. Big chords, cascading surges and rapid condensed runs contrasted with fluttering, burrowing and scuttling movements in a pianistic tour de force.

Delving in to play the piano wires with both hands, dampening wires, and returning to the keyboard in an encore to put down an off-beam Monk-ish left hand rhythm and crazed oom-pahs, while the right hand staggered and jumped to its own time, he became a veritable human mechanical piano, the epitome of concentration and inspiration.

Noble and Mori spurred each other on in a stunning forty minute improvisation which was symphonic in its range. Noble revelled in the opportunity to draw on the full depth of his formidable technical and imaginative reserves. The model of focused energy and economy of movement, he unleashed a flow of gyrations and inflections which had cymbals detached, sticks applied vertically, and a collection of hand cymbals, gongs, bamboo and wooden blocks brought on to the toms to release a glistening gamut of sizzling sequences and soundings.

Mori, serene, virtually motionless at the laptop, added, with great subtlety, a further spatial dimension – the language of the spheres, with punctures, drizzles, bleeps, and deeply resonant hums – to complement Noble’s rapid stream of invention. At times it was impossible to distinguish the acoustic from the electronic, as each was so adept at coaxing the most unexpected sounds from their kit. They conjured the distant echoes of the harbour, nautical bells and looming horns, and dribbled and chased high definition glints in tandem.

Noble’s blur of hands and sticks allowed no respite and with an energy and application that would have done Buddy Rich proud, he carved out an essay in metallic and rhythmic fusion, positioned by Mori’s carefully crafted flux, that evoked, on an intimate scale, the drama of the Bow Gamelan Ensemble’s sonic universe.

In a short trio with Thomas, Noble’s flurry of softly applied mallets gave way to an intergalactic storm set off by Mori to conclude a spellbinding evening at Café Oto.

Steve Noble: drums, percussion
Ikue Mori: laptop electronics
And Pat Thomas: solo piano

Categories: miscellaneous

1 reply »

  1. John Chantler has just sent through this link to Pat Thomas's phenomenal set, which you can download (legitimately!) from the FMA (Free Music Archive).


    All three numbers are captured expertly in the recording by James Dunn and in the mix by John Chantler – the resonant tones of the piano and the freedom and assurance that this offered to Pat.

    Download and enjoy this absorbing performance!


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