Polymorph – Terry Day, Veryan Weston, Trevor Watts, Dominic Lash
(Vortex, 24th January 2016. Review by AJ Dehany)
The gig has been listed as “Terry Day’s Polymorph” but the free-improvising drummer and polymath Terry Day tells us that the group should be thought of as Polymorph.
It’s the same group that has been previously listed under all four of the players’ names together, but has (poly)morphed into Polymorph, and here they are. The nomenclature doesn’t seem unimportant. It sounds like a real group with a truly ensemble feel – four voices, one voice. There’s no one leader and few solo moments. They are veteran free improvisers of the second wave who have played with everyone, and as you’d expect of players with their level of experience, they know how to work a dynamic.
Terry Day calls himself “that noisy bastard on the drums”. Typically quite a ‘busy’ drummer, his style is restless even in repose. He explores the kit with a range of unconventional materials and techniques, including chopsticks and red plastic brushes and using a sort of ‘plunging’ technique of rubbing the sticks against the drum skins. Cymbals are positioned at acute angles for extra precision of attack. The pillar in the middle of the Vortex stage has been incorporated into the kit and makes a wonderful ping.
Veryan Weston’s complex chordal voicings and classical colorations are at the heart of why this group has been called “a class act”. They ‘polymorph’ between shades of classical, jazz, and intensely personal expression.
The first set-length improvisation splits into three movements with brief intermezzos — those silent passages where you find that moment in free playing where everything seems to stop and both audience and musicians take stock and gather breath before building it back up again – the eye of the storm.
The second set opens quite abstractly with long bat noises from Trevor Watts on clarinet and harmonics from Dominic Lash’s bass with Weston’s unsettling piano chord clusters, before letting rip. There’s a thrilling episode of clustered sustained dissonance as the sax centres on one note and the piano hugs in around it chromatically with ear-splintering effect. The sound escalates into a shrill cadenza that blows the whole thing apart. Then there’s a collective stop moment which is my favourite bit of the set. No-one is prepared for it, and there’s a shared laugh. Free playing at its best is a meeting of the visceral and controlled, always unexpected, predictably unpredictable. Polymorphously perverse . .
Polymorph is a group, but it’s also hard to forget it’s not ‘the Terry Day Show’ with the film cameras rolling around him, gathering material for the ongoing documentary film that Blanca Regina is making, Unpredictable – A film about Terry Day (LINK). Free scene stalwart Alex Ward is recording the gig. There are at least two bootleggers and two photographers. What we’ve seen of the film so far illustrates Terry Day’s mixture of humourous mischief and ear for intense detail:
“Sorry about the drums. They’re really loud,” Terry explains unnecessarily, then adds mischievously, “It takes a year to tune a drum you know… You may laugh; it’s true!”