Loren Connors and Alan Licht
(Cafe Oto. 6 May 2023; review and drawings by Geoff Winston)
Fragile, magical, elusive – merest hints to describe avant guitarist Loren Connors’ mesmeric playing at Cafe Oto. Notwithstanding the long-term ravages of Parkinsons disease, Connors, who was helped and guided onto the stage, and wore a sparkling, beaded jacket, maintained a twinkle in his eye and a knowing smile that transferred to two stunning sets at Cafe Oto.
The first was unaccompanied, maybe twenty minutes or so, starting out, unusually for Connors, with tentative strikes on the venue’s grand piano before flipping over to a briefly meditative statement on guitar. The second was with long-term collaborator, guitarist Alan Licht with whom a close and mysterious musical dialogue was woven, as they played with space and dimensionality.
Connors’ fretted playing was abstract, beyond the earthly soundscape, floating, dissolving, chasing sounds, running after notes, keeping them just out of grasp. Soft strums turned corners to find rushing cascades, raw scrapings and scratchings. From low-fi to crushing volume, yet held with shimmering, echoing tones that defied gravity and defined the ethereal core of his vision.
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In duo with Licht a trail was carved with hovering chords, the briefest touches of country and melody, and a sense that both inner and outer spaces were being explored – peaceful, poignant, near and distant, simultaneously. Connors swivelled between keyboard and fretboard and near the set’s climax was playing both at the same time to tread uncompromisingly on materiality.
Remarkable playing, a true out-of-guitar-body experience, music of great beauty against many odds, confounding the predictable.