Barry Guy New Orchestra & New Orchestra Small Formations - Taktlos, Rote Fabrik, Zurich, 23 May 2014

Second night of the 30th edition of the great Taktlos festival was dedicated entirely to Barry Guy and the members of his New Orchestra.

Trevor Watts bailed out on rather short notice. His replacement, Zurich-based Jürg Wickihalder did a terrific job tonight, playing some "lead alto" stuff several times that would have made the best big band proud!

As for Mats Gustafsson, another charter member of the New Orchestra, seems he opted out long ago, in the printed programme for tonight, sent out at least a month ago, it says Per Texas Johansson was on baritone - as was the case, but alas his baritone was rarely heard, but he played some amazing clarinet!

But from the beginning: hellyeah embrace that music I did and do! Ten years ago, I heard the band do "Oort-Entropy" (a few days before they went into the studio to record) - 50 minutes of extremely dense and intense sounds, most impressive ... in a way that neither the radio broadcast of the very same concert nor the CD could ever be - the physical dimension of it was such an integral part of the whole and is not reproducable on tape.

Tonight, we got the whole BGNO revue (no dwarfs, three-armed guys and bearded women and knife-throwers though ... guess the demons from Saturn last night did that part, and the horrific singer added hers) ... the schedule, roughly:

SET 1:

Paul Lytton (d) & Agustí Fernández (p)

Agustí Fernández (p) & Evan Parker (ss)

Evan Parker (ss) & Hans Koch (bcl)

these three were kinda morphing into each other, the new guy would show up a bit early making it a trio for a few moments ... took them a while to build momentum, but the Parker/Koch duo was great

Celebration - Maya Homburger (v) & Barry Guy (b)

she had sheet music while he was improvising around her parts ... good

Jürg Wickihalder (ss) & Per Texas Johansson (cl)

this was easily the most beautiful part of the first set ... amazing playing by Johansson and more than solid, Lacy-influenced soprano by Wickihalder ... the sonics they created weren't that different from Parker/Koch, but the whole thing felt very different ... more varied yet more rooted, very lyrical yet extremely vivid.

Herb Robertson (t), Johannes Bauer (tb), Per-Ake Holmlander (tuba), Raymond Strid (d)

a study in contrasts regarding the drums ... and actually the only time Strid really laid it on for more than just a few seconds ... but this wasn't exactly ma favourite part, Robertson always must got that loud way eventually, killing all the whimsical stuff he's just done, with mutes and all ... I love when he does that puck-ish stuff, but when he opens up and blows hard, he's like Randy Brecker's weirdo brother, both hide a compressor under their jackets, I'm sure.

Evan Parker (ts), Barry Guy (b), Paul Lytton (d)

WHAM! They got into it as if they just had to pull a switch, very intense from the beginning ... a lengthy set, and pretty effin' great! Evan on tenor ... he's the man! His sound is wonderful, his lines of endless imagination, and his execution is amazing (I guess John Butcher is the other guy I found similarly impressive, all things considered). And hey, they might lack blues, but they swing like hell (that is if you're not as narrow-minded as some of those jazz police f*scists)

This most varied first set was close probably around 75-80 minutes long.


Barry Guy New Orchestra: all of the above, Wickihalder on alto, Parker on soprano and tenor, Johansson on baritone and clarinet, Koch sticking to bass clarinet (he didn't have any other horns with him)

Amphi - feat. Maya Homburger

very interesting music, rather spare, the orchestra actually framing Homburger's violin in varying textures ... I felt it was a bit, subdued though.

Radio Rondo - feat. Agustí Fernádez
(Homburger laying out on this, she's not really a part of the New Orchestra anyway, I understand)

This now, this was IT! da shiznits and all that ... wow! A wall of sound, half an hour or so of most intense music, revolving around the piano part of Fernández, expertly played, Lisztian maybe? Both here and in "Amphi", Wickihalder did an excellent job (he must have had his parts to rehearse a few days in advance, I guess? ... amazing how he pulled it off!) .... and here, the music was really on fire, a physical assault really that went way beyond the ears, it had me literally on the edge of the chair. Yet in all its density, you could detect each and every single voice - surely no small feat on the side of the sound engineers either, but I assume to get there, you need musicians who can pull this off - play like madmen in hell under fire from the red baron, yet still musical to the last fibre.

Great night!


Btw, one result of tonight: I made peace with the "wrong" Bauer, finally ... last time with the New Orchestra, considered him the weakest link (I now think unfairly, maybe), when I saw him with some rough free jazz quartet I thought he was mad and his erratic behaviour put me off ... but tonight, while behaving as odd as always, he played some wonderful stuff - beautiful sound! Not like his brother (whom I've always loved, saw them on stage together once, a great set by Doppelmoppel, so far the best J. Bauer I'd heard) with all that richness, J. Bauer still remains rough by comparison (and rhythmically limited in an odd way, almost as if he's playing some marching band stuff or something), but he had several parts and moments tonight were his tone softened and got a velvety beauty and smoothness at very low volume ... loved that!

Could have done with more Barry Guy bass playing though ... that was the one thing I really missed a bit.

And more Johansson clarinet, just because that guy seems to be amazing on the instrument - anybody knows of any worthwhile recorded examples of that?

PS (May 2016): No matter my sometime difficulty to "get" Johannes Bauer, news of his death struck hard. I have seen him several times, not just with with Doppelmoppel and Barry Guy, but also with Brötzmann's Chicago Tentet and in at least one other group (that I didn't like much).

Zum ersten Abend von Taktlos.14

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