The Kidd Jordan Trio in Amherst, MA
Kidd Jordan, William Parker, Hamid Drake
Magic Triangle Series
Bezanson Recital Hall
UMass Amherst, Amherst, Massachusetts
Febrary 26, 2009
During one of the most tempestuous winters in memory, the twentieth season of the Magic Triangle Series at UMass Amherst began with the highly energetic performance of the Kidd Jordan Trio: Kidd Jordan on tenor, William Parker on upright bass and flute, Hamid Drake on drums, percussion and frame drum.
The producer of the series, Glenn Siegel, announced the players and prepared the audience to expect one set. After rousing applause, the players came to the stage from behind the back wall. A hush blanketed the hall. With his left arm hugging the neck of the bass to steady it, Parker meanwhile applied resin to his bow. Drake settled on his stool in back of his drum set and adjusted his array of drumsticks. Moistening the reed in his mouthpiece by inserting it in his mouth several times, Jordan readied himself to play his glistening silver tenor saxophone.
Soon, Parker was bowing in a slow back and forth motion; Drake used his mallets to expand the timbre of the bass. As Parker deepened the bass tone, Jordan repeated the same mid-range note sharply. The improvisation was beginning. The music was in the hands of three inimitable musicians whose group alliance demonstrated and substantiated the notion of spontaneous improvisation for anyone who might question its occurrence and effect.
As Jordan pressed through, fingering up and down the register of his horn, Drake fell easily into his fluid address of his drum set. Parker dropped his bow into its carryall on the outside of the bass and plowed into pizzicatos. Drake flipped his mallets to their handles and used them to snap the snare and strike upwards on the hi-hats. The dance-like motion of his arms simulated the image of sound waves that resonated from his actions. He moved from snare to tom to snare to cymbal to hi-hat to form a continuous circle. Parker's endless energetic plucking did nothing but ground the three. All of Jordan's fingers wiggled their way up and down the sax, modifying the notes without imposing any indeterminate fluidity.
Jordan repeatedly reset the pitches in the central register of the horn and jousted with stop-and-go blurts to plug into any spaces in the sound that surrounded him. Then as the bass was plucked more rapidly and the drum sticks flew, Jordan charged through to the highest register of the tenor and, just as quickly, dropped immediately down. That deep tone catapulted him to a register leading to a piercing of the air, extremely high pitches alternating with low tones, before he adopted a slower tempo. Throughout the entire climb, Drake played the drums with a constant insistence, his sticks the extensions of the lithe arabesques outlined by the dancer-like movement of his arms. Parker was no less assiduous as he plucked the bass strings.
The sound each musician produced was tightly interconnected with that of the other two. In no better way could this extemporaneous groove, incapable of being represented by conventional notation, have been measured than at the point at which Jordan stepped out of the mix because he had split his reed. Drake and Parker found themselves in a duet. The tide shifted. The pair suddenly was in a more demanding situation; they had lost the third string in their musical fiber.
After Jordan regained sound capability with his horn, the music turned the corner, finding a bluesy minor key. But the incessant tenor progressions continued. The drums and the bass translated the tenor's musical line, and the tenor seized the nature of the drum or bass sounds. At one point the trio found a synchronized pulse. And way down the line, deep into the set, Jordan broke his own rules of staying away from melody by embracing "Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child," along with a little bit of Ray Charles.
But it was within the multiplicity of different sounds that the character of the trio was forged. It was if a gift from an unknown source had been opened, and out of that package radiated a myriad of sounds that were meant for each other's company, an occasion during which an unanticipated blend was borna mixture of dissonance, squealing, thematic riffing, tremolos, fluttering vibratos and arpeggios on the horn, all methods to approach the highest of pitches; of snaps, sharpness, sibilance, muted rattling, softness and faultless polyrhythms from the drums; of the depth of finger-plucked tones, drawn-out two-bow scraping, and split- string bent pitches from the bass.