2010 TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival: Days 1-3
One of the most ambitious projects of the festival was an evening concert collaboration entitled "Fixed, Fragmented & Fluid" featuring English bassist Barry Guy (who has for some time resided in Switzerland) and Quebecois animator Michel Gagné at The Roundhouse performance space. Basically improvised animation with music in real time with an all-star ensemble on hand: Evan Parker (tenor sax), Peter Evans (trumpet), Maya Homburger (violin), Peggy Lee (cello), Paul Plimley (piano) and Lucas Niggli (drums). The animated portion followed a first set mix and match of instrumentation, from two 15-minute performances, the first a string trio piece (Lee, Homburger, Guy), the second a riveting multi-movement spontaneously improvised piano trio performance (Plimley, Guy, Niggli). The horns of Parker and Evans joined Guy for the third and final first set group improvisation, highlighting in particular Guy's very physical approach to his instrument.
The near hour-long second set (almost to the second!) brought Gagne and his laptops and electronics to center stage, set just below the big screen behind him. The opening of escalating images of exploding rocks was awkwardly counterbalanced by Homburger's unaccompanied legato violin with not much if anything in common between visual and audio (perhaps something a bit more on the violent, staccato side may have seemed more appropriate if not obvious). However, once the violin introductory portion came to a conclusion and piano and bass entered, everything suddenly was in sync with both senses realigned: this time exploding circles and zig zag lines matched staccato punctuations. By the time Parker entered on soprano, many images were by then making a reentrance, creating some momentum-killing formulaic visuals on more than several occasions. This element presented an awkward dichotomy with the music pushing forward while the visual component at times became stagnant, one sense falling behind the other.
When everything was in sync, which was a frequent enough occurrence, this unique project proved extraordinary. Swimming dolphin-like lines at one point traveled from left to right complementing string legato exchanges. The images were secondary to the music, however, with most musicians not paying much to any notice of the instantly created video, while this listener (and viewer) focused his energies more on sound than sight. Incidentally, there was at least one subtly placed pre-recorded section by the musicians, which revealed the true potential of this collaborative effort, as black and white figures shaped themselves to each and every sound as well as tone. Here's hoping Gagné's given more time to catch up to the fantastic, detailed layers of such master musicians in this project's follow-up and not necessarily in real time during the performance.