Flandrew Fleisenberg solo, Forbes Graham quartet – Salon 234, Cambridge – August 15

Flandrew

Flandrew Fleisenberg

Flandrew gets a zen, meditative sound out of a stick and an improvised, metal cymbal – some stand base, it looks like, turned upside down. He has been getting sounds like this, out of pots and pans, and even windows, for the past ten years or so since he lived in Boston, before he moved to Philadelphia. Now it’s a soup tureen, with water in it. And some kind of thick, blue metal coil, on top of a tom, from which he gets rolls and crashes. And wacky cartoon noises. He places objects on a snare, and strikes mellifluous sounds out of bells.

His performance has the haunting feel of a medieval cathedral village, the quaint streets with clopping horses. Slowly he works in his signature funk and quirkiness, the arch gesticulations, the vocal ejaculations. The Doppler effect of rhythm and rattling coming in and out of focus. He shakes around a gelatin bowl with balls in it.

The sections of his show dance and flip back on each other, the jerkiness of the ride become a symphony of syncopation. He alternately weirds you out, and gives you a spiritual experience.

Salon quartet

Quartet (Josh Jefferson, Eric Zinman, Forbes Graham, John Voigt)

Forbes Graham has a way of taking the lead in ensembles, by wrapping his trumpet around the other players. His compositions are graphic, or conceptual. Josh Jefferson plays alto sax. He jars and spars with Forbes, as Eric Zinman and John Voigt hasten and chasten, respectively, the flow, on drums and bass.

A little into the performance, Forbes and Eric start to duet, into which Josh charges with curved soprano, John eking long, bending, metallic sounds out of the bass. The piece is brief, with the momentum of the inertia carrying on into the silence after.

“Moroccan Sufi music…” as the next piece is described, Forbes getting a desert sound out of his mute. Voigt’s bass has a barely constrained undertow to it, a heavy tone that just whispers to the surface.

Eric starts with a triangle next, the piece with the probing, interrogative feel of abstract jazz. Forbes’ notes are liquid and mellifluous, drawn out like silk, with butterfly flutters. He starts a melodic solo, with the feel of Art Farmer. John resolves the brightness with dark strokes.

The next piece has a noise/sound art feel, as if played on electronics. The players go each in his own direction, on paths which somehow crisscross as they extend down the line. The group has this ability to travel on journeys of fancy, but somehow find its way home.

Zinman moves to piano for the final numbers, which are sharp, and vibrate with pleasure. Josh plays two saxes at once. Voigt plays a walking bass line, giving a bluesy swing to Forbes’ funky catcalls, which develop into something more complex. This stuff brings us back to the late ’50s onset of modern jazz. This is another thing the group does, jockey through the eras of free improv history, somehow landing here and there without getting stuck.

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