Monday, September 12, 2011
Not to leave out mention of other shows, including a superb duo improv from Keith and Radu, but last evening's solo Rowe performance is, at the moment, blotting out all else.
You knew it had the potential to be exceptional, occurring on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 (and the 38th of 9/11/73 as well) in NYC. One of his prime topics of musical conversation over the previous week had been Dvorak's "Piano Quintet" (a recording with Clifford Curzon at the piano) and he had dropped a hint or two that it might figure in his set. As it happened, that was the "theme", threading its way through the performance, its romantic, evocative melodies beset by all manner of reality-reminders, Rowe-generated and otherwise.
He later explained that the Dvorak, for him, was about memories, specifically cherished memories from long ago, how wonderful things were then. Not hard to make a connection with US self-image vs. the past ten years. The set was as harsh, overall, as anything I've heard from him, in a similar emotional range as the duo with Burkhard Beins (ErstLive 001). He made frequent use of the scrubbing coils on guitar strings as well as his trusty nail file, allowing the Dvorak to filter up (and linger for a good while) before burying it in carnage, back and forth. The other principal element was radio and he managed, in typical fashion, a couple of extraordinarily serendipitous captures, including EMF's "Unbelievable" (the chorus, "You're unbelievable" was almost too apropos!) and a talk radio program during a 9/11 conspiratorial discussion.
Better still...The Stone, as many know, is on the ground floor on the corner of Avenue C and 2nd St and the sounds of the outside world stream into the space with little loss of volume. Not too much of a bother during a standard free jazz squall perhaps but something quieter practitioners need take not of, if only to ignore and subsume into their work. About midway through Keith's set, a voice was heard (female, I'd guess middle-aged, possibly latina, quite likely inebriated) saying, "No! No! No! NO! NO! NO!! NO!" etc. Excellent enough in context, but when Don, who was manning the door, went out to ask her to please be quiet, that there was a performance going on, she exploded, "Fuck you! Fuck your performance! Fuck you!" and continued in that vein for a minute or two. The analogy between this and US attitude toward the world, especially in the last decade, was all too delicious.
The Dvorak continued to do battle with the drones, the violence, the rudeness, the narcissism, the absurd sense of self-worth and obliviousness, eventually fading away.
Just a powerful, deep, harrowing presentation. I trust it will appear on ErstLive one day soon.