Friday, 5 March 2010

Tim Berne's Buffalo Collision/TrioVD @ Band on the Wall, Sunday 28th February, 2010

This evening's double-bill exposed an eager Band on the Wall audience to a yin and yang of the jazz avant-garde. The headline act was the American Buffalo Collision, featuring Ethan Iverson (piano) and David King (drums) from the courageous Bad Plus trio, Hank Roberts on cello, led by free-improv legend Tim Berne on the alto sax. Their softness, sensitivity and free-form exploration was the polar opposite to the savage virtuosity of TrioVD, who have emerged from their roots in LIMA (Leeds Improvised Music Association), terrorising jazz fans up and down the country with their remarkable début album, Fill It Up With Ghosts.

TrioVD comprises Chris Sharkey (Acoustic Ladyland) on guitar, Christophe de Bézenac on sax, vocals and effects and Chris Bussey on drums. They're lethal improvisers, yet they've managed to craft a sound which blends tightly-packed composed sections which morph seamlessly into temporary open spaces for schizoid improvised freak-outs. Their sound changes unrelentingly from deranged free-bop into precision prog à la early 70s King Crimson, from industrial grinds to hysterical rantings. Fleeting safe-havens of spacious ambience provide temporary repose before the inevitable free-fall into another demented skirmish. The textures and rhythms never stand still, and the blistering passages of saxophone melody flash by faster than you can think, like listening to Eric Dolphy on fast-forward. 'Only dead fish go with the flow' they chant towards the end of their final blast, neatly summing up TrioVD's irrepressible creativity and spontaneity as a group. See them if you have the chance.

After the break, Tim Berne's laconic introductions establish a more sardonic tone in preparation for Buffalo Collision's musical voyage into the unknown. In contrast to the demonic frenzy of TrioVD, Buffalo Collision's approach felt refreshingly playful, laid-back and sensitive. There were definite musical markers scattered through the set, but the Americans were for the most part playing completely freely. At times the interaction was exquisite, but there were moments when the solos seemed unnecessarily self-indulgent and the ensemble somewhat formless, alienating the audience from the stage. Nevertheless, it was a good antidote to the crazed exuberance of TrioVD, and all in all an intriguing window into the challenging yet rewarding world of experimental jazz.

Words: Owen Hewson

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