For music, a deluge of fall performances begins

The classic summer schedule tends to be light even under normal circumstances – so during a persistent pandemic it can seem almost nonex...


The classic summer schedule tends to be light even under normal circumstances – so during a persistent pandemic it can seem almost nonexistent.

But now comes the Flood, the Delta variant be damned. Over the past few days, New York audiences have had the chance to witness live sets from two well-known groups presenting a new repertoire. And these sets had ties to even more worthy sets that were debuting with new material.

On Saturday, the Attacca Quartet performed a heavily amplified but lovingly textured program for hundreds of people in Prospect Park, as part of the Celebrate Brooklyn Festival. (Pop group San Fermin was headlining the night.) In a half-hour sprint that managed not to feel rushed, the group performed clips of their July debut on the label. Sony Classical: dance music imbued with (but somehow not schticky) “Real Life.”

Joined for some selections by percussionist Shayna Dunkelman, Attacca performed propulsive arrangements of the music of Flying Lotus and an excerpt from Philip Glass’s String Quartet No.3 – featured on the group’s upcoming Sony album, released in November. The ensemble was balanced by tender movements from Caroline Shaw’s “Plan and Elevation”, which the quartet recorded for the Nonesuch and New Amsterdam labels. in 2019.

Sunday evening was the New York premiere of the composer and multi-instrumentalist Tyshawn Sorey’s “For George Lewis,” performed by Alarm Will Sound on the final night of this year’s Time Spans festival, at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music in Manhattan. The group’s recording of the work was released almost simultaneously on the Cantaloup label, so “For George Lewis” did not only fit in as a highlight of the shows I had in the last week of Time Spans, but also of the year in the albums.

The play is self-contained, but here’s a bit of context. When Lewis, a composer, improviser and scholar, released the electroacoustic “Homage to Charles Parker” in 1979, his homage wasted no time imitating Parker’s lively sound. With Lewis playing trombone, organ and electronics, his austere then emotional work succeeded in honoring his dedicatee by generating new stylistic possibilities within an existing tradition – just as Parker had done.

Now Sorey, long mentored by Lewis, has echoed the favor. Constructed largely from slowly but steadily alternating basins of close-harmony dissonance, “For George Lewis” is not immediately reminiscent of the recent twisted and rowdy music for orchestra and chamber ensembles. And while its general arc gradually shifts from grain to melodic bloom, Sorey’s aesthetic also remains distinct from Lewis Parker’s homage.

Instead, as “Homage to Charles Parker” was true for Lewis, so “For George Lewis” is true for Sorey. The fully rated piece has strong ties to the music Sorey composed for his own improv trio, on albums like “Alloy”. The opening minute and change of “For George Lewis” are dominated by sustained flute tones and brooding piano figures evoking a dark ritual. But the subtle addition of a pair of vibraphonists quickly banishes any feeling of autopilot. The almost (but not quite) synchronous hits of each mallet-wielding player give the still-quiet dynamics a crucial advantage.

These are the kinds of details that make “For George Lewis” feel urgent during its nearly hour-long span. On Saturday, in the intimate room of the DiMenna Center, I savored the obviousness of Sorey’s Catholic tastes. The violins with their prickly vibrations were reminiscent of early pioneers of minimalism like Tony Conrad; the sometimes plunging complexity in the woods had the dramatic verve of Stockhausen later; towards the end, lines for a mellow fluegelhorn recalled the Miles Davis from “Miles Ahead”. But the rhythm – and the attention to mixing timbre – was pure Sorey.

The rest of the new Alarm Will Sound album is no less striking. A second disc is devoted to the pieces “Autoschediasmes” by Sorey. Inspired by the System of “conduction” developed (and deposited) by Butch Morris and the “Language music” of Anthony braxton, these improvisational pieces, conducted by Sorey as conductor, need the right performers. And Alarm Will Sound became, to my ear, one of his greatest partners for such exercises – whether live or via video conferencing software.

“Autoschediasms” wasn’t the only reminder of Butch Morris’ influence over the weekend. Before the Attacca Quartet set, I saw the veteran band of avant-rock, funk and jazz Burnt sugar Arkestra’s room perform twice at the Brooklyn Museum, as part of the opening celebration of the traveling exhibition of the official portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama.

A group of 15 instrumentalists and singers were led by the group’s co-founder and conductor, Greg Tate, the pioneer cultural critic who cites Morris’ “Conduction” style as the glue that holds Bunt Sugar’s post-all aesthetic together. Aspects of Sun Ra and Funkadelic have blended in every moment, with Tate using Morris-inspired gestures to cause sudden deviations from the band’s recorded versions. In the final minutes of “Angels Over Oakanda,” the title track for the group’s September 23 release, Tate accelerated the already passionate performance into a new realm of fervent frenzy.

Veterans of the Time Spans festival and former Burnt Sugar bands appeared together on another album released this weekend.

Wet Ink Ensemble cellist Mariel Roberts (who premiered a new room at Time Spans) and the old Burnt Sugar violinist Mazz Swift each contributed solid solo features to songwriter and saxophonist Caroline Davis’ moving new album “Portals Vol. 1: Mourning”, published by Sunnyside imprint.

Roberts’ scruffy then lyrical cello can be heard on “Multiple stops,” while Swift’s improvised contributions help start the track “Left.” But as with Sorey and Burnt Sugar, improvisation is only part of the draw. The rest comes from Davis’ art of flexible composition – who mixes muscular dexterity with emotional vulnerability in a way that is rare in both contemporary chamber music and improvised scenes.

A version of the band heard on “Portals” – which features a string quartet and Davis’ regular improv quintet – will appear at the Jazz Gallery on September 10. But even for those who are not yet comfortable attending concerts, the album version is one sign among many that listening at home, too, is gaining energy with the arrival of autumn. .

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Newsrust - US Top News: For music, a deluge of fall performances begins
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