Local improv duo team up with New York free jazz bassist for 75-minute concert jam
As an improvisational duo, Colin Fisher and Brandon Valdivia have been pacing out a new sonic universe and a new sonic history for years. In Not The Wind, Not The Flag (NTWNTF), their flirting with music styles and instruments from around the globe is exceedingly involved in destabilizing the structural compartmentalizing of our lifeworld, consistently blurring the lines between genres as well as geographical and temporal frames with every performance. But on Oct. 8, the pair took things a leap further in an X Avant New Music Festival-curated coupling with New York free jazz double bassist William Parker for a special performance at the Music Gallery.
While NTWNTF has gained a reverent following in the Toronto underground improv community and Parker is a legend to a much larger (if still wittingly esoteric) circle of listeners, some might have suspected this collaboration to play out as a first thought, best thought inflation of the latter’s freestyling. Rather, the collaborators opted for NTWNTF’s working formula, with all three building off of each other in a constant, 75-minute dialectical improv journey.
With the repeated sounding of a gong, Fisher initiated the process as if it were a sacred ritual. Valdivia chimed in on his kit cymbals, and Parker responded with some bent notes on his double bass.
While Parker stuck to his bass for the night, bending notes while walking and sliding up and down its neck and even breaking out his bow for some arco play, the night saw the trio delve into spacey atmospheres, noisy discord, and even virtuoso rock solos as Fisher used whistles, his pedal-jacked guitar, and even a hulusi while Valdivia sat consistently behind his kit.
The climax of the performance saw Fisher pick up his sax as a guitar effect played on into what seemed like infinity. Meanwhile, Parker bowed his bass while Valdivia played a shakahuchi flute. Soon Fisher knelt down to eliminate the effect mid-sax drone. What followed was a sax solo that blossomed into some real cushiony stuff that Parker returned with some pretty bass harmonics.
Wandering off into an overwhelming drone, Parker slapped his strings with some final breath bow strikes and Valdivia spun his sticks in spirals around his drum skins and cymbals. You could tell they were winding down, but it wasn’t any less mesmerizing.
For a second, Valdivia went silent, shaking his head as he watched Parker. He eventually got back into it with his cymbals, but in that brief moment, he mirrored everything the audience had felt the entire set: complete and utter awe.