If you take the most spontaneous sounding jazz, and add the tiniest bit of structure, you have the Avant Garde style. While the notes don't necessarily follow any key signature or adhere to any steady time, each piece has its own pattern and unique structure. It's jazz for the moment, delivered as an artistic experience. This evening at Gojjo, three performances bridge the gap between free and formed jazz music.
The first set came from solo drummer Dan Pell. From behind a junior sized kit, he channeled pure emotion through music. A simple pattern of gentle soft mallet tom hits establishes the beginning of the piece. The notes are soft, but the longer it goes on for, the more the tension builds. Pell finishes the piece in a different way. He crescendos into a frenzied beat utilizing everything on his tiny drum set. His body movement matches the intensity of his playing.
The best part of his performance came at the end. He stood up, and brought his floor tom into the aisle between the bar and the seats. He accents a fast pattern using only brushes. Then he's working in syncopated hits on the legs of a chair. The drumming stops. Pell begins walking through the tiny bar, hitting anything from pint glasses to the bar itself. I stood there wondering if my pint of black and tan would become part of the experience. It didn't.
After a set change, a group of four musicians calling themselves Moon Country began their performance. The band is Ian Hooper, Pat Lamborn, Chris Coyle and John Coyle. Their blend includes more of a fusion element. The songs range from loud to ambient. At times they have very structured melodies. The largely unrefined nature of their music leaves room for much experimentation. All the members take turns playing different instruments and toys.
The most dramatic moment came when Lamborn began beating a bent cymbal placed on top of a metal traffic sign. The little musical value of this move, paled in comparison to the artistic value of watching someone beat a lanes condensing sign on the floor of the bar. Many parts of their set became obnoxiously loud, and the doorman yelled at them to keep it down.
The night closes with Joe Moffett and Bird Fly Yellow. Bird Fly Yellow this night is Dan Blacksberg, trombone, Dave Flaherty, drums, Bridget Kearney, upright bass and Moffett on trumpet. The two previous performances fell closer to the free side of jazz, but this band finds the true balance needed to be considered Avant Garde. The notation is seemingly random, but after a while the structure of each song becomes clear. Their sound is much more jazz influenced. Flaherty uses a lot of swing patterns, giving each tune a more traditional feel. Kearney's bass line matches the spontaneity of the drumming, and she adheres to a more traditional style as well.
Moffett and Blacksberg are the leads in this group. At times their melodies match up. The song "Very Porcupine" opens with staccato hits from both trumpet and trombone. Both musicians fall into an opposing melody before returning to the same staccato runs the song opened with. When the song begins, the opening lines don't make any sense, but by the end of the song, each segment of the piece is defined. Only then is it possible to see the true structure of this style of music.