Improv Is The Word

Evan Lipson plays the violin while Carlos Santiago accompanies on the upright bass.

Jazz is like Democracy, better when it's free. This Bowerbird performance featured improvisational performances by three groups well trained in the art of spontaneous jazz. The night began with a performance by Bring It Inside. This group is a duo at heart, but they adhere to a revolving door policy when it comes to third members. This evening it was guitarist Marc Goodman of Illuminea.

Two opposing drummers, Eli Litwin and Pete Angevine, simultaneously play the same tom pattern. The guitar is run through a series of electronic devices, and generates eerie dark shrills. With the twist of a knob, Goodman bends pitches and makes the instrument shriek and wail. Before long the drums are rumbling. The guitar is screaming, and it's organized chaos on stage. These three musicians create an unsettling cacophony lasting only about 10 minutes before abruptly ending the set.

Paul Flaherty's opening sax lines gave an ominous tone to his performance with long time drummer Randall Colbourne. Their music is about as free as jazz can be, and stripped down to only sax and traps. The drums and sax play off each other nicely providing a sense of order amidst the seemingly random note placement. Colbourne, with eyes closed and head bobbing, is clearly caught up in the moment. It's hard to tell where his volatile drum beat will end up next. Flaherty paces the stage, slapping and running his fingers all over his tenor and alto Saxes. Each song has a clear beginning and ending, but the middle goes into an uncertain place, completely dependent on that moment in time.

My favorite performance of the evening came from Evan Lipson, double bass, and Carlos Santiago on Violin. The performance was much quieter than the previous two. The lack of any percussion allowed the two musicians to really play off of each other. The scratchy sound of Lipson playing below the bridge is matched by Santiago bowing and plucking the violin at the same time. Their music is uncertain as well. The opposing melodies change on a dime. This duo has a gentle approach to free form jazz with an intimate understanding of improvisation and control of their music.