Sunday, February 5, 2012

Dave Burrell and Han Bennink at Phildelphia Art Alliance


Dave Burrell  “crams a century of jazz history into ... and churning dissonance" writes Francis Davis for Village Voice

Han Bennink. is “impatiently and heedlessly knocking things around”  writes The New York Time

Pete and I saw first duo performance ever by Philadelphian pianist Dave Burrell and Dutch drummer Han Bennink last week (1/30/2012) at the Philadelphia Art Alliance. Great show with two masters in conversation and a full house.  Both had their wives in attendance and very appreciative of audience and said it had the feel of a European crowd where this type of  music gets lots more attention.  It was clear, as the critics say, that they both know how to move throughout jazz genres and history (even in one tune).  Stuff we have seen them do separately before has leaned more towards the free end (and they certainly showed us some at this show).  But their conversations backstage before the show motivated them to play some Duke Ellington and that "of course" (says Burreell) lead them to want to play some Billy Strayhorn (Lush Life).  You can just feel the joy they have playing anything that swings.

Antics:  Bennink busted through his snare drum, rubbed his stick though the hole, spun snare and cymbal like a quarter on the wooden floor, and played sans snare until the head was replaced.  At that point he was already lying on the floor on his back beating out a perfect rhythm on the floorboards.  A young, hairy audience member helped him put the snare back on his kit.  Later, as Bennink was offstage on a break, Burrell started without him into a little rag.  Before entering, Bennnink slammed the door (in time of course) at the back of the room and the audience craned their necks to see what the f^(*.  Last time we saw him with ICP, he opened the show playing a leftover pizza box from backstage. in a duo with Misha Mengelberg on piano.

Lagniappe: awesome video of Han playing the wooden stage in duo with a tap dancer (starting at about 2 minutes in after drum solo)


"two masters in conversation"... that nails it.

Who else would slam a door in rhythm to act as percussion for the start of a song but Bennink?

I made a few notes... these get the caveat that I don't know a thing about music theory or vocabulary, I just know what I feel when I hear it. So, pardon any technical inaccuracies in the narrative...

Opening piece: Burrell original "The Box." Very bluesy. Drum solo by Han early. How in the heck does Burrell move his fingers like that? Long, arching, bent fingers that seem to move in an arc up and down, dancing on the keys but in almost a blur at times. Another example of Burrell's compositions reflecting influences from the history of jazz and blues but still being modern, free-er, his own voice.

Second piece: Another Burrell original? Code Name: Cheap Shot." Han goes nuts, drums on everything. Parts sound like it could be a 20th century classical composition or movie music. Never heard either of these guys do music like this. The Arsnova blogger (Mark Christman" describes it as a "virtuousic whirlwind."

When was it... the first piece? the second? Han has a handful of drum sticks and, while in mid-stream rhythmically, throws them at his drums, sticks bouncing off, clattering on the hardwood floor, rolling everywhere. At the end of the song, a helpful audience member asks another guy in the front to give Han one of his escapee drumsticks. No, man, it's where he wants it!

Third piece: Duke Ellington's "Sophisticated Lady." Watching Burrell's wild chasing fingers running up and down the keyboard, as if the crowd of five on one hand is trying to catch the crowd of five on the other. Beauty at the start and end with a wild fugue by Burrell and a drum solo by Bennink. These guys are both around 70 years old... where the heck do they get their energy and dexterity at that age? Mind blowing.

Fourth: "Lush Life" by Billy Strayhorn. They played this one fairly straight but very expressively.

The closer, for an encore: A.M. Rag. Another Burrell original? A great, short, rag-time-flavored piece. As Tom notes, Han is out of the room as Burrell comes in for the encore, chats to the audience for a bit, introduces and starts the song. Suddenly - slam! A lot of the audience starts looking around, irritated for a second, at this sonic intrusion into the piano's line. But Tom and I look at each other: "Han!" Sure enough, slam, slam, in rhythm, and then in walks Bennink to join in on his drum kit.

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