Monday, May 5, 2008

MJIF 2008: Day Five

Sunday 4 May: Day Five

This year’s festival experience ended with a bang, among other outrageous onomatopoeias, at Cindy Blackman’s concert at the Palms. More like Cindy SmackBAM! The drum tech was on stage about five times in the first few songs reattaching the bass drum to the hardware to which it clung for dear life.

Cindy’s drumming is so damn powerful, she’s like a furious beat machine set to overdrive. Even the ballad-tempo tunes stayed light for only a bar or three before the band’s predilection for busy textures prevailed. Cindy’s bass drum had a real deep tone to it and when she hit it hard it rang out like a timpani. It totally drowned out the double bass but I could see by the side-to-side movement of his dreadlocks that that dude was groovin’ HARD! I was lucky enough to see him play at the jam session later that night, confirming that the aural matches the visual. (More on that and other jams here)

I sat at the back of the room soaking in this immense wall of sound emanating from the stage. Despite being thoroughly over-jazzed, this was actually a pretty nice experience. I’ve definitely been drawn into the Tord Gustavsen Trio philosophy of using less to say more, but I guess that doesn’t mean you can’t use more to say something. Cindy and her band (JD Allen – saxophone; Carlton Holmes – keyboard, piano; George Mitchell – double bass) rocked the eff out, hard and constant, in a way that was certainly very impressive. Not my cup of herbal tea, but definitely a powerful kind of espresso for the ears.

A brisk walk to Bennetts Lane was motivated by fear of the final jam session selling out. Instead I arrived an hour and a half early and sat awkwardly alone at the front of the room for what felt like forever. People eventually filed in and it was a well-attended, musically very exciting finale. You can click here to read a post on the jam session series as a whole.

The night wound up around 4am with goodbyes to new friends and farewells to the festival vibe. I slept the deep sleep of musical saturation and awoke on Monday looking at Melbourne with fresh eyes. This is truly a wonderful place to spend time and I wish I had more days and nights here roaming the alleys.

There was so much music that I didn’t see this year. Ultimately, I think this allowed me to absorb more directly and wholly the experiences of the gigs I did see. Improvised music often provides so much information to the ears, elusively framed within the ever-moving window of the present instant. It’s really helpful to space these experiences out a bit and let the mind rediscover its thirst.

Go out and see live jazz. Believe me, there’s nothing quite like trying to write about music to make you realise how far short of the thing words almost always fall. It’s been an incredibly inspiring journey being here this year, exposing my ears to so much music and meeting so many wonderful people. I can recommend nothing more highly than putting yourself in this situation as often as possible.