Monday, April 21, 2008

Tatsuya Nakatani

When: 4/14/08
Where: Clown Lounge/Lodge/Luge/whatever
Who: Tatsuya Nakatani (percussion), Luke Polipnick (guitar), Chris Bates (bass)

The email invite comes from Chris Bates:

> Please come and check out Tatsuya. He is on a solo performance tour around the US.
> is his website if you want more info.

> but really have I ever led you astray? trust me

> chris

Bates has never once led me astray so off we go to the Luge. It's my first time there, I'm ashamed to admit, and while I'm expecting a tiny, grungy basement jazz room, it's actually more spacious than that, and more comfortable.

Nakatani, who's currently on a six-month solo tour of the US, crossing the country in a van and playing wherever, begins at 11 p.m. with a solo improvisation, bowing a giant gong (one bow, then two), then bringing in the big bass drum like distant thunder.

This is the kind of free jazz that many people would not want to hear. There's no melody, no tune, no discernible rhythm (maybe no rhythm at all). It's pure sound or, if you will, pure noise, cacophony, pandemonium.

I can't begin to describe it in any kind of literal way. But I can try to describe some of the sounds I hear: A chant, a drone, the crying of beasts and the chirping of birds. Banshees and angels. A giant door opening into a vast corridor; footsteps, echoes. (Occasionally Nakatani blows on a cymbal that rests on one of his drum; the cymbal wails.) Windchimes in a heavy rain. Glass breaking, and laughter. A needle stuck on a record. Seals barking. Things falling down and being lifted up again. The sounds a giant ship might make when hitting an iceberg.

For the second set, Polipnick and Bates join Nakatani and they all just start playing. Chris gives us loops and buzzy feedback; Polipnick looks like a stop-motion animation, making a series of jerky moves that generate strange sounds. I don't have the vaguest idea how this happens but at various points they become an ensemble, traveling to similar places and from there to other places. They're not looking at each other, gesturing, or negotiating in any way I can see, but somehow they are together, rising to a fierce crescendo and suddenly pulling back at the same time, and how did that happen? Tornadic winds and traffic jams and it's over.

I wouldn't want a daily diet of free jazz, but sometimes, as tonight, it makes me glad to be alive.

Photos by John Whiting.

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