Concert Review: Sylvie Courvoisier Trio (The Stone, NYC, 6/8/2013)

I had been vaguely planning to go see John Zorn & co. at Le Poisson Rouge on this particular night, but at the last minute I changed my mind and decided I’d seen enough of him lately and should check out Sylvie Courvoisier‘s trio at the Stone. I absolutely love her piano playing, and I haven’t seen her perform for quite a while. The last time I saw her at the Stone, she played the single most fantastic piano solo I have ever seen in my entire life, so suffice it to say: I am a fan. On this particular night, she was accompanied by Kenny Wollesen on drums and Drew Gress on upright bass.

The Stone is pretty bare-bones as far as venues go, but it’s one of my favorite places in the world to see music. Partly because they attract such uniquely talented performers, and partly because of the purity: no drinks, no bar, no food, no stage. People play music, you get a chair to sit in, end of story. There are few distractions beyond the occasional city sounds from outside. The audience members are there for serious music listening and always show great respect for the performers.

I got the exact seat I wanted for this performance – there are ten or twelve seats located behind the area where the instruments are set up, and they are just behind and to the left of the pianist. I took the middle of the front row of these seats – I sacrificed most of my view of the bass and drums, but in exchange I was able to see every single key she played on the piano, which was wonderful. I took some surreptitious video, as usual:

Sylvie Courvoisier is an unusually creative pianist, using a variety of extended techniques in addition to her intense keyboard skills. For this show, she used duct tape, mallets, and metal spheres on the strings and piano interior to elicit a wide variety of sounds. The duct tape, stuck across a series of strings, changed the sound of those particular piano keys into a sort of wood-block sound. The metal spheres were able to bring out something almost slide-guitar-y. I love seeing these kind of techniques – for me, it takes the instrument to a higher level when I see someone coming up with sounds that I didn’t even know a piano could make. But aside from the extended techniques her more conventional piano techniques are simply spectacular. Veering from absolute delicacy to near-violence in any given piece, the passion and intensity of her playing always leaves me in awe. The whole concert was excellent from the first note to the last – my only regret is that I couldn’t stay for the second set!

Ms. Courvoisier is currently scheduled to play dates in New York and all over Europe (and I even spot a couple of 2014 dates in Australia and New Zealand) – check out her tour schedule here: http://sylviecourvoisier.com/calendar.htm.

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