Concert Review: John Zorn’s Game Pieces (9/27/2013)

(See previous post for explanation of why there are no photos or videos in this blog article. Welcome to Wordville, population: 1871. If you find any photos or videos from this show, feel free to link to them in the blog comments!)

Friday night was our third night in a row at the Miller Theatre, and out of the three nights, it was the music I was most excited about: John Zorn’s Game Pieces. I was sadly in a lousy mood going into it, partly because of the e-mail I’d received from them and partly because I wasn’t looking forward to spending another 3-4 hours in such a hot and stuffy room (it had been so bad the night before, people were falling asleep left and right, and my friends had to miss pieces of music to go out and get fresh air). I felt bad for the musicians – you know if it’s hot and stuffy in the audience section, it’s ten times worse on stage since they’re higher up and constantly under all those hot lights.

It is really a shame that there are no videos available of most of these pieces, because some of them I feel are almost pointless to listen to without being able to see them. It is so much easier to understand what’s happening when you can see the musicians and the prompter/conductor/director. It’s also lots and lots of fun to watch these pieces! On this particular night we got an incredible array of pieces, the likes of which has not been seen probably since (more…)

Concert review: Sylvie Courvoisier & Evan Parker (9/20/2013)

The second concert I saw on Friday night after arriving in New York was Sylvie Courvoisier and Evan Parker at the Stone, one of my favorite venues in the city. I absolutely love Ms. Courvoisier’s piano skills, so I nabbed myself my favorite piano-watching seat, in the front row of the rear section. (I would have liked front row of the front section to watch both performers, but I didn’t get there early enough, so I had to settle for the ‘obsessive piano fan’ seat.) As you can see, I had a perfect view of the piano and not so much of the sax:

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The music was (as far as I know) wholly improvised, and for the most part it was quite intense and exciting music (which was a welcome change from the early set I’d seen, which remains as yet unblogged…). Even though it was an acoustic set, there were a few times where I wished I had my earplugs with me.

As you might expect from (more…)

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.