Posted on Nov 17th 2010 12:44 am
The London Jazz Festival programme is known to regularly extend well beyond the realm of jazz, a genre itself subject to wide open interpretation. For its 2010 edition, the festival organisers have invited Mexican electronic artist Murcof to perform at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, on the South Bank, two years on from his LJF debut in the Purcell Room next door, where he performed with Spanish ensemble BCN216.
For this evening’s performance, Murcof rekindled his long-running partnership with Francesco Tristano, began a few years ago when Fernando Corona produced Tristano’s debut solo record, Not For Piano, released in 2007, and which consequently developed into a full live collaboration. Both have been treading the boundaries of classical and electronica for some time. Corona has progressively moved from entirely sample-based work on his early records to more organic forms, albeit still relying on samples, but this time of instruments, allowing here greater control in his overall sound. Tristano has him made the inverse journey almost, starting as a classical pianist before moving into more experimental and electronic territories.
The pair kicked off their set with a very atmospheric improvisation, Tristano throwing fragments of melody and chords, rare at first, then increasing in frequency, Murcof processing them on the fly, dropping delayed and echoed notes over a loose windswept soundscape. As the piece gained momentum and clearer themed appeared, it was at times as if Tristano was controlling Corona’s machines from his side of the stage, his melodies being echoed on Corona’s side. Early on, Corona appeared to settle for a rhythmic pattern built from a single looped piano note, but this vanished as swiftly as it had appeared, leaving only the vaporous sonic layer at the back to support Tristano’s angular effort. It took some time for the pace to finally pick up, but when it did, it did so very elegantly, as a very linear techno groove progressively pulled over dense processed piano textures. Alternating between straight playing and more unconventional use of a piano, plucking strings straight into the instrument’s body or using the wood structure as percussive element, Tristano was then building on Corona’s groove as things began to take a more cosmic aspect, but not quite in the way Murcof had developed on Cosmos. While Tristano continued to build up arpeggios, brittle melodic structures and rhythmic patterns, Corona was either echoing Tristano’s performance or adorning it with quirky electronics, reminiscent in part of early Tangerine Dream electronic exploration, his usual classical brushes here totally non-existent, leaving that particularly perspective entirely to Tristano.
The second, shorter, piece relied much more heavily on Murcof, the man laying down a heart pulse over a diaphanous soundscape right from the start, while Tristano, totally motionless at first, began to weave a stellar melody over Corona’s consistently throbbing backdrop. Taking once again the lead for the third of the pair’s collaborations, using both the keyboard and frame of his instrument, Tristano veered closer to minimal techno structures by applying just a few notes in any given timeframe, repeating them again and again. Adding another set of complex rhythmic patterns, Corona eventually set the piece in motion, triggering increasingly hypnotic piano riffs, until they found themselves locked in a relentless groove. The beat dropped for a moment, bringing the focus back almost entirely on Tristano, yet this was only to be a temporary remission. As Murcof set his rhythmic patterns into place again, the piece, and the night, reached it climax. All was left for the pair was to bring it all to a complete stop, but this took another few minutes of fading arpeggios and beats reluctantly pulling away.
Both Corona and Tristano seemed to struggle a tad to get their set fully in motion at first, their initial ambient exploration failing to fully make a mark, but once they found an angle, everything fell into place and they appeared more confident and relaxed with their performance, which in turned impacted very positively on the fluidity of the music, eventually making it a very memorable evening.