Thursday, May 6, 2021

Evangelista’s Improv Series: Second Installment

Some readers may recall the account of the launch of Unsolitary this past November. Avant-garde guitarist Karl Evangelista planned this as a quarterly series of improvised music, but the second installment did not take place until last night. As was the case with the first installment, Unsolitary II consisted of three pre-recorded sets live-streamed through YouTube and now with a Web page that is available for viewing at any time. As the was case with the first installment, the overall duration was about 80 minutes.

This time the three sets were ordered to begin with a solo, followed by a duo, and concluding with a trio. However, each set had its own characteristic style and approach to improvisation. Kim Nucci opened the program, presiding over an intimidatingly complex array of analog synthesis gear configured by a rat’s net of connecting cables:

Kim Nucci’s analog synthesis improvisation (screen shot from the video being discussed)

Presumably, the configuration was her own design, assembled from her own selection of components. These included oscillators, control modules for characteristics such as filters and amplitude envelopes, and an array of knobs and sliders to “control the controls.” As can be seen in the above photograph, Nucci wore headphones throughout the performance; and I suspect the audio track of the video was taken from that same source. (No loudspeakers were involved in the making of this music.) The set lasted for a little less than twenty minutes, amounting to Nucci’s “journey of control” through the diverse sonorities afforded by her gear.

The second set brought alto saxophonist Lewis Jordan together with Evangelista playing guitar with electronic enhancements. This was a performance of freely improvised jazz, occupied more with give-and-take between the two musicians than with riffs on familiar tunes. Both of these musicians established and maintained attention through the clarity of execution. The overall structure (such as it was) combined solo riffs, give-and-take exchanges, and superposition of “independent excursions” by the two performers. This also went on for about twenty minutes, during which there was never a dull moment.

The remaining 40 minutes of the program were taken by the Nathan Clevenger Trio, led by Clevenger, who alternated between a piano, which seemed to have been endowed with some internal preparations, and a guitar. Cory Wright alternated among clarinet, bass clarinet, and tenor saxophone; and Jordan Glenn sat behind his drum kit. Personally, I felt that the level of interpersonal engagement was far less than had been established between Jordan and Evangelista.

Also, I noticed that all the performers had music stands. This left me wondering about the relationship between notation and improvisation in this trio set. Nevertheless, that wondering did not carry me very far. On the whole, there was a sense of sameness across the four selections performed by the trio, the only real diversity coming from the variety of sonorities across Wright’s different wind instruments.

That said, there was still more than enough in-the-moment music-making to appeal to the interests of the adventurous listener.