Jump Up

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Franziska Baumann, Tony Buck and Luc Houtkamp. Photo: Angeline Marmion.

Foundry 616, February 1


While composed music can be playful, entirely improvised music almost inevitably is, with more overt “game” elements sometimes being emphasised or even formalised. From an audience’s standpoint improvisation unfolds in real time as both a process and a finished product simultaneously.

Jump Up was a one-off collaboration between eight improvisers who had never played collectively before. Rather than leaving them entirely to their own devices violinist Jon Rose curated the concert in ways that guaranteed a diversity of musician combinations and dynamics.

The first half consisted of a single 40-minute improvisation in which, with a digital clock as a reference, Rose provided the players with a timeline of who would play with whom when, in combinations from octet to solo, and with occasional dynamic indications. At the kick-off anarchic humour set the tone when pianist Mike Nock’s gentle, almost pastoral introduction was suddenly trampled by a mad cacophony from Rose, Nock, Tony Buck (drums), Clayton Thomas (double bass), Julia Reidy (guitar), Holland’s Luc Houtkamp (tenor saxophone), Switzerland’s Franziska Baumann (vocals) and Norway’s Henrik Norstebo (trombone). Thereafter the various timed combinations threw up many intriguing textures and brought out different aspects of the players’ musical characters, with Baumann’s sensationally imaginative, sophisticated and completely unselfconscious singing a routine delight. The timed format’s drawback was that several times just as some especially interesting music was being developed it was compulsorily curtailed to make way for the next event. A capacity for the players occasionally to override the predetermined system may have been preferable.

For the second set Rose had various sub-groups creating discrete improvisations. A piano/tenor/violin trio seesawed between contrast and convergence, and a solo trombone spot revealed the breadth of Norstebo’s extended techniques, although sometimes extended techniques can become as much an end in themselves in improvised music as conventional virtuosity elsewhere. Particular highlights included a duet between Baumann’s floating notes and Thomas’s harmonics that spiralled into mad freneticism, and a tenor/guitar/drums trio that congregated on extraordinary bell-like sounds.