Silke Eberhard and Friends

Foundry 616, November 17


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Silke Eberhard sacrifices her body to keep her alto. Photo supplied.

Too many international musicians come to work with local players of comparable artistic stature, and never think to invite those locals to contribute their own compositions to the project. By contrast the German alto saxophonist Silke Eberhard brought a refreshingly inclusive mentality to bear, her own works happily cohabiting with those of two of her collaborators, Sandy Evans and Andrea Keller.

Whether it’s generosity of spirit or mere politeness, why does it matter? Because a hierarchical relationship being implicit in the project can distort the improvisational interaction. Conversely here you could feel the collegiality colouring and energising the music.

Berlin-based, Eberhard involves herself in a wide range of projects, dovetailing composition-based music with free improvisation. The common thread emerging on this night was an almost mischievous impishness about her composing and playing. Just the title of the opening Max Bialystock was worth a smile before the piece’s blithe, mid-tempo swing unfurled; before her alto, jolting and shuddering against the pulse, began leaping and plunging between intervals like it was on a ladder with half the rungs missing. Yet Evans’s ensuing tenor solo was actually more gripping, primarily because she simply generated a warmer, more engaging and more compelling sound.

Eberhard’s 011 was a fascinating piece evoking ghostly cries and whispers, from which a groove emerged like focus being pulled on a camera shot, only to dissolve again. For her own Lake Yarunga Evans turned to soprano, blending voice-like lines with that most potent of emotional qualities: vulnerability. Eberhard found the piece equally fertile, responding with an exploration of extremes of register bonded by genial and delightfully fuzzy long notes.

Keller contributed the most mysterious piece in Moments in Parallel, while the zaniness returned with Evans’s One for Harry and Eberhard’s Ping Pong. Through it all bassist Steve Elphick and drummer James Waples buttressed the music with a weight of conviction when required, exploded the sonic palette, or retreated to near-anonymity when Eberhard was performing one of her light, skittering alto dances.