Intriguing Duos at Douglass Street Music Collective

Musician-run spaces are the places to go if one wants to see the genesis of music and ideas in action and in this regard, Douglass Street Music Collective has been the leader of the pack. This past Thursday, May 16, the venue witnessed three interesting pairings: pianist Kris Davis and percussionist Andrew Drury, tenor saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and guitarist Han-earl Park, and saxophonists Catherine Sikora and Stanley Jason Zappa. All three duos exhibited different approaches and displayed markedly different moods and manners. If Davis and Drury were at all tentative at the outset, such a sentiment did not last long. After a minute or two, the duo was diving and resurfacing, creating whirlwinds of sound around each other. Drury was particularly animated and energetic, not to mention, innovative using all manner of mutes, bows, and other objects to extend the vocabulary of his instruments. Over Drury’s cascades, Davis added the perfect amount of tension, by stepping precisely, if unpredictably, without relinquishing her autonomy. The footsteps she intoned in this topsy-turvy world illustrated the paradox one faces when considering the full range of life’s possibilities from trepidation to adventurous wonder, striking confidently ahead all the while. After more than 30 minutes of the two virtuosic musicians interacting, they mellowed into a moment of reflection, as if to say: where have we been and where are we going? Is there any certainty in knowing? Does it matter? The two maintained a driving, searching tension that did not resolve until the final note.

Laubrock and Park followed with a performance that was no less intense. The saxophonist displayed characteristic versatility with her instrument, while the guitarist played in his unique percussive style. The two had a resonance in their sound immediately, producing a pensive breathiness with foreboding overtones throughout the 40 minute performance. They seemed to cast away vulgar, simplistic attempts at clarity, preferring to open a liminal space between the benign expected and chaotic nothingness: a glimmer of deeper and deeper windows into the unexplained and undefined, all the while delving towards utter truths in their exploration. Laubrock’s percussive intensity that ultimately erupted into brilliant exclamations over Park’s mellower staccato ultimately merged into receding thunder.

Sikora and Zappa played three pieces with different instrumentations. They opened with an intense, intertwined improvisation with two soprano saxes that seemed to build upon the energy of the night. After a short piece, they shifted to two tenors in which Sikora led the exploration, with Zappa dexterously jumping over the hurdles and through the hoops she left behind. The mood shifted from fiery interactions to whimsical turns, thus displaying a great emotional versatility in their playing. They closed with Zappa returning to soprano while Sikora remained on tenor, again with Sikora often leading, while Zappa echoed, countered, and enveloped lines in fierce reflection.

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