Fresh from a brilliant performance with Alex Ward at Boat-Ting, the city’s best rhythm section join Alan Wilkinson for a great night at the Café Oto.
In terms of group dynamics, the players often furiously locked antlers; John Edwards’ (bass) eyes were screwed shut in concentration, finding gaps in the interplay in which to pour bowed arcs of sound. Steve Noble (drums) created a constellation of beats in an impressive feat of plate-spinning that constantly contained the groups’ near-chaos without acting as a brake, a punk intensity aligned with the deep listening and symbiosis of free improv. Alan Wilkinson (saxophones) at times appeared to be an almost Dada-like performer, an anti-art agitator; muting the sound of his instrument with his thigh while creeping around the floor like a crab or making farting and gasping sounds into the bell of the saxophone. Wilkinson’s playing never lacks fire but doesn’t trade musicality for brute force. Recognisably ‘jazz’ sections abounded between the utter tumult he unleashed the rest of the time; his alto full of soul and spiked melodic contours, his baritone playing adding a rasping power and fog-horn honk. Noble and Edwards, as ever, stoked the flames from within a boiler room of rumble and clatter, nuts and bolts straining to contain the pressure.
Highlights included: a second set ear-ripping squeak from Wilkinson that elicited shouts and laughter from a battered audience, and Wilkinson forcing the rest of the group into silence at one point after he blew air through the tubes of the sax like a John Butcher solo without the close micing; he declared Edwards and Noble ‘amateurs’ with ‘no stamina’ for collapsing into silence; Noble replied ‘we may have no stamina Alan, but we have taste.’ The audience cried for more stamina and on they rumbled.
For an evening of ecstatic noise, look no further than this trio. Full of sound and fury, but far from empty.