Thursday, October 10, 2013

Gray, Ra, Wilkerson

Larry Gray presents Chicago Connection
Larry Gray, bass and cello
Avreeayl Ra, percussion, wind tube, Native
    American flute
Edward Wilkerson, clarinet, alto clarinet, tenor
    saxophone, didgeridoo

Krannert Center for the Performing Arts
University of Illinois, Urbana
October 9, 2013

Elaine and I heard Larry Gray this summer and were happy for the chance to hear him again, this time leading a trio with longtime members of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. The trio played a seven-part suite by Gray (untitled except for one movement, “Memory Mirror Waltz”) and an unrelated (also untitled) piece. The suite’s themes ranged from stately to funky, each giving way to collective and individual improvisation. So many textures in this music: Gray’s doublestops, false harmonics, and thrumming; Ra’s dusted cymbals and pitched drums; Wilkerson’s plaintive clarinet tone and husky tenor. (I thought of the clarinet and tenor of the Ellington orchestra’s Jimmy Hamilton.) The most unexpected texture: cello and didgeridoo supporting the cries and murmurs of a wooden flute.

It was a pleasure to hear this music in a hall with great acoustics. It was also a pleasure to see and hear musicians taking obvious delight in performance: Gray and Wilkerson springing slightly into the air now and then, Ra laughing quietly at the end of one movement. Whitney Balliett famously described jazz as “the sound of surprise.” I love that kind of surprise.

More on the musicians
Larry Gray : Avreeayl Ra : Edward Wilkerson

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