Wednesday, June 20, 2018

6.18.2018, Deep Ellum

My first visit to Outward Bound Mixtape Sessions -- the Stefan Gonzalez-curated evening of creative music that goes down Mondays at RBC (the acronym stands for "Rhythm Beats Culture," the room formerly known as the Red Blood Club and before that, a friend informs me, a blues joint going back to Blind Lemon Jefferson's day) -- occurred on a particularly auspicious evening. Humanization 4tet -- a transcontinental outfit comprising a Portuguese front line (guitarist Luis Lopes and saxophonist Rodrigo Amado) and a Dallas riddim section (Stefan on drums and his brother Aaron Gonzalez on bass) -- was making their first appearance in seven years to kick off a short US tour that will also include a stop in Fort Worth this Friday, at Lola's with Pinkish Black. Also on the card: Ataraxia, the jazz/world music trio led by Stefan and Aaron's father Dennis Gonzalez; the estimable, peripatetic Japanese percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani; and a new trio teaming bassist Ingebrigt Haker Flaten (The Thing, The Young Mothers) with guitarist Tom Carter and drummer Lisa Cameron.

Ataraxia has evolved a great deal since recording their imposing debut double LP Ts'iibil Chaaltun. The three men are now so deep into the music and each other's heads that from the gate, the body language as bassist Drew Phelps and percussionist Jagath Lakpriya weave their strands of time around Dennis' burnished lines radiates joy and ease. Their short set (plagued by some feedback problems early on) included the Sri Lankan folk melody "Ukusa" sandwiched between two Gonzalez classics: "Namesake" (a highlight of the album and their live shows since their inception) and "Hymn for Julius Hemphill," on which Gonzalez played a flugelhorn that previously belonged to the iconoclastic trumpeter-composer Bill Dixon.

To these feedback-scorched ears, Tatsuya Nakatani took the show. His modus operandi is "sound production by any means necessary." Set up on the floor amid the audience, he started out coaxing a surprising array of sounds from a single gong (on some dates, he directs and performs with ad hoc Nakatani Gong Orchestras) using beaters and bows, the singing harmonics he conjured forming consonances and dissonances, using his kick drum to emphasize lower frequencies and create an aural effect like a summer storm. He moved to a small trap set and an array of small instruments -- cymbals, bowls, beaters and bows -- that he cycled through rapidly, thinking on his feet, always maintaining a constant flow of rhythmic and tonal sounds, in a manner that appeared chaotic but also demonstrated an intimate familiarity with his tools and a hair-trigger musical imagination. Moving back to the gong, he brought the music to a swirling orchestral crescendo that had one misguided listener high-fiving the sound tech, climaxing in a crash that collapsed the instrument's frame, which only made the performance more cathartic.

Humanization 4tet was working through some equipment issues: Saxophonist Amado's horn had required repair of a pad, which necessitated a quick trip up to Denton earlier in the day, and guitarist Lopes was using a teardop-shaped guitar (with a Bigsby!) borrowed from the Gonzalez's after-school music education program La Rondalla due to some issues with his own axe, run through Tom Carter's Ampeg. Amado blows tenor from the bottoms of his feet, like The Thing's Mats Gustafson or The Young Mothers' Jason Jackson. Lopes splinters shards of sound, using only a couple of distortion pedals and a Cry Baby wah, F/X-wise (man after my own heart). Much of the melodic direction seemed to come from the Gonzalez brothers -- Stefan grounding the sound with pure power, Aaron dancing atop his brother's pulse with constant invention. On the final piece, they were joined by dancer Ali Honchell, whose movements fused ballet and modern and brought another dimension to the performance. They'll record live at NOLA's Marigny Studios on June 29.

We had to cut out and head back to Fort Worth before Ingebrigt's new trio started (three old guys who aren't accustomed to being out till 3am anymore), but I hope to catch them on another occasion soon. And will surely be back at RBC for more Outward Bound Mixtape Sessions.


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