Permutations

Pilc Moutin Hoenig at Rochester International Jazz Fest

Soccer, like music, is a shared international marvel, a phenomenon. The World Cup puts all the nations though a big funnel. The first round, which ended yesterday, culled the top thirty two teams to sixteen. The mash-ups, Germany vs. Mexico, Senegal v. Colombia, Iceland vs. Croatia were monumental. I was thinking about how the the World Cup is constructed, and the possible permutations that will produce a winner from the last eight matches, as we sat down for Pilc Moutin Hoenig’s set.

Finally. We heard our favorite band of this jazz festival. The band was introduced, the bass player plucked a few notes and the drummer answered with a few strategically placed taps. Were they just checking their levels? No, they were starting a dialog, one that turned into a cat and mouse game before taking on the form of a fully developed piece. But just as we were digesting that development the piano player stood up and walked away. The bass and drums were revealed in a dramatic new light. He sat back down and piece evolved into something else.

Was their set all improvised? Surely they revisit favorite themes. The three were great players but their greatest strength was their arranging. They fearlessly deconstructed their music in the same way they constructed it. The trio was confident enough to explore smaller configurations. Just think of the possible combinations. Piano and bass, bass and drums, bass and piano. Just piano, just bass, just drums. And when it came down to just one instrument wasn’t so much a solo as it was music, played on one instrument. Pilc whistled a tune while accompanying himself with a one note piano repetition. It was brilliant.

They continually let things gracefully fall apart. One of them would duck out of the arrangement and the song immediately took on a new shape. They did this over and over again through the whole night. About thirty minutes into their set they found themselves all playing an ending and they went with it. There was applause. And they went back to work.

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