Deep Listening

Stone wall in Chivo restaurant, Knoxville Tennessee.
Stone wall in Chivo restaurant, Knoxville Tennessee.

We weren’t sure what to expect, which is always a good thing. We gathered in an art room at the downtown galley and were told to turn our devices off. They warned us that we could not leave the room for forty five minutes. Bill Frisell was to play a tone and we were told there would be ten minutes of silence after that. Then Bill played his guitar for fifteen (without any boxes) and then there was another ten minutes of silence before Bill struck the final tone. A morning meditation and a perfect start to the day.

We had seen Mary Halvorson on the street but hadn’t heard any of the configurations she was playing in until Columbia Icefield. They were loud and rambunctious. Kristín Anna Valtýsdóttir went for emotion, Icelandic style, accompanying herself on piano. What a contrast, walking into Wadada Leo Smith’s solo trumpet performance. Not just a warm tone but a deep, soulful, bluesy tribute to Monk. 

Over to the Knoxville Art Museum for Nate Wooley, someone who is supposed to make us question our fundamental understanding of what a trumpet sounds like. His opening piece was so quiet I had a hard time chewing my peanut noodle and pickled cabbage dish without making too much noise. Long, meditative notes that got so long they required circular breathing.

Carla Bley played a very pretty set at the Tennessee Theater with her partner, Steve Sallow and a saxophonist. Amirtha Kidambi‘s Elder Ones at the church sounded like a middle eastern Art Bears or maybe Screaming Gypsy Bandits. Jack DeJohnette with Ravi Coltrane and Jimmy Garrison’s son was surprising. Garrison, on six string electric bass, comes across as the lead instrument in this all star trio. And did ourselves in with Abstract Black in the Old City, a solo sax with effects.

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