Finishing off their second year, Black House Improvisors Collective performed their 7th cycle of original music in a reed heavy line-up Friday night at City Center Square. Staged in an abandoned floor of an office building downtown, the group works with the support of the Charlotte Street’s Urban Culture Project. During each cycle, they rehearse once a week leading up to the performance. Personnel changes subtly from cycle to cycle, based on availability and need. At the end of this performance, a plea was made for more diverse instrumentalists, specifically “buxem, brunette, female trombone players.”
This performance provided more than an aural experience. Uplit by lamps scattered through the musicians and with colored film over the ceiling lights, the scene was eery and mysterious, fitting in well with the distinctive wailing timbres of bass saxophone and theremin. Two of the pieces worked in collaboration with dancers: soloist Maura Michelle Garcia and the 940 Dance Company.
Despite the name, there is far less improvisation, at least in ratio to the set music. Some pieces did allow for more freedom, but these narrowly escaped the realm of “jamming.” The most improvisatory piece, Improv Sliced 4 Ways, performed in conjunction with 940 Dance Company, featured saxophonists Matt Otto and Russel Thorpe, and drummers Matt Leifer and Pat Adams improvising sound and movement along with the dancers who also contributing percussively and vocally.
The final pieces were the strongest and what I’d hear again, given the chance. Russell Thorpe’s Ridiculously Difficult Terrificness and Matt Otto’s Snowfall showcased not only the skill of the musicians, but highlighted their compositional abilities, creating subtly motivated rhythms, interlocking lines and aural landscapes that transcended the notes. Another winner here was Mike Stover’s arrangement of Johnny Hamil’s Pretty Girl in Bad Mood, primarily because of the excellent timbral creation of guitar, saxophone and theremin. It got a little crazy, but it worked.