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August 26, 2014 12:31 pm
Chris Corsano is a remarkably adept American drummer who zips round his drums with studio-precision timing and an iron sense of purpose. His four-day summer residency in London ranged from intimate duos to a full-on orchestral blast, and in every situation, his powerful, loose-skinned chatter stood out.
Corsano’s credits range from free jazz and alt rock to electronica and contemporary classical; all were referenced in the absorbing, mature and emotionally draining solo performance that capped his opening night on Wednesday. He began by blowing into a gadget of his own invention – it looked like a bedside lamp stand embellished with an indoor TV aerial, and mimicked the metronomic beeps of digital sound. A later piece started with bursts of drum-triggered electronica.
But, for the most part, Corsano switched from rumbling free jazz to brittle modernist march, from softly swished cymbals to roaring press-roll climaxes on an unadorned standard-sized kit. It was a masterclass in spontaneous composition.
The event had begun, without Corsano, with the 18 members of violinist/conductor Ilan Volkov’s string ensemble scattered in pairs throughout the audience. Their sporadic scraping, tapping and slurring conjured the creak of rope and wood on a merchantman or ship of the line – the piece was called “Waves, Shingles and Seagulls”. A second piece droned inoffensively and a screeching free-jazz trio followed – Corsano a model of composure.
The second half opened with house lights down and candles extinguished for the strings’ performance of the Pauline Oliveros composition “Out of the Dark”. The piece slowly cohered from quiet microtonal variations to a confident single pitch. It was pleasant enough, but hardly uplifting, particularly when compared with Corsano’s Friday performance with bassist John Edwards and UK saxophone great Evan Parker.
The trio opened with ominous, strongly bowed bass, pensive tenor sax and skittering drums. Parker conjured melodies out of thin air, blues shouts exploded into flurries of invention, urged on by Edwards’ furious counterpoint and great slabs of sound. The performance developed in waves, concentration never let up and Corsano mirrored each detail. Like Parker and Edwards, he delivers free-jazz intensity with warmth, compassion and control, and it was these attributes that gave his second-set duet with thrash-metal bassist Massimo Pupillo musical substance.
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