After having hung out with the Instant Composer’s Pool for a week in Banff it was illuminating to watch another small big band operate. ICP let me join them for a couple of sets and I started to be able to crack the code of continuity and change in their music. Just started. Not that it makes any sense. But it works!
Guillermo’s group, on the other hand, I could only watch from the edge of the stage. It’s pretty eerie seeing Miguel Zenon play the whole book from memory, eyes closed… I hope you have all heard this music already. There is a joyful freedom in this music — players express the parts with a lot of personality and distinctiveness. And yet it is not soloistic music, everyone works together and breathes together. The music expands and contracts and it often seems as though the small details in people’s parts are unimportant. But the small details are in fact the whole music and make it what it is. Within this intricate flow there’s quite a bit of room for fun — the rhythm can be seriously complex, but the players never have on handcuffs. Instead, they revel in the quirky details of Guillermo’s music. Or, in one instance, the music of Olivier Messiaen in an excerpt from the Quartet for the End of Time, featuring Bill McHenry‘s soprano saxophone. Once again, it only sounded more like this band. Cohesiveness was one of the most astounding features of the performance.
What best expressed this: When Guillermo wanted to change a vamp or move on from it he only cued the bass player. Everyone else had the ears and the lungs to feel it was time to go. Nice.