Amsterdam, The Netherlands 

19 December 2001 - Zaal Belgie, Hasselt
by Bas Ickenroth

For the second time this year, Zaal Belgie in Hasselt, Belgium, provided us with an evening of the most experimental form of jazz. Last April the Collective Trio (featuring Susie Ibarra) and a duo consisting of Sunny Murray and Arthur Doyle played some incredibly expressive pieces, only to leave the audience in complete and utter admiration. As you can imagine, I was delighted to hear that Sunny Murray would perform once again, this time in a trio with Alan Silva and Bobby Few. Apart from that group, the evening would consist of theAlexi Tuomarila Quartet and the showing of the Alan Roth documentary 'Inside Out In The Open - An expressionist journey into the world of free jazz'. The Alexi Tuomarila Quartet started of the evening. It's a very young ensemble, and it was obvious they were a tad bit nervous. Of course this can be expected when you have to perform before such names as Alan Silva, who played free jazz way before even all members of the quartet were born. It started with some atmospheric freeform expressions, which were quite beautiful. But, unexpectedly, the rest of the concert was far more traditional than the openings minutes would have made you think. Luckily, their presentation of fairly traditional jazz had some minimal music influences, with piano patterns Steve Reich would be proud of. It made their music quite interesting, and the audience became more and more devoted during the last 30 minutes of their gig. All four were great instrumentalists, but especially the drummer was exceptional, which he showed beautifully in the more free parts.

After this performance, it was time to go to the next room, where the showing of the free jazz documentary 'Inside Out In The Open' would take place. The maker of the documentary, Alan Roth, was present himself, and he gave us some explanations about the "how" and "why" of the documentary. Fact is that free jazz has been given as good no publicity at all in the last thirty years. In most of the cinematic productions about jazz, the emphasis lies only on bebop, modal or fusion, but free jazz has always been the black sheep the family never wanted to tell you about. Alan Roth did not agree with this, and therefore he made this beautiful 60-minutes lasting documentary.

During this period many free jazz artists tell about the reasons for and feelings while making this kind of music. Names like John Tchicai, Susie Ibarra, Matthew Shipp and the later this evening performing Alan Silva tell about their backgrounds, how they came in contact with this music, and why it means so much to them. Their stories are passionate, and the way it has been put to tape displays a great deal of respect and love for both the people and their music. Alan Roth gives free jazz the stage it has deserved for a long time. 'Inside Out In The Open' is a fantastic documentary about some of the most difficult, but also some of the most fascinating music of all time. Not only is it a great start for anyone who wants to know the origin and backgrounds of free jazz, it is also obligatory stuff for all the free jazz aficionados.

The dessert of the evening was the performance of three genuine legends of free jazz: Sunny Murray on drums, Alan Silva on bass, and Bobby Few on piano. A very promising line-up indeed. Unfortunately, a great deception is what followed. Bobby Few and Alan Silva begun with some beautiful improvisations on bass and piano, complementing each other's playing. From the moment on Sunny Murray fell in with his drums, all was lost. This sounds dramatic, but that feeling never left my gut for the entire performance. Totally unlike his playing in April with Arthur Doyle, Sunny Murray played chaotically, didn't listen to his fellow musicians, and played terribly unsubtle. As if his technique was temporarily lost, he hit drums and cymbals with almost uncontrolled movements. He also hit his instruments hard, making the efforts of both Alan Silva and Bobby Few virtually inaudible. Very unwelcome after the lovely starter and delicious main course. After about 40 minutes I had enough of it, and decided that Sunny Murray had had a very bad evening. It didn't make the disappointment less.

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