WSC Day 5 (C’est tout!)

Things are winding down. And it was a nice, fun way to end.  A special thanks to my compatriot, composer/player Glen Gillis, for restoring my faith in the eleventh hour.  I’ll get to that shortly.

At 11:30am I went to German jazz saxophonist Nicole Johanntgen’s presentation.  She has taken a new direction in her playing, going solo and adding an electronics set-up and this was her first formal presentation.  It really intrigued me, since I’m interested in doing so myself (among other things). “Everything worked!” she exclaimed.  And so it did.  It went off without a hitch and she sounded awesome.  I spoke to her afterward, talking shop.  She encouraged us to “network” so I took her up on it.  She gave me her CD, too!  We arranged to meet at another show a couple hours later to chat some more.  We’ll keep in touch and exchange notes on this new area of solo jazz/electronics exploration.

At 1:00pm I went to see a recital by Koplant No, a jazz trio from the USA.  “Genre-defying, cinematic electro jazz” was how they described themselves in the program.  And this pretty much summed it up.  Fantastic stuff!  Extremely groovy – I liked the drummer’s occasional forays into a breakbeat style, for example – and very melodic.  I loved their tunes, actually.  Very smooth and very original.  Lots of interesting textures and contrasts, too.  I hope these young guys stay together and continue producing stuff.

At 2:15pm I went to a presentation by soprano sax soloist Shirley Diamond (from the USA).  I wasn’t blown away by her playing – like I have been with others, repeatedly – but her first piece was interesting enough.  In it she played along to a recorded track of another solo soprano saxophone.  The piece had a very distinct “Middle Eastern” vibe to it (or something like that) – it sounded quite exotic.  I questioned the aesthetic choice of the track since I think the piece could be an acoustic duo (ie. there was nothing especially “electroacoustic” about the track). Her second piece was excellent though.  It was in several movements, which she quickly keyed up at her laptop.  These sounds were very interesting (and also rhythmic! yay!!)  and could only have been produced electronically and/or with a computer.  Also, there was more idiomatic use of the stereo space.  I think Ms. Diamond might have had a problem with her horn, especially evident in the first piece, with some keys leaking or something (judging by a couple tonal issues, when fingerings didn’t speak properly).  She also seemed to be somewhat pissed off or annoyed and this most likely could’ve been as a result of the problem.  (I’d certainly feel that way, too).

At 3:00pm I went to the Spanish Constelacion Quartet playing some Spanish premieres of electroacoustic works.  What can I say but I’ve described this kind of music a bunch of times.  In this case it was interesting enough and the playing superb.  I don’t think the music reached distressingly loud volumes this time – bonus.  But yeah, nothing too profound compositionally-speaking.

Then came Glen Gillis, a professor at the University of Saskatchewan..  This gentleman can wail.  Playing his own compositions, he first presented a piece with piano called Fantasia. It was a very exciting, dynamic and stylistically diverse piece in several connected sections.  The two pieces that followed featured accompaniment by a makeshift didgeridoo (made out of special pipe, the same kind used for home sewer systems).  The second piece, in particular was very interesting, with the cool electronic textures.  What made me the most happiest, all in all, was the Mr. Gillis, throughout the whole show, included all the fancy extended techniques on the horn, but he did so tastefully.  Most importantly, he did not forget how beautiful and how colourful and how dynamic the saxophone is when played melodically (and rhythmic vigour) – ie. when played the usual way.  Gillis played with passion and with sensitivity and showed that you can have intense moments in electroacoustic pieces without forgetting how to compose for the sounds for which the saxophone was built in the first place.  Thank you!

July 14th – Day 6 – is a National Holiday and there isn’t much on the go, although this is the last official day of the Congress.  There’s a General Assembly meeting open to participants, in which they’ll decide where the 2018 Congress is to be held, among other business I have no idea about.  In the evening there is a big concert in one of the town squares, which I’ll probably check it.  Two giants of the pop sax world, John Helliwell (Supertramp) and Simon Willescroft (Duran Duran) will be playing in a band called Sax Assault.

It has all been very inspiring, if sometimes disconcerting.  I would definitely like to attend as many WSC’s as possible from now on.  I really have my work cut out for me as a re-emerging player with lots of techniques I have to master.

But for now I’m just going to enjoy the city and my last couple days in Strasbourg! It has been a very exciting visit!!!

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