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Yoshis, Oakland

October 28, 2012

After thinking that the only way I’d ever see Tyshawn was if I headed to NY, this, amazingly, is the 4th time I’ve seen him this year. Never thought that possible. And in a variety of setups too. Saw Roscoe and Tyshawn earlier this year in the 2nd set of Tyshawn’s house concert – and I’m fairly sure that was the 1st time they ever even met since before the set they were introducing each other to each other (I don’t think that’s how that should be worded) and afterwards, patting each other on the back. Apparently they liked each other enough since only a few months down the line, they’re here again. And, to boot, it’s the 3rd time seeing Roscoe this year (he also had a Yoshis gig a couple of months back). Plus, this was like a throw back to the glory days of the once great Yoshis – an amazing club that barely even shows jazz anymore (a trend that pisses me off to no end) – but every once in a while, there is something right with the world.

Never seen Ragin before, or heard him in such a free setting, but he sounded great. Right from the start too – he opened with a nice rich tone and some nice quiet playing – it faltered a bit into breathy free non-notes for stretches, still good but without the nice bluesy edge to his tone when he blows full. This was the last in a 4 nights-in-a-row string of shows – Ron Carter at Yoshis on Thursday, random Broken Shadows drop in at Awaken Café on Friday, Tamarindo last night and then this. As Keith Cuderback said (at the shows the last 2 nights) “probably the most intense, out back to backs I’ve ever done” – and it’s true – not often does one get consecutive nights of intense way-out free jazz, not to mention the chance to see William Parker and Tyshawn Sorey back to back (can they play together someday . . . please?).

“Tonight’s performance is dedicated to Malachi Favors and Lester Bowie”-announced Roscoe at the start. There was a death-clown on stage too, rummaging, for like 45 minutes. No clue what he was there for – he did nothing (except plug in a blinking light).  This was a completely free slab of music – like 1 ½ hours nonstop, just invention. And it was basically ‘music without notes.’ RM played a lot of percussion (there was a huge cage of small perc stuff for him to play around in). Tyshawn played a lot of piano – which I was happy to see – I heard he was a good piano player, but never heard him play it – he has chops, and approaches it with the same driven intensity and lunatic ideas (for long stretches of times, he threw and flapped towels, played his shirt sleeves, blew into the bottom of his snare, slapped around a loose snare string, he even punched his cymbal so hard he knocked it right off the stand).

The music was quite varied dynamically, and had long stretches of near silence and just bells, or whistles, or Tyshawn tossing towels – but it was all fun and certainly unique. The high points for me where basically anytime Roscoe stuck the bass sax or the soprano in his mouth – the bass an amazing deep, Yoshis-rumbling sound, played at times in 10 minute circular breathing fits, and his soprano screeching in long circular lines. Tyshawn had 2 or 3 complete hurricanes on the drums, amazingly doing this one hand roll on the snare so fast you wouldn’t believe it. His psycho drumming was amazing. Another high point was a beautiful somber and dark, very slow 2 chord (strange chord too) figure that Tyshawn played on the piano while Roscoe built his circular bass sax lines into a long building vamp – TS slowly built the piano intensity, then reached over with his mallet and started playing the drums while still perfectly playing the low chords. Very cool (and funny – the man’s insane). Overall, it was a long, sometimes boring, sometimes silent, weird as hell and downright awesome chunk of music that could never be played again.

ROSCOE MITCHELL – soprano sax, bass sax, tenor sax, flute, PVC sax-thing, percussion

HUGH RAGIN – trumpet, French horn, pocket trumpet

TYSHAWN SOREY – drums, piano