20090815

Aug 6: Wong/Nishi/Lee, Greenlief/Boyce

A last-minute SMS informed me of Theresa Wong, Kanoko Nishi, and Dohee Lee performing at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts last Thursday, August 6. Not publicized through the usual channels, but I was about to leave the house anyway, so I merely changed my destination, and arrived just as the trio was starting. The room, Gallery 1, was quite large, perhaps a perfect 40' cube, but I'm a terrible estimator of size. An enormous full-wall multimedia work adorned each side wall. On the right, a wall of canvas sheets with variously shaped cut-outs and black smudges. On the left, multicolored rivers meandering around the wall and dripping down, frozen in time, flowing through 100 white flags protruding, and mystical metallic symbols (pentagram, swastika, star of David). I first heard insane screaming and whooping while the ticket seller entered all my vital information into her computer, and of course that meant the music had started. The set continued to be very heavy on beautiful vocals from Wong and Lee. Chattery and silly, legato and emotional. The two have a very similar vocal timbre, and their sonorities blended quite well. Nishi, as expected, was unleashing mayhem on her koto, sawing and smashing to typically great effect. But not all loud and physical; a koto solo midway through the set was the quietest and most delicate part of the performance. Wong seamlessly joined in with tasteful cello glissandi, with control exemplary of her playing. Lee had a set of Korean drums with cymbals, bamboo sticks, and many gongs that didn't get used. She exercised much restraint in her percussion playing, always waiting for the most appropriate moment to punctuate the music with her sound. An orchestral style tied to her use of traditional playing techniques and limited timbres. A very nice set from a very nice trio.

I stopped by CELLspace to see some very nice neon Kandinsky paintings by Michelle Guintu. German Expressionism reinterpreted by 21st century San Francisco. Highlight of the show, with honorable mention going out to a 6-piece series of Skoda photos.

Then to the Luggage Store Gallery just in time to hear Phillip Greenlief and David Boyce's tenor sax duo. Their rich sounds filled the room, a perfect space for such a duo. And a like-instrument duo is an ideal group for a saxophone to my ears. The best way for a saxophone to unapologetically exist as saxophone, something a bit harder to do in the Bay Area's heavily textural free improv scene. Greenlief and Boyce were perfectly, mind-bogglingly synced up harmonically and rhythmically. It sounded like they were intermittently referencing tunes and structures in their collective vocabulary, but perhaps they just have an amazing sense for playing together. I think I heard some Sun Ra underlying their encore, but Greenlief chose not to sync up too directly. This was a great setting for this duo, and they played wonderfully. The audience responded very enthusiastically.

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