Saturday, July 18, 2020

Performance review: BANG ON A CAN Marathon

NYC Jazz Record, NY@Night, June, 2020

Bang on a Can Marathon

Livestream from artists’ homes
May 1, 2020

 If it’s any indication of livestream acceptance, this reviewer was unable to readily access this event (May 1) due to overly crowded “airwaves” until it was bounced to co-producer Roulette’s YouTube channel. Or perhaps, the rush of viewers was all about Bang on a Can. This annual festival, founded in 1987 by composers David Lang, Michael Gordon and Julia Wolfe, was developed during residency at the R.A.P.P. Arts Center until that East Village venue closed. BoaC, never homeless, has only moved outward and upward with each transition. Not an organization to collapse in the face of a pandemic, the founders hosted a powerful collection of remote performances from musicians’ homes, leaping the miles over hours. Lang, Gordon and Wolfe, from their own remote locations, not only functioned as programmers and MCs, but added discussion and interviews with the contributing composers, creating the global educational experience Bernstein dreamt of. Celebrated pianist Vijay Iyer intrigued with an etude incorporating expansive techniques (sound board rapping, plucking strings). Trombonist and noted composer-improviser George Lewis performed a duet with pre-recorded piano whole tone runs as he shouted and lamented in empathic collaboration. Baritone saxophonist Ken Thompson adapted Shelley Washington’s work for 35 reeds, producing a rhythmic post-mod cross of “Four Brothers” and Birth of the Cool. Guitarist Mary Halvorson played a compelling piece with digital delay that absolutely sobbed. So much happened in this festival, that it cannot be captured in a 250-word space, but stay tuned for the next edition, June 14. Bravo!

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