From Iceland — Funeral Brass & Jazzy Brass

Funeral Brass & Jazzy Brass

Published August 9, 2010

Funeral Brass & Jazzy Brass

Grapevine Grassroots #18 took place on July 23rd, and featured an avant-garde piece by brass trio, Mora, selected readings by Sigurður Þórir Ámundason from his poetry book ‘Snake Cool & The Cobra Crazies’ and jazz infused electronics from Vibe O’ Razor.
Mora, comprised of a trombonist, trumpeter and French horn player, started out with notes that sounded like the tuning of low-pitched sirens.  Weaving dissonant tonal patterns together, they managed to create a loose-fitting collage of melancholy sound scenes, falling somewhere in between definitive orchestral movements and flowing atmospheric music. Using extreme breath control, each instrument moved from airy pulsations to sustained, full-bodied tones with the occasional swing note. The trio put down their instruments half way through the piece and picked up 3 electronic megaphones, recreating some of the brass lines through haunting oohs and aahs. Towards the end, the piece slowly shifted from a nightmarish haze into a funeral-like folk song.  Just as soon as a melody was discernable, the music spiralled apart, ending in a cloud of dismal chaotic sounds.   As a whole, the experimental sounds and discordance of the piece worked due to constantly changing motion of the chords and the arcing dynamics within each phrase.
Some of the matching octaves could have been tighter and the few and far between major chords could have been expressed with more clarity for a more pronounced contrast. The musicians sometimes looked unsure of themselves (although it didn’t show in the music itself).  I would like to have seen more of a visual connection between the musicians. Although not all modern and experimental needs to be visual, it would have helped Mora’s minimalist effects and overall presentation.  Throwing in touches of cool jazz, the women of Mora floated briefly into a darker and twisted version of Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” with structure similar to an organic Phillip Glass composition. Hopefully Mora will continue doing what they do and put out an album with the stuff they performed on the 24th.
Next up was artist and poet, Sigurður Þórir Ámundason, who read a handful of poems from his new book ‘Snake Cool & The Cobra Crazies’.  Since he read the poems in Icelandic, I didn’t understand anything. The people who did understand laughed and seemed amused or maybe they were nervous laughs from confusion.  Either way, it seemed strange for a book of poems written in Icelandic to have an English title.
Last of the night was Vibe O’ Razor accompanied by a muted trumpet, saxophone and electric guitar. Using a mixer with delay, reverb, and two-track playback, Vibe O’ Razor reminded me of Thievery Corporation’s ‘The Richest Man in Babylon’ but with more jazz ambience and less world music influence.  The trumpeter and trombonist filled out the sound, changing dance beats into sophisticated electronic music. The brass instruments followed the beat for the most part while the guitar stayed in the background. The guitarist used clean, one-note embellishments that lacked the presence of the brass. Some finger-picking or jazz lines from the guitar would have been nice.  The music was pleasant enough to listen to, but seemed be more appropriate as background music at a fancy bar than on a concert stage.

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