Jeb Bishop & Jorrit Dijkstra
Nov. 15, 2012
Against a backdrop of exposed brick and dimly lit by scattered lamps and tabletop votive candles, the casual performance Jeb Bishop and Jorrit Dijkstra offered last night at Neptune’s in Raleigh offered welcome shelter from the chilly breeze and spitting rain outside.
The set began unassumingly, as trombonist Bishop and saxophonist Dijkstra convened near the back of the bar, in the loosely defined patch of floor they treated as a stage. Bishop offered a brief introduction, and the musicians lifted their horns and began to play an hour-long, 14-song set notable for its close harmonies, nimble navigation of rhythm and playful explorations of texture.
The second of four dates supporting both their duo album 1000 Words and the debut of the Steve Lacy tribute ensemble The Whammies (The Whammies Play The Music of Steve Lacy) drew heavily from the former. It began, however, with a faithful rendition of the latter’s namesake. That choice set the tone for the remainder of the set.
Lacy’s influence looms large on the duo. They wove two more Lacy tunes—“Blinks” and “Hemline”—into the setlist, fitting seamlessly with the pair’s original pieces. In leading The Whammies and researching Lacy’s archives, Dijkstra, who studied briefly with the late saxophonist and composer, has taken an interest in Lacy’s music to an academic pursuit. But in their performance last night, the Lacy influence seemed much more spiritual than analytical. From a recent European tour with the Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet, Bishop explained his attraction to Lacy’s music: “It's hard to lay it out briefly, but for me Lacy's music has this amazing complexity born of simplicity, and a playfulness that I love.”
Those qualities come celebrated in the compositions Bishop and Dijkstra prepared for 1000 Words. Most pieces began with a strong and deceptively simple melody, often played in close harmony or unison, or in a precise call-and-response. The “complexity born of simplicity” Bishop mentioned was apparent in frequent, staccato pauses, in melodies with notes volleyed between players. As each took their solos, they steered the songs away from the foundation, playing on the boundaries of free-improv. Bishop favored an array of mutes—plunger, several metal mutes, what appeared to be a Tupperware container—and at one point used a small synthesizer to add a noisy complement to the duo’s playing. Dijkstra muted his alto, once, with a ball, and twice swapped the horn for a lyricon—a rare wind-synthesizer—to give his half of the composition a futuristic sensibility.
As faithful as they were to their album, Bishop and Dijkstra managed to retain a sense of playfulness and spontaneity—ideal for the informal, stageless setting.