October = Earshot Jazz Festival = mind altering jazz in unlikely venues. From NYC, two trios who lived up to their reputations at SAM. First Trio X (reedman Joe McPhee, bassist Dominic Duval and percussionist Jay Rosen), McPhee tearing it up on the horns, hollering, even a bit of singing. And making some otherworldly sounds come out of his instrument. Duval doing wacky stuff like jamming a drum stick through the strings and less wacky things (but still unusual) like using his bass as a conga drum, and in the end bleeding all over his bass. It was a tribute to Ornette Colman. Players locked in.
Second trio was Matthew Shipp Trio (Matthew Shipp, Seattle bass player Michael Bisio, and drummer Whit Dickey). They didn't stop between songs but played one continuous flow, ending with this punishingly and jarring head -- can I have another sir? -- Shipp's polemic. Shipp's tone and style mesmerizing and Dickey completely befuddling as a drummer. All the cliches of avant garde jazz apply: pushing boundaries, eschewing convention, head nods to the past while blazing the future. (Pretty good review here waxing poetic on Matthew Shipp.) While some of the preciousness that surrounds these players can get tiresome (note to festival organizers: just introduce the band without all the hyperbole and aggrandizement), they truly are monster musicians that challenge, entertain, bedazzle, and demand you rethink how you listen to music and what music can be. It ain't always four on the floor. Thank god.