Where does a schooled drummer turn to for performance advice? Why, to another, equally versed drummer, of course.
That accounts for Tim Daisy’s remark halfway through a fascinating solo percussion concert last night at Griffin’s Modern Motel. In seeking inspiration for a tricky navigational turn during one of several improvisational pieces, Daisy said he adhered to the philosophy of veteran prog rock and jazz drummer Bill Bruford: “When in doubt, roll.”
It was tough to tell where the actual doubt came in. Daisy gave every indication of being in complete control of his performance, whether it was through a quartet of composed works played on solo marimba or the improvisations he summoned on a drum kit augmented by a bagful of tiny percussion utensils. But one thing was certain. The concert rolled and then some.
One of the more industrious drummers in a very fertile Chicago indie jazz scene, Daisy has been a frequent visitor to Lexington over the past decade through a series of duo, trio and ensemble concerts presented by the Outside the Spotlight series. Last night’s OTS return was his first unaccompanied show here, and it was smashing. Literally.
As the solo segments of his past OTS appearance have shown, Daisy displayed plenty of cunning in carving music out of various scrapes, shakes, brushings and basic poundings on bowls, cymbals, gongs and even a small length of chain. The catalysts for such contact last night were assorted mallets, sticks and brushes as well as, in a few instances, his bare hands. Sometimes the chatter took on the form of giddy static. In other instances, especially when snare and hi-hat cymbal were involved, a beat and groove would develop, crest and quickly disintegrate. In terms of sheer construction and development, these improvs were continually engaging.
What distinguished the performance, and provided it with considerable balance, were the marimba tunes. Utilizing two works of his own along with interpretations of pieces by a pair of longtime pals and collaborators (the longstanding jazz saxophonist Joe McPhee and West Coast reed player Kyle Bruckmann), Daisy revealed a skilled and sensitive approach to compositional material while uncovering the rich, sleek tone of the marimba.
Some of latter quality could be attributed to the performance setting. Playing in an enclosed, parlor-like room without accompaniment or amplification made the gorgeous wooden tone of the instrument come alive. But the compositions and the artist at hand did their part.
The most inviting of the marimba tunes was Daisy’s own Soft Focus, a work first cut with strong chamber-like accenys by his Vox Arcana trio in 2011 (it serves as the title piece of the group’s newest album). Last night’s version was just as complete but vastly more playful than the trio version. So delicate was the performance that you could hear Daisy’s foot tapping on the floor in tandem with the music.
That’s the kind of magic that happens when you’re on a roll.