in performance: mikolaj trzaska and tim daisy


mikolaj trzaska.

Among the multitude of percussive sounds Tim Daisy created last night at Mecca during an Outside the Spotlight duo performance with Polish saxophonist Mikolaj Trzaska was the crisp, succinct call from a small gong that partly resembled the ring signaling the end of a boxing round. It was an appropriate form of punctuation for this brave, energetic and wholly enjoyable set of improvisations.

Each artist was loaded with stamina and invention to burn.  While the temperament of their playing was often contentious by design, the hour-long set was less a grudge match than a spirited conversation with alto saxophone (and, briefly, bass clarinet) and percussion continually matching wit and might.

Chicago drummer Daisy has long been a pro at these sorts of exchanges, having played in several sax/drum duos at previous OTS shows. A musician of boundless resourcefulness, he regularly filled the evening’s two extended, untitled improvs with blasts of busy percussive chatter created by metal dishes, cymbals and chains. As devilish as that sounds, Daisy always retained a sense of playfulness. At one point, when the music was especially tumultuous, Daisy slammed his foot on the chaos, inserted a quick swing groove on a cymbal as a sort of live form of sampling, and then returned to bedlam.

Daisy also made subtle use of two new sounds last night – the muffled clang of a cowbell and bits of static and voices from a pair of tiny transistor radios.  The latter furthered the idea of live sampling within these very organic jazz tradeoffs.

Trzaska revealed an extensive vocabulary on alto sax throughout the performance from rustic, boppish colors that often had striking tonal resemblance to tenor sax to longer, liquid runs that embraced the blues. While he matched, and often instigated, many of the set’s playfully restless exchanges, Trzaska also summoned a sense of luscious, fractured cool during the second improv that often brought the more spacious, meditative soloing of John Coltrane to mind. Daisy briefly underscored such segments with the cool rumble of drums played with mallets.

But like so much of this fine concert, these moments never remained settled for long. At the set’s conclusion, the groove warped, the sax and drums returned to their corners and this fun little prize fight wound down with a muted, warbled voice from the radio – a disembodied emcee of sorts for the fearsome instrumental dialogue that had just faded from view.

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