After an introductory 17 minute ensemble improvisation full of free jazz fury tempered slightly at times by solo and duo dynamics, Universal Indians tenor saxophonist John Dikeman popped open a can of soda. As taking a few sips, Norwegian bandmates Jon Rune Strom and Tollef Ostvang engaged in comparatively pastoral dialogue on bass and bells, respectively. Seemingly restless, Dikeman then jumped back into a steadily mounting ruckus built around the Ornette Coleman staple Lonely Woman that would bounce, recoil and, at times, serenade with subtle texture over the next half hour.
Remarked one patron after the full hour-long Outside the Spotlight performance drew to a close earlier tonight at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center: “So that’s what a can of Ale 8 will do for you.”
Dikeman, a Wyoming native now based in Amsterdam, represented one of two jazz generations at work – one fascinated with the gusto, immediacy and especially volume brewed within a free jazz group. As such, his unamplified solos, especially within the echo-filled environment of the Lyric’s Community Room, possessed earsplitting volume early into the show. Fittingly, Dikeman physically threw himself into such moments, bopping back and forth from the waist up with rock star-like abandon.
In contrast was Universal Indians’ special guest Joe McPhee, a Poughkeepsie mainstay who, at age 76, has been a jazz renegade for nearly 50 years. McPhee’s playing on alto saxophone and the marvelous pocket trumpet wasn’t nearly so forward, physical or obvious. His soloing utilized space, breath and tone far more than Dikeman. But that didn’t stop him from making the pocket trumpet squeal like an approaching siren out of hushed dissonance the two times he played it.
There were also instances where McPhee and Dikeman teamed to embrace melody. Those times were brief and fractured, but they were immensely colorful, as in the moments where the beauty of Lonely Woman’s theme finally arrived like a fashionably late guest. The same held true when McPhee concluded the Coleman tribute with a snippet of South African trumpeter Mongezi Feza’s You Ain’t Gonna Know Me ‘Cos You Think You Know Me, a tune regularly covered by another overseas trio the elder saxophonist often collaborates with, The Thing. With Universal Indians, though, the melody served as a cross-generational coda fueled equally by youthful fire and sagely reflection.