in performance: roughhousing

jack wright of roughhousing.

About the only hint of definition Jack Wright offered prior to last night’s Outside the Spotlight performance by Roughhousing at Broomwagon Bikes + Coffee was that the group was equally at home spelling its name with either one word or two. Beyond that, the free jazz trio was presented as a blank canvas that was soon painted with color and noise over two Derby evening sets played against the storefront’s windows, outside of which a spectacular post-rain sunset offered artful décor all its own.

A veteran saxophonist and improviser from Philadelphia, Wright was perhaps the most accessible voice within Roughhousing. With acoustic bassist Evan Lipson (who was also with Wright at his last OTS concert, an April 2015 date with the trio Wrest) and guitarist Zachary Darrup coercing a vocabulary of abstract and essentially unnatural sounds out of their instruments by slapping them, punching them and inserting all manner of devices over and under their strings, Wright sat quite placidly in the center conjuring more patient musicality from soprano and, eventually, alto saxophone. As each set was entirely improvised, any lyrical or even compositional sensibility was absent. But his tone was remarkably inviting all the same. There were a few dissonant honks and corrosive whispers, but mostly the reed music sounded like a fractured mantra with rolls of notes that bounced about briefly before being recalled, reshaped and sent on their way again. Wright varied his tone on occasion by playing the open bell of the sax against his leg. But the meditative feel of his playing never wavered.

Lispon, though a far more aggressive player, often seemed to play in tandem with Wright, especially through elongated, bowed lines that oddly complimented the alto sax passages near the end of the first set. In contrast, Darrup seemed in his own universe, using the guitar more as a percussive device. His ideas for coloring the trio’s soundscapes were discarded almost as quickly as they were triggered. Add to that a constant tinkering with the amplifier and what resulted sounded tentative and often intrusive – an uncertain electric jolt to a more naturally uneasy acoustic exchange that probably would have worked equally well, if not better, had guitar been jettisoned altogether.


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