in performance: tim daisy and raleigh dailey

Tim Daisy.

About half way through a 20-minute duo improvisation, Tim Daisy let loose with a detonation on a drum head – a swift, sudden pronouncement that instantly shifted the mood and pace of what had been, up to that point, a loose and playfully fragmented exchange with pianist Raleigh Dailey. The effect and functionality of this outburst was like thunder. It was sudden, dramatic and tore open a space for the rains that followed. In this case, the storm was an exchange that briefly flirted with swing before later subsiding into percussive interplay that placed both players on mallets. For Daisy, that meant concocting almost tribal, code-like rhythms on drums. For Dailey, that meant transforming a grand piano into a more basic (but less obvious) percussion utensil as he rattled the mallets off the inside frame of the instrument.

Such was the sense of adventure undertaken Friday evening at the Niles Gallery on the University of Kentucky campus. This was home turf for Dailey, a familiar local jazz ambassador and educator with a sterling track record as an instrumentalist, arranger and composer, although he has been afforded few onstage opportunities to roar purely as an improviser. For Chicago drummer Daisy, Lexington long ago became a second performance home through numerous appearances in the Outside the Spotlight Series in over a dozen different ensemble settings (although this outing marked his first local visit in roughly two years).

Together, each played to their strengths – Daisy, as a tireless improviser constantly shifting between various brushes, sticks, cymbals and gongs in seemingly frenzied displays that regularly fell into an astonishing sense of drive and order. Dailey, a versed classical player, didn’t shy away from his background by utilizing a piano vocabulary both vast and versatile, from single note flourishes that countered Daisy’s wilder forays with almost minimalistic calm to broader, colorful flourishes that often reflected, despite their improvisational design, a compositional accessibility.

The duo improvisations constituted the second of the evening’s two sets. The first let both players go it alone. Daisy’s improv opened and closed with almost prayer-like rumblings on mallets interspersed with splinters of rhythms augmented by the curious electric static of a transistor radio – a device that laid in pieces on the gallery floor at the end of the evening. Dailey, again drawing on classical inspiration, used space and pace to guide his segment. While he didn’t draw upon free improvisation as regularly as Daisy, he offered numerous harmonic surprises. Among them was a fascinating one-man dialogue where Dailey’s left hand fueled a bright but subtle melodic stride while the right reached inside the piano to scratch the strings with a bottleneck slide.

It should be noted that the evening’s final duo improv was dedicated by Daisy to the great Kentucky visual artist Henry Faulkner and his famed “bourbon loving goat” Alice. Daisy was long ago accepted as a kind of honorary Lexingtonian, but nothing reaffirms one’s neighborhood appeal more concretely than acknowledging (and embracing) the local, folkloric legacy of a true artistic eccentric.



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