in performance: brian krock’s liddle

Brian Krock. Photo by Desmond White.

Brian Krock wound down the live version of his quartet liddle at J. Gumbo’s Lex on Wednesday evening with the same kind of elegant exhaling that distinguishes the band’s newly released, self-titled album. Not coincidentally, it was the same composition that fueled the finish. The tune was “Please Stop,” a work that utilized a loop-like ambience from guitarist Olli Hirvonen that astonishingly recalled the mid ‘70s experimentation of Robert Fripp. With the electric atmospherics setting the mood, Krock soloed on clarinet with prayer-like spaciousness that made the piece sound like a requiem. Then bassist Marty Kenney joined in, bolstering the soundscape with an almost proggish feel.

It was a sumptuous conclusion to the performance, but also a mere snapshot among a two-set scrapbook of tunes liddle showcased on the J. Gumbo’s patio as the chill of a late spring evening set in.

Much of the liddle music came from the “liddle” album, including a fascinating take on Anthony Braxton’s “Composition No. 23b,” which began with surprisingly boppish animation before the playing gleefully splintered. Then there were the cyclical riffs Krock created on alto sax during “Knuckle Hair” that served as momentary fireworks before the ensemble sound deconstructed. That’s when Hirvonen took the wheel to summon the spirit of another guitar giant, the great Norwegian composer and improviser Terje Rypdal. The resulting music all but surrendered to rock-inspired mischief.

There were several new, unrecorded compositions, as well, which Krock said he hopes to incorporate into a live recording at the end of liddle’s current tour. Among them was “I Am a Worm,” a treatise on clarinet/guitar-led grooves that neatly dissolved into a series of band skirmishes deflating under keen bowed bass lines from Kenney.

Curiously, the performance also began with the same music that introduces the “liddle” album – namely, a giddy tune titled “(flip)” that bounced about the patio with Zappa-like abandon before briefly relaxing enough for the music to shift between Krock’s tightly efficient improving on alto and Hirvonen’s arsenal of jazz-friendly power chords.

All in all, a fun and engaging evening of forward-thinking jazz in an inviting new venue setting.

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