High Zero

source:highzero.orgAhh, High Zero. In more flush days, when I traveled a lot for work and had the freedom to extend my stay to see music or baseball, Baltimore’s High Zero festival — featuring improvisers from around the globe, grouped in never-before-heard combinations, was a lucky hit. I’d read about the festival after the 1999 installment, probably because some local musicians had gone, and was lucky enough to be in the Baltimore/D.C. area the following year at just the right time.

I remember Jon Rose being more loose and joking than I expected, as he twisted a “metal” improv into “All Along the Watchtower,” complete with singing. I remember Toshi Makihara doing the heavy-duty drums to start that “metal” piece, and impressing me all around with his bag of tricks. They were in trio with pianist Lafayette Gilchrest — who’s better known for a thick-pulsed take on funky jazz, something I wouldn’t have discovered later if not for seeing him in this setting.

And I remember a fantastic set with Joe McPhee, Jack Wright, and Ian Nogoski, where Nogoski’s sine-wave electronics started ever so subtly in the mix and turned into a powerful backing drone.

Nice memories, being brought back this weekend as I read Lars Gotrich’s A Blog Supreme on the NPR site. Gotrich is doing some brief reviews of the High Zero sets he attended last weekend.

High Zero gives you a lot of music to experience, and as enjoyable as improv can be, I’ve found it’s very hard to describe multiple sets without repeating yourself a lot. Kudos to Gotrich for giving it a shot, and for giving such abstract music some exposure.

Thanks to Avant Music News for pointing this out.