Thursday, July 25, 2019

[35] Pauline Kim Harris and friends play John Zorn at The Stone @ Mannes | #1Summer50Concerts

I didn't take any photos. So here's a video.

WHO: Pauline Kim Harris, violin; Christopher Otto, violin; Ches Smith, drums
WHAT: JOHN ZORN Passagen for solo violin; Apophthegms for two violins; Ceremonial Magic for violin and drums
WHERE: The Stone @ The New School
WHEN: July 9, 2019 at 8:30pm

So this is my third concert so far at The Stone, and I have to say it's one of my favorite new concert venues in Manhattan. They run on a jazz-club schedule: artists take up weekly residency from Tuesday to Saturday and play a different hour-long show each night at 8:30pm. I have to imagine it's hard for the artists, but I've never seen any player at The Stone that looks like they don't want to be there, so they must be doing something right.

But even though they started as a jazz club of sorts (before they went under and The New School picked them up), the conservatory atmosphere has been infusing more experimental classical music into their ranks. Pauline Kim Harris was the first artist this summer who I would confidently say falls firmly in the classical camp, but she started her residency with a program from John Zorn, a composer who treads the line between experimental classical and experimental jazz.

Zorn's music is the most organized chaos you've ever heard. After a few minutes, you sort of write off any possibility that the instrumentalists are still in the correct place in the music -- of course, as soon as you do that, they come to some sort of serendipitous moment with *gasp* a consonant major chord or something like that and you realize that all of that chaos was just a means to an end (or vice versa?).

Pauline Kim Harris's playing was great, although her sound felt a little bit stifled by the red velvet curtains that were drawn around the audience and stage. Of course, that's not her fault -- her instrument has a quieter setup, so it needs a hard shell around the stage. But, for her sound problems, her playing was still vivacious and accurate.

Her co-conspirators didn't overshadow her, but were tremendous in their own right. JACK Quartet violinist Christopher Otto, armed with a louder instrument than Harris's, performed that Apophthegms as if it were encoded in some collective strand of DNA that he and Harris shared (it became eminently clear that their friendship was primarily musical by the awkward hug they shared after the performance). Ches Smith's drumming was possibly the highlight of the program -- the paradox between his sticks playing passages that would make Whiplash go pale, contrasted with the calm, slackjawed look on his face, was especially amusing.

Go to The Stone. That's all I'm going to say. Best $20 you'll ever spend.

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