When I heard that these two very talented musicians from somewhat different worlds would meet at the Queen Elizabeth Hall as part of London Jazz Festival, many months ago, I was excited to see how they would collaborate: I had known Murcof‘s dark, experimental electronica for quite a while, but Francesco Tristano was a new find, a pianist with the rhythmic sensibilities of a latin or jazz player, but with the harmonic sensitivity of a Max Richter or a Phillip Glass.
I got tickets for three friends and when we met, the debate was over how cheesy the music would be. I said it wouldn’t, DC said it would. Needless to say, I won the bet 😉
This isn’t going to be a long blog post. I think both are fantastic musicians and the potential for their work together goes deep. But the dynamics of the set they built was flawed and I feel the need to set down the experience as an excited audience member.
Sadly, the interplay of the pairs’ consummate rhythmic abilities only really started to play a part after two very lengthy (we’re talking 10-15 minutes each), suspenseful and atmospheric ‘build up’ pieces, spread chords voiced like Rachmaninov and the (now ubiquitous) zither like, plucked notes inside the piano over long, breathy synth pedals. One overture would have been fine – two was indulgent.
But after a piece that featured Murcof’s filter sweep flourishes in witty conversation with Tristano’s arpeggios started to hint at what was possible, in the finale, a quarter of an hour long, they at last stepped up to the mark. Tristano finally took a role structuring the rhythm, albeit around a simple two note bass line which didn’t allow for much harmonic extemporisation. And gradually, the music started to free up, Murcof’s piano samples from earlier in the piece taking up the reins, allowing space for more spontaneous play from the keyboard, whilst the electronics could also relax and contrast with themselves. The rhythmic counterpoint between the two was finally tense, exciting and satisfying as gradually the filters closed, only eventually giving way to intense applause and (unrequited) calls for an encore.
This collaboration, at its height actually one of the finest I’ve yet heard between an acoustic and an electronic musician, showed so much potential and finally, after much too long a wait, lived up to it. But I desperately want to hear more of these two fine talents taking risks and playing together boldly, and much, much less caution.