by Gabriel Furtado
Last Thursday (Feb 23rd) at pianist Vicky Chow's Contagious Sounds concert series at the Gershwin Hotel, listeners got a little taste of the new music coming out of Austin, TX these days. Robert Honstein, Ian Dickie and Steve Snowden, founders of the annual Fast Forward Austin festival, presented a showcase giving a glimpse into what's rumbling in that musical southern city.
With ebullience, the Bel Cuore Sax Quartet opened with a set of modern compositions that took full advantage of the saxophone's vocal qualities, dynamic extremes, and brassy, stacked chords that a sax quartet is particularly well-equipped for.
Bel Cuore Sax Quartet
Percussionist Owen Weaver presented a playful mix of pieces, playing everything from a kettle to saw blades. Ian Dickie's "Eight Oh Eight" was a refreshingly well-structured loop piece that increased in complexity as Weaver progressed, altering loop lengths and syncs that were triggered by drum hits and pedals.
A piece by Graham Reynolds entitled "Blades and Boards," also made use of saw blades, adding in 2x4's. Points for creativity, but in this case the instruments hampered the range of expression, rather than expanding it. Regardless, Weaver's anecdote of first discovering Reynolds when he "choreographed a bunch of garbage trucks in Austin" piqued my interest, and I'd be curious to see more of Reynolds' output.
Owen Weaver with Domenica Fossati and Lisa Dowling of Concert Black
For those of you going to SXSW this year, I recommend you check out Fast Forward Austin's showcase on March 16th, co-curated by the UK's Nonclassical label. And for those of you lucky enough to be in Austin on April 15th, you should definitely check out Fast Forward Austin for yourself.