Composer/trumpeter Tom Avgenicos’ mind is rather like a kaleidoscope, fracturing ideas into shards and slivers. Toy began as a conversation with pianist Roshan Kumarage, who has an instinct for doing the opposite of grounding the music: for letting go of the balloon. Rather than disturbing this, the entrance of bassist Dave Quinn and drummer Ashley Stoneham compounded a sensation somewhere between floating and disorientation. On the pensive She Says, Avgenicos suddenly emitted a fluttering phrase that was like an allusion in literature or a scene from a different film, and then retrospectively made it logical by quoting fragments of it.
Exemplified by Stoneham’s tight-leashed drumming on a one-cymbal, one-tom kit, everything about this band is contained. Even as they collectively played with the mysteries of light and shadow, a commitment to a shared vision was always to the fore.
Had Erik Satie been a jazz pianist, he may have shared some qualities with Kumarage, who embellished Avgenicos’ compositions with hints, insinuations and half-remembered dreams. Behind Quinn’s solo on Foolish, for instance, he crafted crystal spheres of sound, which the bass kept threatening to shatter but never did, and when the trumpet joined it had overwhelming urgency, despite the gentle piano/brushes/bowed-bass backdrop. Hindsight was more questing, as if searching for the wisdom implicit in the title.
Fleshing out the streamed concert was 2001 footage of the Barney McAll Unit and the Necks. The former began with an equally hypnotic and disquieting 6/8 groove featuring corrosive Andrew Robson alto saxophone, while the electro-acoustic dialogue of Soul 34 was impaled on a James Muller guitar solo.
The Necks’ music resists abbreviation, and here glimpses of a long-form improvisation showed pianist Chris Abrahams, bassist Lloyd Swanton and drummer Tony Buck latching on to each other’s ideas. In a brief interview, Abrahams observed that they mesmerise themselves as much as the audience – which is as much as a musician can hope for.