Oliver Groenewald with the Miles Black Trio at WJAMC - The Majestic on Forest
Wednesday, December 10
It has been 20 years since Trumpeter Oliver Groenewald has performed in Bellingham. Influential and admired when he was here at Western, Groenewald now lives on Orcas Island and performs regularly in Seattle. Accompanying him tonight is the Miles Black Trio: Miles Black on piano, Michael Glynn on bass and Julian MacDonough on drums.
The evening starts off nicely with a relaxed interpretation of Thelonious Monk's "Straight No Chaser". Oliver Groenewald performs with a kind of effortlessness and natural grace. Playing the trumpet like breathing. With the echoes of Sunday's stellar performance by Steve Davis and Josh Bruneau still in the air, there is a natural comparison.
I am reminded of a quote by either Waits or Eliot about how time equals memory plus desire. And it strikes me that this is the essential difference between Josh Bruneau and Oliver Groenwald. Josh was electric desire, burning up the air with his sound. Oliver is reflective memory, inhabiting the songs like a favorite hat or broken in pair of boots. It is a striking juxtaposition which only deepens as the performance goes on.
Miles Black is, as usual, just mesmerizing and astonishing, a pure joy to listen to. His piano seems to spin hot molten notes into delicate figures of glass, then break them and have them fall into a dizzying array of kaleidoscope patterns and newly deconstructed, reconstructed melodies. A fluidity of performance mixed with poetic stops and challenging chords phrasings that almost gets lost in a solipsistic ecstasy.
Time and again, Michael Glynn follows Miles with a inspired response, the bass singing about as high as it can, at times sounding closer to Oliver's trumpet, with quick fluttering blasts of melodic riffs before returning to the core time signatures of the piece.
It is fascinating week after week, to see the interpersonal dynamics of the musician's personalities. Julian has such grace and courtesy as a musician, you almost don't recognize him as the de facto leader, coordinating the sonic space and time for each of the other musician's performances. His own playing gets more interesting each week. He and Michael match the complex interchange of tone and tempo between Oliver and Miles with authoritative ease. Oliver, meanwhile, invests every note with memory and the beauty of detached desire, making it all look as effortless as being.