Published Jan 09, 2011Jazz and art spaces have been great friends for decades, and their partnership shows no signs of abating. This proved to be a great benefit to the star attraction, the Walter/Halvorson/Evans trio, who connected with a wider audience than they might have in a conventional venue.
Previously unknown to pretty much everyone in attendance, the Placebo is an art gallery in a part of Toronto that is at likely a decade away from gentrification. This was a classic Toronto jazz loft experience, right down to the mandatory removal of snowy footwear at the entrance. Paintings covered the walls depicting folded-over landscapes, blurry tableaux and psychedelic spaghetti. The space was set up for lounging, with cushions strewn throughout.
Not the Wind, Not the Flag turned in a typically alchemical set. Guitarist Colin Fisher started on drums and played capably as percussionist Brandon Valdivia riffed on electric, looped kalimba. With an awkward transition, Valdivia moved to the kit while Fisher did a processed voice solo before upping the intensity to pure shredding on guitar, which ended the set with an exclamation point.
The sludgy, sub-Black Flag-ish Induced Labour were loud and hectic, with moments of instrumental cohesion consumed by long stretches of unconstrained and all-enveloping feedback. It unfortunately provoked moshing in the tightly packed space, and with the ankle-high coffee tables scattered about, it wasn't long before people were flying backwards and breaking glass, which is always so fun at a barefoot event.
The headliners -- Weasel Walter, Mary Halvorson and Peter Evans -- came on fast and furious from the drop. From behind the kit, Walter set the pace with metal-like precision aggressively meted out into spastic phrases. Evans was the least known of the three and was most impressive in sticking with largely tonal improvisation on trumpet; when he wanted to do a sample and hold-type effect, he would just capture the effect with technique alone.
Halvorson, who released the Exclaim!-approved Saturn Sings last year, refereed the two speed demons with nimble but edgy runs on her hollow body guitar. She was the only one playing with electronics and would find sympathetic sonorities with Evans when bending notes and chords. She astonished not with blazing technique (which she most certainly has) but with the equivalent of a twisted sense of humour for the guitar, always finding a strange phrases to keep the crowd amused.
Evans responded to rather than led the ideas being generated. But he was a quick study, and as time went on, the inspiration went up. There weren't many slow passages -- Walter wouldn't have abided -- but there were some more spacious conversations between Halvorson and Evans while Walter was the de facto curmudgeonly MC who responded to a request for an encore with "encore -- is that an Italian word"?