Time Flies Western Front, Vancouver BC - February 18 -21, 2004

Based on improv godfather Derek Bailey's Company Week, Time Flies gathers a group of world-class improvisers and sets them free in the hope they'll make beautiful music. Breaking away from the customary "hard and fast blowing," 2004's outing reflected a gentler, quieter improv, showcasing an array of texture-based sounds. Night one was all nervous anticipation, with the performers feeling each other out. Hitting their stride early were buoyant English pianist/multi-instrumentalist Steve Beresford and exhilaratingly creative Norwegian drummer Ingar Zach, with a playful, controlled romp that built and released with the cohesiveness of long-time cohorts. The highlight of night two was Beresford, Montreal's edgy trombonist/composer Tom Walsh and the subtly intense Vancouver trumpeter J.P. Carter. With an eagerness to connect, they adventured through quietly puckering horns and plucked piano strings, laying down circular rhythmic lines for Beresford's many colourful children's toys funnelled through effects. They then floated through trippy soundscapes of ringing trumpet bird cries into spooky understated synth grooves that disappeared into moaning acoustic horns, finishing with a sudden thudded piano key. Night three was a study of the overwhelming variety of sounds possible from individual instruments, providing little energy or musical thrills, save for one jaunty found melody that further cultivated the Beresford/Zach connection. Moments of greatness on the final night: a paralysing chime that devolved into a textural sonic assault by Beresford and English harpist Rhodri Davies not previously expressed at this event; and the most pleasing and mind-boggling display of sound from a single instrument by Zach in an otherwise forgettable piece that included Walsh and Vancouver dan bau player Bic Hoang. The reactionary swing away from hard-blowing improv resulted in delicate on-stage manoeuvres where restraint was palpable. These explorations were often interesting listening experiences, but just as often were excessive noodlings. It was during these times when the hope began for that giant pendulum to swing back a bit; not necessarily back to hard blowing, but toward the freedom to take things up a notch when appropriate.