Bang on a Can All-Stars
BANG ON A CAN ALL-STARS ★★★★
Melbourne Recital Centre, August 28
For more than 25 years, Bang on a Can – and the All-Stars touring group that it spawned – have championed adventurous new music from the US and beyond. And while the ensemble’s founding members (David Lang, Julia Wolfe and Michael Gordon) are not part of the travelling sextet, their creative spirit resonates through every Bang on a Can project.
This week’s Melbourne concert by the All-Stars paid tribute to Lang, Wolfe and Gordon (who are still the group’s artistic directors) by including compositions by all three in the program. Lang’s dramatic Cheating, lying, stealing set the tone for the evening, its choppy rhythmic accents and frequent tonal shifts requiring incredible precision on the part of the players.
Wolfe’s Believing featured Gregg August’s propulsive, jazz-inflected double bass and a virtuosic solo from Ashley Bathgate on cello and wordless vocals.
In Gordon’s piece, For Madeleine, cello, clarinet (Ken Thomson) and electric guitar (Taylor Levine) slid eerily – and with increasing, siren-like urgency – over rippling piano and vibraphone (Vicky Chow and Paul Tanner).
Australian composer JG Thirlwell’s Anabiosis unfolded like an imaginary soundtrack for an extremely dark cartoon – with fractured rock rhythms, ominously discordant smears and hairpin turns that the players negotiated with breathtaking synchronicity.
Philip Glass’ Closing (from Glassworks) swelled and sighed with unruffled beauty, before the group took us on a wild and thrilling ride through Steve Martland’s Horses of Instruction, Thomson literally leaping with vigour on saxophone as the group surged to a gleeful finale.
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