20 November 2006

Absolut Maximalism!

And so it came to pass, that THEE MAXIMALISTS did gather in a small studio space in Baltimore before a teeny audience of dedicated fans and weirdos, and lo, they did make one hell of a fantastic noise.

Thee Maximalists is the brainchild of Muffins drummer Paul Sears. The music is all improvised, using something like the concept of free jazz with the instrumentation of rock, with occasional prog touches (via Jim Rezek and his magical mellotrons). The most stable root of the band is Sears and Keith Macksoud, bassist from the very fine Present. Add to this an unpredictable rotation of highly skilled musical creatures, who thus far has included Yanni Papadopoulos (guitar: Stinking Lizaveta), Dave Newhouse (saxes & keyboard: Muffins), Marshall Allen (saxes: Sun Ra Arkestra), Mark Stanley (guitar: Farquhar), Werbinox (vocals), Elliott Levin (saxes & poetry: Cecil Taylor, Marshall Allen, others), Cyndee Lee Rule (violin), Rick Iannacone (guitar: Jamaaladeen Takuma, others), and God knows what other characters are waiting in the wings... it makes a Maximalists gig something like a tiny, private supernova... a unique moment in time/space, not to be repeated.

Each has brought unique, world-class musical skill to this heady, self-indulgent stew of sound, and it comes across like an extremely fun romp in the playground for these folks. It's particularly enjoyable to witness Keith Macksoud build spontaneous rhythmic structures with Sears, considering the highly practiced precision of Present's music. Maximalists gigs must be like a freeform vacation for these folks.

But enough setup! The Baltimore performance of November 11 was a classic evening for Maximalist freaks. This time, the band was Sears/Macksoud/Newhouse/Levin/Iannacone, and the mixture was perfect. The music was much more of a free-jazz blast this time around, thanks to Elliott Levin and his massive presence with the tenor and toy saxes... Once he gets going, man, just sit the hell down and ride it out.

Dave Newhouse is always a welcome addition. When at the keyboard, he provides an airy trance structure of repeating passages and chords that echo the best Muffins moments. He complements the heavy bed of rhythm that Sears and Macksoud lay down with his own tonal patterns, letting the others fly free... But of course, Newhouse is a master on the brass as well, and his baritone is a hot sound for the Maximalists' madness.

Levin is also a gifted wordsmith in the tradition of the best jazz and beat poets; his cadence delivers from the hip, sounding spontaneous but well-phrased; confident and clever without pretention. The other musicians settled into a cautious groove and gave him a perfect space for the words. Hard to believe they never practiced this stuff beforehand.

Rick Iannacone's contribution was a guitar so heavily treated with effects and gated filters that it scarcely resembled a guitar for most of the performance. His textures layered a very strange flesh over everything... sometimes wild with coarse fur, sometimes dry and cracked as if there must be a reptile's eye in there, somewhere... Iannacone's mind must be a damned fascinating place to be. He coaxed such sounds from that guitar...

By the end of the evening, Orion Sound Studios was left standing (miraculously) and I only hope they got a decent recording of the event. There may be a Maximalist album in the works, so they say, pieced together from shows like this. Performances like this are all too rare, and the Maximalists are among the most important music being made today. There. I said it. You can quote me, Sears.

Photos and flyer design by Hawkins/IntangibleArts

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

hahaaa. Thanks for your support and unbridled enthusiasm.

As always much appreciated.