Vienna roll

Martin Longley reels to the Fizzle free jazz improvisatory permutations, quaffing Equinox beer at the same time.

Mark Holub/Colin Webster/Irene Kepl
The Lamp Tavern

Two duos became three duos, plus a bonus trio. That’s the way it goes with free improvisation. When such artists are on tour, new situations develop. Drummer Mark Holub is renowned as the founder of Led Bib, a New Jersey boy who spent quite a while in London, and lately residing in Vienna. He made one of the best albums of 2014, with London saxophonist Colin Webster, and has also released a duo disc with Austrian violinist Irene Kepl.

The first musical-chaired combination found Holub with Kepl, the latter making deadened plucks and strums, with drum rolls quickly building to hard, higher volume stutters. Kepl scythed with her bow, then muted her strings to remove the edge, so much so that she was in danger of being drowned out by Holub’s booming.

Bow dragged, fingers shaped invented chords, puffball sticks stroked skins, ending up with an almost Balkan resonance, as Kepl’s sour misery tone keened appealingly. Then, Holub stepped aside and Webster joined Kepl, his tenor used as a vessel for deep breathing, expelled air roaming around his tubing, rushing around between tongue-clicks and finger-pops.

The two players made colliding intersections, sometimes of simultaneous silence, at others, both pouring full-tilt. Webster’s billy goat growlings and parasite flutterings reared up aggressively, then quietened down for some rumination.

Holub and Webster unsurprisingly formed the most thrilling set, especially for lovers of rattling extremity. They roared straight off, slapping up a makeshift barrage-of-sound, suddenly fragmenting into scattered implosions, Webster by this time on baritone, which was to be feared even more. Somehow, this prompted Holub to drape a blanket over his skins, softening the thwack, Webster making didgeridu overtones, the sticksman issuing a puffball shimmer on cymbals.

A volatile ripping entry signalled their second piece, with tip-toe-ing stick-end daintiness, trouncing up against gizzard-clucks from the saxophone, then moving into an inward-looking grazing patch. The sets, and the individual improvisations were reined in to a self-conscious brevity, the final full trio section beginning with a subtle, tentative questioning. Webster growled into his baritone and Holub spread rags across his drumheads, Kepl clawing skritchy scrabbles.

She and Holub rammed sharply into a drum-violin vamp, Webster saving himself for a late entry with his belching baritone. Eschewing the frequent tendency towards extended improvisations, these three players made everything swift and surprising, keeping both themselves and the audience hyper-alert.