Jazz festival, reincarnated
New flow: A stone-faced performer sat cross-legged on the ground with her hair in a severe part. When she tossed a handbell at her singing bowl, sending it clattering across the floor, I knew the evening had earned its experimental jazz description.
Local guitarist Ross Hammond reconfigured the In the Flow Festival (R.I.P.) as the Gold Lion Arts Summer Festival to spread performances throughout the year. Previously a four- or five-day event, the intimate weekend still served up mind-expanding and often smile-inducing jazz. On Friday, around 30 focused attendees sat in folding chairs, sometimes leaning forward to pay closer attention to the demanding music.
Husband-and-wife duo Grex mixed Jimi Hendrix with John Coltrane and a dash of adorableness. They often smiled at each other for cues and sang about animals, like their pet rat and the last of the carrier pigeons, Martha. (“How does it feel, Martha, to be the last of your kind?” cooed pianist M. Rei Scampavia Evangelista in a honeyed voice.) Their crackly guitar reverb and electric piano was cinematic, like the creepy scene in a very hip kids’ movie.
Next up, Amy Reed and Collette Jay McCaslin threw bells around the room and explored the outer edges of sound with utter dedication to their craft. Reed wandered with her guitar, laying crystal-like objects on the fingerboard and playing with a slide to achieve a prickly sound. She echoed McCaslin, surrounded by a bounty of bells and wind instruments. McCaslin honked her clarinet like a duck, sending the guitar into hardcore groans, until both eerily faded away.
The stellar duo Snake or Man takes its name from The Last Wave, an Australian moviescape beset with freak thunderstorms. Bass guitarist Steuart Liebig personified its namesake with licks that wended downward into a melodic eddy. The percussionist, Dax Compise, shook a spiral trash cymbal, creating a whooshing wind. When he pawed a brush against jingle bells, it made a noise so air-like that it gave me actual goosebumps.
Rounding out the evening, Rent Romus’ Life’s Blood Ensemble woke up the audience with lively saxophones, basses, drums, a sprightly xylophonist—and an electric trumpet that glowed blue. Before the last tune, Romus gave his band loose instructions about the tempo: “Eh, just feel it.” Typical jazz musicians. But they did feel it, and so did we.
One year: The songs on Life in 24 Frames’ upcoming record CTRL+Z blur together like moments in time. It’s one of those indie rock albums that demands to be listened to from start to finish, in order, on repeat: beautiful, emotional, at times riveting and, most importantly, chronological.
The concept album is made up of 12 songs, one for every month. Together, they document a particularly turbulent, challenging year for frontman Kris Adams. In January of 2013, he found out he was having a child. In September, the baby was born. In November, after months of mentally falling apart, he finally decided to see a therapist, which spawned a hopeful December.
Life in 24 Frames is hosting an early release party at 6 p.m. Saturday, July 9, at Harlow’s Restaurant & Nightclub (2708 J Street). Tickets cost $6-$8. Digital download cards will be available, and the record will be put out on vinyl, Spotify and iTunes in August. Adams is pretty nervous about it.
“I’m putting out a piece of music that would traditionally be written down on a notebook in my therapist’s office,” he says. “It’s stressful.”
The album came about at an interesting time for the band as well. For a while, a Life in 24 Frames show meant seeing seven or even eight musicians on stage. At the end of 2014, when the album just started taking shape, the group shrunk down to four. But that allowed for those who remained to get even closer, for CTRL+Z to be created in a more intimate fashion with producer Robert Cheek (Band of Horses).
As for the name, which typically signals the undo keyboard command?
“It’s a geeky way of saying I’m sorry,” Adams says. “It’s one big apology record.”