I’m in Vasterås, Sweden, a little city about an hour west of Stockholm, for the Perspectives Festival, curated by saxophonist Mats Gustafsson. The three-day event kicked off Thursday with a packed program, and there’s lots more today and tomorrow–a dynamic mixture of free jazz, noise, experimental electronics, and improvised music. Naturally the lineup is heavy on European talent, but there are some notable Americans on the schedule, including trumpeter Peter Evans, who plays solo, bassist Darin Gray and drummer Chris Corsano (in a trio with legendary Japanese free-jazz saxophonist Akira Sakata), pianist Marilyn Crispell, and noisy improv behemoth Borbetomagus. It’s hard to imagine a festival like this taking place anywhere in the U.S. right now, but the economic crisis is crunching Europe too–who knows if this biannual festival will be back in 2011. The panelists at an opening seminar moderated by Reader contributor John Corbett, who included several European label owners, did their best to put a positive spin on the collapsing record business, but nobody seemed too encouraged.
Most of the music I took in yesterday was impressive, including a fantastic solo set of prepared piano by Holland’s Cor Fuhler–he used supermagnets, E-bows, mallets, and Smurf figurines, among other things–but the biggest revelation for me was a solo set by Berlin-based Australian bassist Clayton Thomas (pictured). He played two improvised pieces. For the first he augmented his instrument with sticks and a tuning fork, conjuring a deeply resonant, percussive tour de force by wedging these objects between the strings along the neck of the instrument and then striking them, which caused the strings to come alive with exquisite resonance. His rapid staccato bowing on the second piece initially reminded me of the minimal overtone music of Arnold Dreyblatt–his technique of slightly damping one string while rapidly moving the bow across the others produced loads of overtones–but even more exciting were the zigzagging changes in the lines.