There's a certain type of performer/composer where the two elements of the musical personality are so interconnected that it's always a stunning revelation when they're separated. I'm thinking especially of those who don't tend to work as sidemen. David Binney is the epitome of this, for me - his playing and his writing are one entity in my mind, and every time I hear him play someone else's music it's a thrill to hear his contributions. I tend to forget just how killing a saxophonist he is.
One of Binney's frequent Canadian settings is with Michael Herring's Vertigo, who graced the stage of Casa again last night, nearly two years after their last hit. The sets were comprised of new music from the upcoming album, recorded in the midst of this 2-week tour. The new tunes are freer than those on Coniferous Revenge, with room for open improvisations in addition to the intricate, interlocking written parts. Herring's compositions feature serpentine heads and band-enforced basslines. The music really anchors on the hookup of bassist Herring and drummer Nick Fraser, easily one of the top bass/drum pairings in Canada. I've had the great honour of playing with the two of them myself, and they just make it so damn easy and fun. A couple of pieces had the quality that's stored in my mental library as "Binney-esque": soaring, anthemic melodies, with resonant, chiming harmonies.
The band (rounded out by Quinsin Nachoff on tenor and clarinet, Don Scott on guitar and William Carn on trombone) shone as soloists, great as the written music was. Each solo nearly exploded with energy, an arc I'm rather fond of myself. I couldn't help but wish the "heads" were imbued with a similar kind of energy. There was always this subdued nature to the heads at odds with the incredible empathy and creativity that was on display in the solos. Binney's presence seemed to raise the level of these already fine musicians. Don Scott was bobbing his head fervently through Binney's duel with Fraser. I'm looking forward to the record.
PS: who the fuck comes to a show in the last set, occupies the front table and then proceeds to talk through the tunes? Please. Binney started his solo twice before admonishing the yakkers, finally proceeding onto an incredibly powerful solo.