Improvisation -Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
September 7, 2007 - The AIM Toronto Orchestra conducted by Anthony Braxton put on an audio sensory show that for the most part sounded out of this world. An 18-member orchestra had been assembled from the rank and file members of The Association of Improvising Musicians Toronto; this organization was founded in late 2004 by Ken Aldcroft, Rob Clutton, Nick Fraser, and Joe Sorbara as a result of meetings with Vancouver guitarist and former New Orchestra Workshop (NOW) Artistic Director, Ron Samworth. In January 2005, Scott Thomson was added to form the first Board of Directors of the newly incorporated organization.
AIM Toronto's goal is to support and promote creative improvised music and musicians in the Toronto area. The founders conceived AIM Toronto as an umbrella organization under which local improvising musicians could affiliate to collectively generate a greater visibility and audibility, locally, nationally, and internationally. The group performing on Friday evening had rehearsed as an orchestra only a few times, comprised of the following musicians - AIM Toronto members - Christine Duncan, voice; Rob Piilonen, Ronda Rindone, Kyle Brenders (Braxton student and rehearsal director), Evan Shaw, Colin Fisher, woodwinds; Nicole Rampersaud, trumpet; Scott Thomson, trombone; Ken Aldcroft, Justin Haynes, guitar; Parmela Attariwala, violin; Tilman Lewis, cello; Rob Clutton, Victor Bateman, bass; Tania Gill, piano; Nick Fraser, Joe Sorbara, Brandon Valdivia, percussion.
Anthony Braxton took the musicians and the audience on a journey through a vast and varied musical exploration. Braxton conducts with geometric, linear and quadrant type hand motions, he will make the shape of a triangle and slowly move his arms apart, the musical section he is directing will change the shape of their sound, other hand signals are used to bring in, or to fade out, various instruments or sections of the orchestra, the composition breathes and takes shape and comes to live through this interesting interaction. Braxton as a woodwind player joined in to create and add to the musical landscape; while he was playing, other members of the orchestra would take over the conducting duties, in particular pianist Tania Gill.
The composition for the evenings performance could very well have been numerous pieces joined together, they flowed smoothly but they were varied in musical texture, rhythm and substance, at times I had the feeling I was watching a movie and listening to a highly dramatic soundtrack, this even before vocalist Christine Duncan added a lyrical fill, "Here's looking at you kid." Seems to me that was a line borrowed from a famous Bogart film. The composition had moments of pure melodical renderings and at other moments had no melody, a hidden rhythm and a sound as yet not discovered till this moment, by this listener.
Anthony Braxton and the Aim Toronto Orchestra put on an intense concert that was as improvised an affair as you can get when dealing with an 18 piece orchestra, while still maintaining a direction, a well choreographed and cohesive unit of talented, highly skilled musicians, who are more than willing to travel to the next dimension of musical exploration, this group showed the audience a comparative of music that was, is and will be. At the same time, the Orchestra under the leadership and direction of Professor Braxton produced a most pleasing, enjoyable and thoroughly presentable performance to the assembled exponents.