A few weeks after performing at Berkeley Arts, the Jack Curtis Dubowsky Ensemble returned to the Bay Area. This performance, at the Luggage Store Gallery in San Francisco, featured the same film as a few weeks earlier, but with very different music and thus an overall different experience.
The evening opened with the Emergency (X)tet, featuring Bob Marsh and a rotating cast of string players. This incarnation included Doug Carroll on cello, Kanoko Nishi on bass koto, and David Michalak on lap steel guitar and effects. This was actually a birthday performance for Bob Marsh, so the set opened with a rousing atonal rendition of Happy Birthday that included audience participation. After that introduction, the group performed a number of improvised pieces, each started by a different member. Each piece seemed to focus on a particular texture of the instruments, with long drones that favored the cellos and the slowly bending sounds of the lap steel guitar, to extremely percussive sounds especially focused on the bass koto.
Then it was time for the JCDE performance of their project Current Events. Just as a few weeks earlier, the film opened with stark news images from the crash of Air France Flight 447. But the ensemble quickly veered off in a different direction, with Dubowsky providing a solid jazzy bass line and Erika Johnson and Fred Morgan on percussion holding down the foundation. This was quite a stark contrast to the dark and abstract sounds from the previous performance, but it was quite captivating and fun.
The strongest of the sections, once again, was “Future Cities”, which featured more rhythmic work from the ensemble as well as Dubowsky with classic analog sounds on the Roland Jupiter Six synthesizer – think a space-music jam from the 1970s. Indeed, the musical content made it easier to see more of the detail in the films. In addition to the future cities, I was able to focus on the the critters and landscape textures of the desert section; and the disturbing nature of seeing journalists killed in a U.S. drone strike was much clearer (it probably had a more profound effect on my opinions of drone strikes than two years of reading incessant rants on Facebook).
In addition to getting to see the differences between the two separate JCDE performances, it was also the right order to see them, going from the serious and abstract sounds to the funkier, more rhythmic nature of the second performance. I look forward to seeing more of the ensemble’s work in the future.