Polish pianist, composer, and interdisciplinary artist Kuba Cichocki debuted a new project at Spectrum Tuesday night which proved to be an interesting and wild ride. Cichocki is an artist that seems to be bursting with ideas and is capable of weaving diffuse methods and narrative structures into a cohesive whole. There is also a certain contemporary relevance that he infuses into his artistic vision that makes it all the more compelling.
Cichocki was joined on the date by Patrick Breiner (tenor saxophone, voice), Sean Ali (bass, voice), and Flin van Hemmen (drums, voice), all three of whom are emerging figures showing promise on the New York, and particularly the Brooklyn, improvised music scenes. Cichocki selected his band mates well for this outing, choosing musicians who share the same general aesthetic palette, one that seems to make great use of small sounds, sometimes in conjunction to make big ones.
On this particular night, the group played one long piece that juxtaposed these small sounds with sudden bursts, mostly improvised, while often growing and receding as a group. Underneath this, the four artists took turns reading prearranged narratives and also made use of prerecorded digital voices. The stories that they unfolded gave explicit shape to the otherwise rather amorphous nature of the sounds. Throughout the performance, the narratives returned to a number of interrelated themes, one of which was small vs. big–sometimes in contest, while at other times identifying the connection between, that of growth and the transformation of the self that occurs through that process. While one grows to full size or beyond, the content of the self may actually change, transform, corrupt, emulsify.
Another recurring theme was that of social interaction and approval/disapproval in its many forms. In the opening sections we are instructed, ironically by a digital voice (made to sound somewhat mechanical), that face-to-face communication is encouraged during the performance, while removing oneself through the process of remote observation (such as taking pictures or making videos) creates distance. It is this division that the voice (and related themes in the narrative) bring to the fore, pushing the audience into a position of intimacy and being present even to the point of pushing people out of their comfort zone that they may have come to inhabit through the customary withdrawal of social media and digital images and sounds.
The music itself shifts from the position of improvised accompaniment to solos at center stage, whether delivered subtly or in sudden bursts. The balance of the various instruments is impressive in that we get to hear from all members in relatively equal measure, often for very brief amounts of time, without collisions despite the strong feeling of spontaneity. Clearly the four had become comfortable with each other by playing together and had reached a level of trust to bring these sorts of interactions together. Cichocki possesses a nice touch that allows him to shift from light, fluttering sounds on piano to more aggressive or deeper tones.
The overall shape of the piece shows that Cichocki has already reached a high level of maturity in his artistic vision. It is in the third quarter of the piece that even brief breaks from the intensity serve well as counterpoint to some of the more concentrated sections and narrated moments. It will be interesting to see what Cichocki will do next. He inhabits a place all his own on the Brooklyn arts scene and we will benefit as we see this promising artist continue to evolve and mature.
–Cisco Bradley, November 1, 2014