As the second set at Spectrum on January 4 (following the trio of Kate Gentile, Brandon Seabrook, and Matt Mitchell that I reviewed yesterday), tenor saxophonist Anna Webber played “five short pieces.” In the course of her set, she demonstrated the many different forms her music can take.
The first piece opened with high-pitched repetition of notes with a pulsing undertow that made the piece live and breathe, while using circular breathing to maintain intensity. Amazingly, as a soloist, she was able to usher up the feeling of a whole flock of birds taking off and calling to each in a great chorus. Developing the piece swiftly, she ended it without fanfare, leaving us right in the middle of the action, surrounded for another second or two by the residual sounds of the multitude.
The second piece, “Little Boy Wins an Argument,” surged deeply, though with lots of vertical movement in rapid succession letting some swinging gestures grow from within, arcing upwards in more and more impressive feats until the entire piece suddenly diminished. The third piece featured deep resonant tones, letting the air breathe through the horn while exploring the possibilities of overtones. Careful ascents and movement in the piece caught all of the possibilities in each moment.
The fourth piece was the most abstract of the set, as Webber created a narrative from disjointed sounds, pops, and short bursts, an assemblage of fragments that she seemed happy to leave not completely melded together by the conclusion of the short piece. The closing piece opened with a kind of dry drone maintained by circular breathing set at the periphery of a pitch which caught the edges of overtones in this piece which felt quite otherworldly. This piece traveled the farthest and by the conclusion of the set, we had moved very far aesthetically and sonically from where we started.