What You Missed: Buffalo Collision

20 Sep

Some years ago I pulled in to Teddy Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota on my way home from a Montana camping trip, and started putting up the tent right across a little stream from a herd of buffalo. As the tent was staked, the clouds that had been building became ominous and the wind picked up, causing these enormously powerful beasts to become agitated. There began a deep lowing, a grunt here and sharp exhalation there, a slowly growing chorus of broken notes that escalated into an enchanting, if terrifying, harmony, exploding in to full throated bellows and earth-shaking stomping as the rain began.

Buffalo Collision as a band were neither terrifying, nor hairy, but the memory did come to mind as their fractured lyrical bits swelled into beautifully looping loud bursts and then back into silence. The old trope about jazz is true here- it was as much about the notes that they didn’t play, but what they did play was engrossing and surprisingly accessible. Dave King’s drums were omnipresent and tightly wound, Ethan Iverson on the Steinway also played MC/host and would melt in for melodic fragments and then melt away and Tim Berne’s alto sax was more punctuation than drive, but each person got their moment in the light. The quartet did not jostle so much as gracefully sidestep eachother for solos (Hank Robert’s convulsive but delicate cello solo from the first set was the real highlight of the night) and a good number of two man back-and-forths kept the pace moving and the effect varied.

For the encore, the the quartet was joined onstage by Greg Norton of Husker Du and his guitar, who added a sharp percussion that mirrored Iversons keys and toyed with Roberts for the final note of the evening, ending on a high sharp bend, like a yelp of triumph. Take some time to watch the videos- patience is a virtue and was well rewarded at the Dakota on Saturday night as the group kept things open but taut (in the improvisational scheme of things, this was pretty fine-tuned, high-powered stuff). The first video is great for Iverson’s driving keys, and if you get antsy, skip to 9:45 mark of the second video for some great ensemble action that turns into a drums and cello battle.

Buffalo Collision Set 2 Pt. 1 from Carl Atiya Swanson on Vimeo.

Buffalo Collision Set 2 Pt. 2 from Carl Atiya Swanson on Vimeo.

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