Joe Morris/Rob Oxoby
Dancing With Penguins (bim-75)
Last spring semester, renowned improvising guitarist/bassist, writer, and educator Joe Morris spent four months in our midst during his spell as visiting scholar at the University of Calgary. He taught open classes which vividly brought to life the basic tenets of his wonderful book Perpetual Frontier: The Properties of Free Music, hosted weekly playing sessions with whoever was interested, and performed a few packed, memorable concerts. And behind this bounteous occasion for our community, double bassist (and U of C prof) Rob Oxoby was one of the people turning the cogs. Oxoby appeared in Calgary in the early 2000s after spending many years in San Francisco, where he played with the likes of John Tchicai and Eddie Gale, to name a few. In recent years he’s logged hours with Not Now, Hamelin (with Jonathon Wilcke and drummer Eric Hamelin) and Muerte Pan Alley, a strange and ferocious take on blues and country. Morris is widely regarded as one of the preeminent guitarists working in the field of free improvisation; his singular style, highly adept listening skills, and astonishing technique are bolstered by the strong conceptual frameworks from which he operates, and this combination has placed him alongside such contemporaries as Anthony Braxton, William Parker, Nate Wooley, Augusti Fernandez, Matthew Shipp, Ken Vandermark, and Evan Parker.
Bent Spoon Trio
Nine Year Itch (bim-76)
Chris Dadge, David Laing, and Scott Munro (along with Kevin Lee) formed the Bent Spoon Ensemble in 2002, and after a few years of activity in that formation, they shed a member and, in 2005, became the trio. At the same time, they inaugurated Bug Incision Records, and the label’s first release was the Bent Spoon Trio’s debut, March 3, 2005, praised by The Wire’s Brian Morton as “improv of a very high order”. The group played – in all permutations of duo and trio formations – around Canada and the UK, and put out a bunch of records on Bug Incision, Holy Cheever Church, Total Vermin, and Unit Structures Sound Recordings. Around 2008, Laing shifted his focus to songwriting, which led to the co-formation (with Dadge) of Lab Coast, a pop group who has since released four albums and toured all over Canada, the UK, and Europe. The duo of Dadge and Munro continued – albeit with some long gaps between performances – to record many interesting collaborations on Bug Incision Records, and also performed with Peter Evans, Chad VanGaalen, Eric Chenaux, Chris Riggs, Josh Zubot, Ellwood Epps, and Jack Wright. Munro also concurrently founded the band Preoccupations, whose synth-laden gothic post-punk has garnered acclaim across the globe.
Joe Morris/Chris Dadge/Jonathon Wilcke
Rural Optimism (bim-77)
In March of 2018, during guitarist Joe Morris’ stay in Calgary (see bim-75 notes for the full story), he joined the Chris Dadge/Jonathon Wilcke duo on two occasions. The first was a live performance at a tiny and packed room in the Theatre Junction GRAND building in the heart of downtown Calgary. After a stellar set from Laura Reid and Mark Limacher, Morris played a short solo set, Dadge and Wilcke played a short duo set, then the latter three played as a trio; it was their first time playing together. Later that month, the three reconvened in Dadge’s basement studio, fuelled by Richard Youngs’ vegetable curry, for this sparkling burst of playing. A relative minority of Bug Incision releases are studio-based affairs, but the added clarity and sonic precision on display here greatly benefits this music, which is chock of full of dense, pointillistic playing. Wilcke’s sax work moves from fluffy free-bop melodicism to strangulated smears of sound, bringing out some inventive comping moves from Morris. Morris strikes an impressive balance between Wilcke’s saxophonic abstractions and the kinetic, tactile playing of Dadge, who is clearly relishing the opportunity to interact with such a spiky playing partner. Bug Incision could not be more pleased to present (along with bim-75) this second fine document of Morris’ Calgary saga.
Chris Dadge/Jonathon Wilcke
Three Live Pieces (bim-78)
Chris Dadge and Jonathon Wilcke played together for the first time around 15 years ago, both summoned by saxophonist/presenter Darren Williams for a performance of Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz. (Williams, now located in Kelowna, was living in Calgary at the time and presenting a seminal series called nach Hause.) That performance, rousing as it was, was predictably free of intimate moments of small-group interaction, so no great revelations were made for the two that evening. Fast forward a bit to the latter half of 2006, when the first six months of Bug Incision shows were taking place at the Soda. During the “trios” month, Wilcke joined Dadge and bassist Scott Munro (who was also present at the Free Jazz gig) for a set where things really clicked. But, by that time, Wilcke was living in Vancouver and deep into the 1067 scene there, playing with Williams, Dave Chokroun, and Shane Krause, among others.