I follow the lead of the Blessed Eddie Condon when it comes to hyperbole about music, but in this case restraint is something I will put aside for a moment. What you are about to see — the first part of a Sunday afternoon session at Casa Mezcal featuring Tamar Korn (voice and theatre), Dan Block (reeds and courage), Rob Adkins (string bass and moral foundation) is some of the most quietly astonishing music I’ve ever seen.
A friend of mine who saw one of the videos called it “an opportunity for magic to be made audible,” and I think that is perfectly evocatively true.
I’ve always had an idea that the music made when there’s no audience is a transporting experience, that the way musicians play for themselves is freer and more exalted than when they have to be conscious of an audience. In most public situations, all sorts of distractions intrude. An audience there for brunch won’t stop talking. Waitstaff cross back and forth with dishes, full or empty. Even the artists most able to free themselves from their surroundings have to notice, now and again, what is buffeting them from the outside world.
Sunday, May 24, 2015, was a gloriously sunny day — a gift from the cosmos to remind us that such things are possible. And Casa Mezcal was nearly empty as a result. I was there, as was my new friend Richard Basi from Oregon, and a few others. But the room was so still that Tamar decided to sing without amplification. And there was no instrument — piano or guitar — to provide chords. So the result was ethereal, elastic, delicious: three voices in sweet conversation, stretching time, pitch, and lines. I’ve left in more than I usually would of the pre-song whimsical deliberations because I find them immensely touching.
What happened wasn’t anything predictable. It wasn’t Singer with Accompaniment (in Twenties terms, Comedienne with Orchestra) nor was it a cut-down Billie, Pres, and Walter. Imagine a soulful conversation where no one gets stifled or interrupted, where no one is The Lead, where the common goal is something new and beautiful and rare. Experiencing this was like being admitted behind the curtain for the genuine deep rituals.
Here are eight glorious performances from the trio’s first set: a divine interchange of energies, and I do not use those words lightly.
CHEEK TO CHEEK:
SINGIN’ THE BLUES:
BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA:
LOUISIANA FAIRY TALE:
THEM THERE EYES:
COME RAIN OR COME SHINE:
WHEN I TAKE MY SUGAR TO TEA:
ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET:
Gorgeous, free, exact, playfully exuberant, joyous. And this was only the first set of two. It was an honor to be there.
May your happiness increase!