Alain Drouot: Weasel Walter in Paris

June 12th 2009 02:09 pm

Copyright © 2009 Alain Drouot

Weasel Walter/Mary Halvorson/Peter Evans
Les Instants Chavirés, Montreuil, France – May 6, 2009

Drummer Weasel Walter has a knack for organizing extended European tours, a feat that is getting even more remarkable in those challenging days. Among the various projects he presented during his latest visit to the old continent was the trio he has formed with guitarist Mary Halvorson and trumpeter Peter Evans. Their six-day stint took them to Germany, Austria, and Hungary, but their first stop was at Les Instants Chavirés in Montreuil, a subway stop away from the Paris city limits, where they ended up opening for the No Neck Blues Band.

The controversial and outspoken Walter is the wild card of the trio, Halvorson and Evans being two of the rising stars in the realm of free improvisation and creative music. His idiosyncrasies make him nonetheless one of the most original drummers on today’s scene. And if his recent and documented collaborations with either Halvorson or Evans find him playing in a more conventional style according to free music standards, the Paris show was an opportunity to display another side of his playing, one that is rooted in heavy rock.

Inhabited by a youthful enthusiasm, his fast drumming was for the most part relentless and emphasized by the stampede feel generated through the use of two bass drum pedals. Throughout the set, Walter made the most of a small kit that included a snare drum, a tom, and a bass drum complemented by a hi-hat and a cymbal. On a couple of occasions, he also laid small cymbals and gongs on top of the drums to create a colorful backdrop with an Asian ring to it.

His dazzling speed and execution were tempered by both Halvorson’s and Evans’ more measured and contrasting approaches. The guitarist alternated riffs, long sliding notes, and sketches of melodies that betrayed her sensitivity and provided a constant flow of ideas. The trumpeter is a master of extended techniques and that night his most memorable and impressive contributions featured deep guttural moans that he was able to extract from his instrument. Pushed by Walter’s activity, Halvorson and Evans each took turn in taking the lead and giving the proceedings a new direction. The trio is to be commended for its commitment to avoiding routine and repetition and its Paris show clearly demonstrated the musicians’ will to set a new environment for their interactions and internal dialogues.

Several factors also affected the performance which had to be short due to the curfew imposed by the venue. Indeed, the trio played for less than 40 minutes and could not afford any rambling or meandering. Moreover, the excitement of playing their first European gig transpired and imbued the performance with a sense of urgency. On the other hand, not having much time to deepen their conversations, they did not get to display the full extent of their talents, especially Walter who chose to solely exhibit one dimension. However, it was probably a good opportunity to start the tour on the right foot and to set the foundation for further development during the following days, impressions stressed by the warm reception the three musicians received.

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