Last night I attended a new improvisational night at the Nasher Sculpture Center, led by SMU's Meadows School of the Arts Dean and pianist José Bowen. He and his band, Jampact, played for close to an hour, dipping in and out of free jazz, funk and electronic pockets. In addition, dancer Jennifer Mabus performed along with a few compositions, and digital artists Ira Greenberg and Martin Sweidel projected a series of visuals on a screen behind the band, which were supposed to change depending on the tempo and intensity of the music.
The band was seamless, especially bassist Buddy Mohmed, but Bowen admitted the visual part of the night was "not quite there yet." The music is supposed to act as visual data, and in the future, the audience will be able to control that data with an iPhone or iPad on screens not just behind the band, but throughout the space. Last night, however, the visuals were a tad screensaver-y, save for the final piece, in which two marionettes virtually danced on the screen, bobbing and weaving with each other as the music built in tension. It's sort of an extension of what a lot of folks in town are doing right now, combining the musical and the visual as a sort of left/right brain sensory massage. It was that last piece, its figures swirling around like some experimental '60s Czech cartoon, that made me think there's some life in this night, if they just upped the visual aesthetic a bit.
Check the Nasher site for future performances.
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