Milford Graves & Bill Laswell: Back In No Time

Back In No Time

Drummer Milford Graves and bassist Bill Laswell, live at The Stone in New York City. Two stalwarts of their respective instruments, passing in the night on April 22, 2014. Separately: wanderers of this musical world, toting satchels of invention for the sonically weary. Together: architects of flexible structures to house the enormity of their collective imagination.

Laswell fades into frame riding a harmonic for the ages, organic and initiatory. His is the vertical signature. Graves, meanwhile, drops to the floor and rolls around in his drums, for all the horizontal motivator. These are the stirrings beneath the floorboards of your childhood, the magic of beings you always knew were there but were sworn against discovering by parents who didn’t know any better. Now they have emerged, ready to perform.

The actions of this duo are kinetic and headstrong. Like muscles of the throat, they twitch in anticipation of speech. Only words never materialize. Graves is, nevertheless, quite vocal at peaks of expression. His hi-hat is the measure of a defibrillating heart, around which sticks converge like bones. The mounting corporeality of his playing underscores the circularity of this meeting. Laswell rides the wave, respectfully and patiently, before chorusing his approval through improvisation.

The bassist’s densities match those of Graves step for step before cutting out to leave the drummer running wildly across the savannah, of which every plant is an instrument waiting for contact of feet and hands. Laswell rejoins sagaciously, exploring the flanged interior of a fallen vessel, whose engine must be resuscitated by clean attention. He attends to broken wires and gears, giving life by electric injection.

Short blasts of data, each made knowable by the gift of vibration, project themselves across the inner ear. Motivations fall victim to their own causes. Despite having been designed for harm, the musicians are here to put an end to that cycle with their heavy light. The passion of experience wins.

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