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  • Glenn Siegel

Easy As Pie: Terry Jenoure & Bejewelled at CMSS

After Terry Jenoure’s Pioneer Valley Jazz Shares performance on Sunday, April 15, we were chatting about how easy she made it look. Indeed, there was no sign of strain on the stage of the lovely Robyn Newhouse Hall at the Community Music School of Springfield. Jenoure’s ensemble of fearless women improvisers: Angelica Sanchez, piano, Sibylle Pomorin, flute, Jin Hi Kim, komongo and Maria Mitchell, dance, are all veteran improvisers who have done quite a lot of thinking on their feet.

Jenoure plays violin and sings, and is also an accomplished visual artist, gallery director, author and educator. She has a presence on stage that makes it look effortless. People have told her that. Of course, under that apparent ease lies hours of practice, visioning, and hard-earned experience. She’s a successful professional who has learned how to listen, how to articulate what she wants, and how to avoid attachment to a particular outcome.

The ease with which the beautiful confluence of sounds flowed, masked the effort necessary to pull five individuals with limited shared history onto one page with two rehearsals. The fact they had performed Jenoure’s theater piece, Pass, the previous night at the Shea Theater, made their feat even more impressive. Sunday’s concert, which brought down the curtain on season six of Jazz Shares, had no light cues, lines to memorize, or blocking to worry about; just a sketched roadmap, some loose themes and ample eye contact. It provided a beautiful example of skilled improvisers improvising, creating whole cloth from wisps of ideas. For the ensemble, I imagine it was more fun, or at least less nerve-wracking, than Saturday’s more complicated undertaking.

There were lots of spontaneously generated highlights: a calypso-like piece that began with Jin Hi Kim playing a Korean figure of her own making on a two-headed drum called a janggu. Jenoure’s highly rhythmic vocalizing placed the piece in the Caribbean, before Sanchez and Pomorin simultaneously reinforced and obscured that island feel. The results grooved in a deliciously indeterminate way.

Jenoure also moved us with a gorgeous vocal rendition of Duke Ellington’s “Come Sunday,” sumptuously accompanied by Sanchez. Terry’s been a dear friend for years and I produced her memorable Magic Triangle Series concert with Billy Bang and Charles Burnham in 2009. But I was unprepared for the level of vocal control and emotion that she summoned.

There was another sequence when unaccompanied solos were passed around the horn. It gave us a welcomed chance to concentrate on each instrument’s particular sound. Kim’s kommungo was riveting. Immediately after the concert a pool of curious patrons gathered around her. A traditional Korean zither, the instrument produced a deep, rubbery sound, capable of highly refined rhythmic complexity. It blended perfectly with violin, piano and flute. Kim knows her instrument’s traditional history, but having worked with Henry Kaiser, Gerry Hemmingway, Elliot Sharp, the Kronos Quartet and a slew of others, she is also a seasoned improviser. Wherever she is, she’s right at home.

Since relocating to New York from Arizona in 1994, Sanchez has amassed a ton of performance experience with masters like Tony Malaby, Wadada Leo Smith and Paul Motian. Her Nonet will kick off the 30th anniversary of the UMass Magic Triangle Jazz Series in September. Undaunted by the challenge of manufacturing coherence out of disparate elements, Sanchez served as a de facto musical director, giving helpful directions during rehearsal, cueing others while performing, all in service to Jenoure’s ideas. She never over plays and is never obvious in her playing. Her toy piano solo produced a feeling that was both nostalgic and slightly disorienting.

Pomorin travelled from Berlin to partake in the weekend festivities. Her flute playing was strong and her use of voice in her work stirred many emotions. I wished she had stretched her considerable wings even further.

Dancer Maria Mitchell, who has the longest shared history with Jenoure, had free reign of the room’s marble confines and responded to the music with a toolbox of gestures that elicited smiles, prayers, and wonder over the course of the 70-minute concert. She first entered, moving right to left with a repeated series of fluid movements cut short by pained recoils. She interacted with an inflatable couch throughout the evening, at one point hiding under it while running to outer parts of the hall. The last piece featured Mitchell in ceremonious white, replete with dangling metallic tassels on her head dress. Her jumps provided in-the-pocket percussion and gave the proceeding a connection to the spirit world.

Jenoure is a kick ass violinist, who has history with Leroy Jenkins, John Carter, Archie Shepp and other esteemed musicians. But she’s “not on the scene,” as we say. Actually, she’s on many scenes. Her mixed-media sculptures are exhibited at the Smithsonian and elsewhere. She has run the Augusta Savage Gallery at UMass for decades. She’ll be teaching improvisation at Hampshire College in the fall. She is a published author, poet, and playwright. But I wish she’d “play out” more often. How hard can that be?


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