with Numb Right Thumb
Performance Space Orlando, Orlando, FL • April 14, 2000
This show marked the Orlando homecoming of the much beloved quintet Beat Science. Inside Performance Space, the atmosphere was cookin’ both literally and figuratively. On this night, two of Orlando’s improvisational powerhouses locked horns and nearly stomped the place to pieces.
Numb Right Thumb played first. They were augmented this night with Pat Wood on marimbas. We were also treated to the newfound sounds of Rev Aaron Jarvis’s new organ. He tickled the ivories much to my delight. The instruments add density with its lovely thick tone to an already busy mix. They played 3 songs, the second of which was introduced with a collage of samples followed by a tense, scraping breakbeat. At first, it seemed that some of the members were a bit displaced by this new element, but in a few minutes, they once again fell into equilibrium and the harmony (well, as much as NRT ever harmonizes) was restored. Throughout the set, Jim Ivy alternated between unprocessed and processed sax, his unprocessed playing was free but tempered. No Borbetomagus styled pyrotechnics here, but he wasn’t subdued by any means. I love when he turns on the echo and engages in some interstellar communication, but I also know people who don’t like it. The band moves at a steady, rhythmic clip with the drums and bass keeping a steady pulse. I felt that it was a lovely set, and the audience seemed to agree with me.
In all (good) improvised music, there is a tangible energy in the air. Numb Right Thumb naturally exude this energy, but Beat Science harness this force and aim it in a specific direction. I’d say in that during this show they sent these energy rays right to the audience’s hindquarters. This is the most energetic I’ve ever seen the band. They had heads a-noddin’ and toes a-tappin’ all around. Mike Welsh started the set by playing solo drums in his own inimitable way. All I could think was, “It’s so asymmetric, man!” The rest of the band was introduced one by one, starting with alto sax player Jeff Rupert, followed by Chris Charles on baritone sax, Doug Matthews on bass, and finally, Brian Carpenter on trumpet. They started playing, and didn’t stop for about 40 minutes. The songs flowed gracefully into each other with massively powerful soloing on Chris Charles’ part. Wow. I’ll quote a friend who describes Jeff Rupert’s alto sax playing: “it’s like a laser.” The band plays as a fully integrated whole, but allows the individual members to really shine in their own right. After a few more tunes, Beat Science finished their set with an arrangement of ABBA’s “Fernando.” Grins abounded.
Alongside each band was painter Gustavo Llenas. I’ll save the art criticism for someone more knowledgeable, but his canvas was liberally covered with abstract figures and vivid colors. It looked great to me, but I’m notoriously indiscriminate in my appreciation of art.
To sum up this show, the best I can do is to concur with someone who summed it up perfectly. “That was down home man, down home.”