The five F’s bouncing sounds off the art-gallery walls were four humans from Portland making considerable noise in a somewhat organized fashion. They established themselves in a duo of gangly, bespectacled keyboardist Seth Brown and trim-bearded drummer John Niekrasz -- which was a good idea, since the droning, bonging, rolling interplay between those two was the group’s indispensable foundation, generating most of its rhythm, its atmosphere and, really, its interest. Saxists Heather Vergotis (tenor) and Ben Kates (alto) didn’t exactly enter the fray; the thing became a fray when they entered, their dueling Aylerations only occasionally making a coherent statement. The dynamics rose and fell; circusy melodies came and went. Niekrasz got my head moving from side to side with his emphatic patterns, of which he luckily possesses many. Not a bad way to swelter away the time while sipping a lukewarm beverage. (The Dangerous Curve people, by the way, are doing a real service by booking this rad music series in our security-obsessed times.)
Guitarist Tom McNalley used to be from Portland too, but now he’s from here. And he’s put together a great group that will certainly make some magic if it stays together for a while. McNalley’s collegiate boyishness was belied by risky fingers, which served his challenging compositions by dancing and slipsliding around the fretboard like James Bond on a mountain road, somehow never crashing. As always, the hunched demon-wrestler Andrew Pask got a lot of wood out of his woodwinds, fluttering gymnastically on clarinet and alto while adding little tag lines of electronic effects that helped keep the continuity together. The looming novitiate Kris Tiner stuck to the spontaneous improv mood; one nice touch was the way he pulled trombonish mini-slides from his trumpet by manipulating a joint of his tubing. Drummer Peter Valsamis, a bad-ass in a black baseball cap, effectively plied a suspended Sunny Murray-type anti-groove -- it’s a lode not many skinsmen know how to mine. All in all, the four sounded better if you listened to them separately than if you considered them together; not much synergy yet. That takes time. And I know there’s a worldwide trend toward omitting bass. Me, I think it’s a trend that oughta get untrended. Bass is glue.