Terry Riley + Gyan Riley, Riley Smith Theatre, Leeds. 12 April 2019

Photo by Katharine Coates.

An edited version is on the Jazzwise web-page here:  http://www.jazzwisemagazine.com/pages/live-jazz-music-reviews/15225-rileys-revel-in-the-art-of-rippling-repetition

Terry Riley is one of those few and far between composers whose oeuvre straddles Western Classical Minimalism (of which he is a founding father), Indian Classical and Jazz. Now approaching his 84th birthday, and joined on stage by guitarist son Gyan Riley, he treated the capacity audience to two long sets, and reaffirmed his standing as a highly evolved and questing composer and musician.

The concert opened with a complex, modal piece. Gyan’s intimate, otherworldly electric guitar meanderings grew louder as Riley rippled repetitive figures over off-kilter block chords. Sometimes playing in unison, at other times Gyan’s organic sighing and wailing guitar demonstrated his facility for experimental soundscapes. The only complaint from this listener might be that throughout, the volume from Riley’s instruments (piano, electronic keyboard, ipad, melodica, vocals) seemed greater than that from Gyan’s (electric guitar, electronics, vocals).

Pinkly back-lit, one piece felt like a warm bath: (relatively) simple, melodic, and gentle as the affection the Rileys so clearly felt for each other.

Another, electronics improvisational piece, had Riley looping with his ipad as Gyan showered glissandos. One moment evoking tiny soldiers marching (in this reviewer’s mind at least), the next strange echoey vocalizations, this leading to a slightly simpler piece which Riley opened with stride and walking bassline.

Following the interval, another complex piece had Riley on electronic keyboard playing ‘harpsicord’, morphing to ‘bass guitar’. As Riley alternated between keyboard and piano, this listener believed she heard the Indian rhythmic figure Ta Ki Ta, Ta Ka / Ta Ka Di Mi, Ta Ka: in Western parlance, alternating 5 and 6 time. Meanwhile Gyan overlaid some impressively speedy jazz guitar figures.

Of note otherwise was a balmy, devotional raga sung by Riley, which brought to mind Ralph Stanley’s beautiful rendition of ‘Oh Death’ and a highly dramatic flamenco-style guitar piece, with Riley accompanying on melodica and keys, which ended in great tranquillity.


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