When: Fri., Dec. 8, 8 p.m. 2017
Periodically throughout his career, the drummer Max Roach would unleash a solo just using a high hat. He would tap out crazy rhythmic patterns, adjust the tension between the two cymbals to modulate the color, and batter the metal stand holding the cymbals up for a nicely contrasting metallic thunk. The arcs of these solos were always a little different, but each iteration revealed the surprisingly wide range of sounds that a cymbal or two can create in the right hands.
Tatsuya Nakatani's hands are the right hands. Give him a gong and a bow or two (preferably one of his own, custom-made Kobo bows), and he'll spend twenty minutes teasing out volleys of all-encompassing overtones that vibrate every fiber of your being. Give him the dozen gongs in his gong orchestra, and he'll transport you to outer space, channeling the wails of alien whales, the collisions of stars, and the crackle of matter coming in and out of being. Give him some cymbals, and he'll drag them across drum heads to create screeching wails or blow through the hole in the middle to produce sounds that either scare off demons or invite them for tea. Give him a drum or two, and he'll cover them in bells and bowls, which he'll keep in constant motion, skittering this way and that, emitting either a low, gentle hum or the clatter and crash of falling sheet metal.
A Nakatani drum solo is an architectural, sculptural experience, where he punctuates moments of stasis with hyperkinetic flurries of activity. The way he moves around his setup is equal parts dance and tectonic force. One moment he'll be attacking a drum head with an egg beater, and the next, he'll draw two cymbals across each other with exacting precision. Waves of emotion rise and fall as buildings of sound emerge and collapse.
As a collaborator, Nakatani takes a more subtle approach. Like all the best improvisers, he is, first and foremost, a listener, intuiting where his fellow musicians are heading and adding musical textures that propel the dialogue. His deep reservoir of power and timbre pushes any ensemble in fascinating directions. When he stops in Raleigh, he'll be joined by two longtime Triangle improvisers: reed player Crowmeat Bob and keyboardist Jil Christensen. Over the course of three sets with three different permutations of players, the sonic possibilities are endless. —Dan Ruccia