Aggressive musical improvisation with Barrup, Lipson and Wright
When someone gets you in a headlock, that person is probably either a total stranger—and in that case, you might be being mugged—or is very close to you, like an older brother. (Or, you and that person are professional wrestlers.)
The same can be said about verbal jabs; in this day and age of rampant Internet trolling, a person might experience ribbing either from an anonymous misanthrope, or from someone close enough where a lighthearted dig is meant to be endearing and a demonstration of intimacy.
Roughhousing is the name of a wild and aggressive improvising threesome whose members—Zachary Darrup, Evan Lipson and Jack Wright—are comfortable with musically spurring and challenging each other; all have been residents of the Spring Garden Music House, located in Philadelphia and owned by Wright, and Wright and Lipson have been playing together for over a decade.
“I suppose we just as easily could have named this current grouping something like Horseplay, Tomfoolery, Shenanigans, Fooling Around, Clowning Down, etc.,” said Lipson, responding to questions from The Pulse in advance of the group’s September 25 show at Barking Legs Theater. “The name is a fairly accurate description of the sort of thing that most often transpires when we play together. We’re into fun and humor; things that are deemed as mere frivolity by those in the institutions and businesses of academe or arts funding.”
Called by guitarist Davey Williams the “Johnny Appleseed of Free Improvisation”—where “free improvisation” is playing “in the moment” with no genre in mind—the legendary saxophonist Wright is known for having an astoundingly large musical vocabulary, an enthusiasm to explore with new collaborators and an astute intellectual view of improvised music, which is expressed in his book The Free Musics that will be released next month.
Lipson is a double bassist and composer who is also a member of Wrest (with Wright and percussionist Ben Bennett), Normal Love, Psychotic Quartet and several other groups; when not touring, Lipson is a proponent of Tiki cocktails and culture in Chattanooga.
Completing the trio is guitarist Zachary Darrup, a relentlessly creative and hostile player dubbed by Lipson the “King of contrasts” and “possibly the most violent and abusive guitar player on the planet.”
“Early on I described the kind of improv Spring Garden Music is involved in as ‘rambunctious,’ so that’s basically roughhousing,” said Wright via email. “The opposite is ‘polite’ music, which observes a certain decorum.”
“Like you’re goofing around at a party and in walks your aunt, whom you didn’t expect, and suddenly everyone becomes polite, deferring to a mood you think she would prefer,” said Wright. “The fun is over, or the cryptic thing my mom used to tell us, ‘fun is fun.’”
“That’s what tends to happen to different musics as they become acceptable to the middle class,” said Wright. “Early New Orleans Jazz was roughhousing compared to its revival, when it was polite. ‘Arty’ music is polite, jazz today is super-polite, no stepping on others’ toes and no interfering with the easy flow of music to audience appreciation. To me that’s dead music, like take-out at the very back of the fridge. We bite the hand that feeds us, if possible, and some like it, like early hardcore.”
“In our latter-day Society of The Spectacle, most people strike me as increasingly complacent, predictable and anesthetized—even within the so-called underground,” said Lipson. “The psychological compulsion towards expending one’s spare time and energies on marketing, self-absorption and careerism is gradually sucking all the marrow out of creativity and the human spirit. It’s stifling and seemingly unavoidable. Even this interview could be considered culpable.”
“It’s difficult to find many aspects of modern reality that aren’t contrived, fraudulent or suspect in some way,” said Lipson. “What we aim to do is to disrupt this compulsory tendency by going straight to the heart of our own desire(s). We deliberately risk making fools of ourselves in public.”
“Roughhousing is jostling without intent to harm, maybe suppressed rage, but music itself never split any skulls—it opens our minds in other ways,” said Wright. “As for performance, we play mostly without audience but never rehearse; when people are present we don’t change what we do. We don’t know what we’ll do before we do it, and then it no longer matters.”
“We play with as much focus, intensity and feeling as our brains and bodies can muster,” said Lipson. “We rough shit up. I once asked Jack what he felt his relationship was to his instrument. He replied, ‘I love it so much, I want to f--- it to death.’”
Roughhousing, with special guests Susan Alcorn and Bob Stagner
Sunday, 7:30 p.m.
Barking Legs Theater
1307 Dodds Ave.