ADAM SIMMONS: THE CALLING ★★★★
fortyfivedownstairs, 3 May
The Calling. Its a title that suggests something powerful, irresistible and perhaps
only partly conscious. In Adam Simmons case, it was an urge to finally visit his
mothers homeland, Sri Lanka, that inspired the creation of his new suite. That trip in
2016 also inspired a deep philosophical – even existential – exploration of Simmons
own identity and sense of belonging, making it the most personal of all the works he has
produced for his Usefulness of Art series.
Each concert in the series teams Simmons with different collaborators and a distinct
theme. For The Calling, the saxophonist and his 13-piece Creative Music Ensemble
are joined by the Afrolankan Drumming System (Sri Lankan-born percussionists Ray
Pereira and Kanchana Karunaratna) and dancer-choreographer Vikram Iyengar.
Thursday nights world premiere opened with a visceral exchange between Pereira and
Karunaratna: a literal call that ushered in the other musicians, gradually expanding the
instrumental palette with reeds, brass, bass, drums and tuned percussion.
The suites movements evoked various elements of Simmons journey in Sri Lanka:
sights, sounds and smells; the sacred and the secular. Projected images of forests and tea
plantations accompanied majestic, swelling horns and arco bass in Part 2 (Place),
while Part 3 (Living) morphed from free-form improvisation into a pulsing,
There were several brief but captivating interludes representing train travel, bustling
with multi-layered rhythms and punctuated by plump chordal accents to mimic the trains
But the most impactful – and poignant – passage arose in Part 4 (Connection), when
Simmons and Iyengar performed a semi-improvised duet. Standing behind Simmons, the
dancer extended his hands gently around the saxophonists hips, allowing him to lean forward at a sharp angle as streams of sonorous beauty emerged from his soprano horn. It was arresting both musically and visually, reflecting the sense of empathy and shared experience that gives this work such a strong emotional resonance.
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