There is both serious and joyful chemistry between these two masters.
Woodwind multi-instrumental virtuoso Ellen Weller surfaced with a rare public performance on March 14, in a sublime duo with pianist Joshua White for an afternoon concert at Palomar College.
Choosing an all-improvised format, Weller began with slinky clarinet weaving around the peek-a-boo pianistics of White, fostering a theme that was almost Mancini-esque before both musicians ripped down the veil of propriety and launched to sinuous cacophony--hoarse multiphonics balancing whispered pad-popping over plucked interior strings. Seagull cries and jangling clusters revved into cycles of kinetic energy--then Weller took up the flute, spitting, sighing and bending notes into wide vibrato.
White opened the next piece with jarring repetitions--sounding like an alliance of Thelonious Monk and Cecil Taylor while Weller leapt into the unknown on soprano saxophone--soaring, chirping and twisting tangential dialogs around hammered explosions. Suddenly--the dynamics dialed way down, and White continued with quiet, rhapsodic ruminations while Weller's alto flute hovered above with ghostly overtones and aching trills.
Weller's jaw-harp and rattles signaled another quiet interlude as the pianist colored the open-spaces with a tinkling soliloquy before clarinet was the weapon of choice. Lacing dark curlicues of open-ended themes, Weller's story became knotty when White hammered multiple distortions of timbre from paper strung through the piano strings as each player embarked on a discordant exchange of formalistic gestures--sort of like Bach through the prism of John Cage.
Over in a heartbeat, it seemed.