The Fresh Sound of Sarah Cahill

Bay Area pianist Sarah Cahill dazzles at Bread & Salt

New music advocate Bonnie Wright closed the 2016 season of her groundbreaking Fresh Sound concert series on Nov. 4 with a daring solo piano set by contemporary classical pianist Sarah Cahill at the multi-arts Logan Heights complex, Bread & Salt.

Cahill began Maggi Payne’s appropriately titled “Holding Pattern,” by placing three “e-bows” inside the piano before resting her forearm across the keys while depressing the sustain pedal. The resulting sound of overtones and layered decays was an inspired and ballsy way to open a show.

That spirit continued with Frederic Rzweski’s “Peace Dance,” which unfolded from glacial dirge to chattering, nervous harmonies. Cahill has a masterful touch, and she was able to transform the small “house piano” into a more luxuriant experience. I have to say, Rzweski’s piece revealed how much he may have influenced jazz pianist Chick Corea, because I have heard many of the same themes in Corea’s early 1980s output.

A relentlessly repeating nine-note ostinato powered “Glass House #7,” by Ann Southam, layering underneath a constantly shifting and incrementally more complex right-hand choreography. The act of following it became almost hypnotic.

My favorite moment came on George Lewis’ “Endless Shout,” a wonderfully creative extrapolation on the “boogie-woogie” piano tradition that sounded like a shotgun wedding uniting Albert Ammons and Cecil Taylor -- totally standing the blues tradition on its head while peering inside for a closer and more illuminating look.

Cahill closed the evening with Terry Riley’s “Be Kind to One Another,” a densely packed lullaby of verdant detail and memorable themes that included snippets of the blues and Tin Pan Alley.

Another glorious night of the unexpected from Bonnie Wright, who will celebrate the 20th anniversary of Fresh Sound when her series resumes in February 2017. Until then, the creative music community awaits her next move.

 Robert Bush is a freelance jazz writer who has been exploring the San Diego improvised music scene for more than 30 years. Follow him on Twitter @robertbushjazz. Visit The World According to Rob.

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