Live performance: Adewale & Benjamim Taubkin

Friday, October 25, 2013

 With Benjamin Taubkin’s piano to the left, and Adriano Adewale’s drums to the right, the gap in the middle of the stage is conspicuous. But it does not remain unfilled. At a climactic moment of the second set, Adewale (pictured left), his slight frame drifting almost imperceptibly across the floorboards, leans towards to his accompanist and proceeds to create rhythmic variations with two pairs of shakers that lift an already impressive performance to a higher level of bravura.

His shift into the empty space is an audio-visual double header: the change of position alters the audience’s sightline and enriches the dialogue between the two men, as Adewale picks up instantly on Taubkin’s right hand phrases, particularly the lightly swinging triplets, and firstly doubles, then stretches them into longer, choppier riffs. He highlights the drumming of the keyboard. Then again, this superlative Brazilian duo – Taubkin is hugely respected in his country origin while Adewale has made a real impact on London since his arrival in 2000 – is predicated on the idea of a near constant push and pull between two instruments that are often the backbone of bossa nova.

Throughout the concert, the swish, tumbling cascade of ‘Berimbau’, its gently massaged minor chords making a sense of lament palpable, is regularly implied, and the magic of the performance lies in the newness of the spontaneous improvisation built on these and other key American and Brazilian touchstones, be it Evans and Corea, or Vasonceles and Gismonti. To this end, Taubkin is expressive but measured in his upper register flurries, while Adewale draws a mosaic of textures from his customized kit. In place of a kick drum he has a dome-like calabash next to a clay pot, both of which impart burbles of sub-bass that contrast with sharp trebles produced by fingertips rather than palms. This blend of low, viscose tones and high, pinched ones heightens the music’s effortless mutations from solid to liquid and earth to ether.