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Saturday, February 9, the San Diego Center for the Arts hosted a duo concert by pianist Joshua White and multi-instrumentalist David Borgo at Villa Musica in the Sorrento Valley area.

This was spectacular in every possible sense. White is a musician devoted to listening, communicating and acting on the inspiration of the moment, and in Borgo, he has found a perfect foil.

The evening consisted of seven wholly improvised pieces, each with an internal logic, flow and exchange of melodic and rhythmic ideas.

White began the first piece with hushed pianissimo plinks eking into the ether while Borgo cooed and sighed though his tenor saxophone. As the pianist's lines grew more manic, expanding into jagged fragments, Borgo's declarations lengthened and intensified into a nervous squall of kinetic energy.

Ruminative, almost funereal chords set the course for the second improvisation--lifted by the warbled vibrato of Borgo's soprano saxophone which eventually settled into cycles of breathy trills, which White transformed with a hypnotic vamp of left hand bass lines under closely voiced modal harmonies. When the saxophonist returned, it was with dry-cough lines a la Steve Lacy as White got all kaleidoscopic underneath.

Improvisation # 3 began with Borgo alone, operating in ultra-free mode twisting spastic phrases into chirps and multiphonics. White entered with ominous asymmetric bass rumblings then took charge with a very classical sounding dreamscape that grew knottier with each passing moment. At a moment of high density, Borgo reentered on tenor, spitting tangled spirals into the altissimo register.

White conjured a ballad out of thin air--complete with reverent harmonies and a singing theme, and when the saxophone entered with a purring, honeyed tone, it was like hearing Keith Jarrett and Jan Garbarek's work from the 1980s.

Borgo opened the fifth improvisation on a double-pipe flute, wailing with bent notes and ghostly overtones before White's trance-like vamp took over. When the reed-man resurfaced on tenor--it was with wonderful, sandpaper rasps that snaked through the lower register and yelped into the rafters--offset by the pianist's obsessive recurring interval stabs.

The finale began with Borgo's overtone flute, with which he extrapolated on a bugle theme--White took up the idea--twisting the fanfare into a barrelhouse blues with heavy doses of Monkish ideas layering into an ecstatic cacophony.

Villa Musica is a great place to witness an event of this nature. A small, intimate room with superb acoustics, comfortable chairs and a decent grand piano. The San Diego Center for the Arts is doing one concert a month, and, I'll definitely be coming back.

Photo by Michael Oletta

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