Scree at Arbor Day House 3/29/18 (by Andrew D’Angelo)

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PERSONNEL: Ryan Beckley (guitar), Carmen Rothwell (bass), Jason Burger (drums)

SETLIST: Season 2 (Beckley), Being Realistic (Beckley), Free Improv, C Waltz (Beckley), Cut Short (Beckley), Theme Song (Beckley), Weather Theater (Beckley), TV Sometimes (Beckley), Better Day (Beckley)

HIGHLIGHTS: “Free Improv” didn’t produce the sort of sound often associated with free improvisation. The trio played as if performing a composition they all knew by heart and were just interpreting in a unique way. The song was subtle and gorgeous, with a structure that can only be achieved by musicians who have a profound connection to one another.

Ryan Beckley sat on the floor cross-legged in an almost meditative position, engaging the audience both aurally and spiritually. Carmen Rothwell towered over him with her acoustic bass. Drummer Jason Burger was his own unique story, supporting the music in the same way the floor was supporting the audience. This house concert felt reminiscent of the environment at the old Knitting Factory on Leonard Street, with 50 or so guests sitting comfortably on the floor listening attentively to the music.

The music was gentle and had plenty of movement, obviously a group effort. When I asked bassist Rothwell how Scree’s compositions were created, she said, “All of the tunes were composed by Ryan and, of course, worked on and fleshed out (to various extents) in rehearsals and conversations with me and Jason,” she replied. Ryan said about Jason, “We work out the arrangements cooperatively in rehearsal, so everything going on rhythmically and texturally over there is Jason’s handiwork!”

During the set Beckley read excerpts from both The Metaphysics of Virtual Reality by Michael Heim and Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paolo Freire. These unexpected interludes also kept the audience on the edge of their collective consciousness.

Around 1991 or 1992, I heard Bill Frisell live for the first time at the ICA in Boston. Even 25 years later, I can tell you  the way he sounded that night changed my life forever. This concert with Scree had me feeling the same energy.

Ryan Beckley’s guitar playing is as grand and finely honed as Frisell’s was at that age. I asked Ryan if he was influenced by or felt his playing was connected to Frisell’s in any way. His response was a bit surprising. “It’s a bit of an embarrassing comparison, since I feel very much like a knock-off Frisell one might buy on Canal Street,” said Beckley.

I’m sure we’ve all had those live music experiences, where the music is so beyond the physical sounds that it impacts us in a much deeper way. Those nights don’t come from knock-offs, and I can assure you that these three talents combined as Scree delivered nothing but the real deal.

— by Andrew D’Angelo