The Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra marked its 10th anniversary with a three-day festival that highlighted its involvement with some of the leading figures in improvised music – German pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach's legendary trio and saxophonist Evan Parker were among the guests – as well as reaching out to the very young and the visually impaired.
Saturday evening's programme saw the return of a previous collaborator, Chicagoan trombonist-composer George Lewis, facilitating new piece Tractatus (he doesn't consider himself a conductor), and former Sonic Youth guitarist Jim O'Rourke instigating mischief from afar.
Conceived in 23 episodes, Lewis's piece was a good-in-parts, moody affair that worked best when the two drummers and two pianists – one acoustic, the other electric – generated an undercurrent of activity that buoyed the ripples of flutes, reeds, basses, brass and vocals. This is music that, arguably, is at its best when strong personalities assert themselves and interact or when elements of humour and theatre are introduced.
O'Rourke's Some I Know, Some I Don't had both of these and although it also featured periods that wouldn't immediately bear repeating, it went out of its way to engage the audience as much as it did the musicians. As a result of instructions from playing cards that were distributed beforehand, shoes were exchanged, phone calls made, drinks bought, and instruments dismantled amid blasting trumpet fanfares and Toulouse-Lautrec impressions. Lewis added a soliloquy on haggis, a fine French horn-tenor sax conversation broke out and most entertainingly of all, improv's grande dame of mouth music, Maggie Nicols, chattered, philosophised, cackled and crooned like a woman possessed.