- IN COWEN PARK, THE BUGS BUZZ IN THE KEY OF D From left to right: Christian Pincock, Neil Welch, Natalie Mai Hall, John Teske.
Deep in the forest of Cowen Park on Saturday, an ensemble of musicians played for a small audience. There were only maybe twenty people, performers included, but in the cozy clearing surrounded by trees and fallen logs, with a stream trickling nearby and a footbridge suspended overhead, it was standing-room-only. In order to find this space, where bassist John Teske and saxophonist Neil Welch have performed for the past three years, audience members were directed via Teske’s website on a treasure hunt through the trees. “Take a left into the ravine,” we were instructed. “Enter the clearing; walk toward the wooden footbridge,” and so on.
After hiking for some time, passing staircases and hopping across creeks, we found musicians amid the foliage: two on saxophone, one with a trombone, another with a bass and a cello. As the crowd formed, Welch began a startling solo. It was an onslaught of rapid-fire notes, messy, manic, bubbling over and subsiding on repeat. Welch was absorbed, trance-like, in his sound, which first resembled the cry of an excited animal and soon dissolved into a loop of unapologetic shrieking. Finally, it petered into a slow succession of guttural blows. Though a repeating single note, the sound was not stagnant. It was set to the counterpoint of the audience slapping mosquitos against their skin, of dogs barking in response from far away, and of birds caw-cawing.