CD and Concert Reviews


NYCJR

REVIEW: WILLIAM HOOKER – ARIA: THE ITALIAN PROJECT

William Hooker has been playing on the New York scene for many years. I first heard about him not long after I returned to New York City in 1973. I had been living in Boston, playing with David S. Ware’s band Apogee. Ware met Hooker at some point and recorded on one of his earliest record releases, …Is Eternal Life. Moving forward to the present, Aria: The Italian Project, is Hooker’s latest offering.  I found this recording very uneven. The way the songs are put forth, listeners will have to decide what they make of it. Every musician that plays free jazz is a symbol for their method of how to play this music. Nearly all musicians have philosophical ideas, which accompany their music methodologies. This can be good or bad. As one nameless record producer shared, “Marc, sometimes, there’s more philosophy than there is music!” I was amused by his comment but I recognized the truth of what he was saying.

The first track, “Improv I,” opens with a repeated piano figure. His sidemen do little improvising during this interlude. Everything is centered around the melodic motif. Hooker’s poetry recitation follows shortly. He is one of a few jazz artists who uses spoken words with his musical presentations. On Davis is right at home in this setting as one of two guitar players. His sparse use of chords, allowing them to linger throughout this song, is highly effective. The spoken word parts serve as prelude to the drum solo that’s up next. Hooker’s drumming is very articulate throughout this album and he dominates the improvisational space on the opening piece while maintaining tight control over his bandmates’ output. The rest of his bandmates stick to the main theme and thus they are not drawn into the spider web he creates on the drums. It’s almost as if we’re listening to two groups performing simultaneously. Each is doing their own thing.

Track two, “Selfcommunion,” continues with the same piano riff we heard on “Improv I.” This is a very short track, echoing the opening theme repeatedly, like the Miles Davis song, “Nerfertiti.” Track three, “Clowns,” opens with a beautiful Italian melody on saxophone. The song is quite melodic, almost like a song one might hear in a movie. The ensemble playing supports the strong melodic elements. There’s no dissonance anywhere to be found on this piece. It’s a straight forward melody that’s well-played by the members in the band.

Track four, “Funiculi Funicula,” is a well-known Italian song. Most listeners will recognize it immediately. Dave Soldier’s interpretation of this song is spot on. He does an excellent job phrasing the melodic lines. He is joined by On Davis, who brings a bluesier treatment to Dave’s straight-forward playing.

Track 5, brings us to “Improv II,” with the same piano riff we heard on “Improv I!” Hooker jumps into his poetry briefly followed by loud drumming, touching base on African and free jazz drumming. This time, the band goes into a frontal attack! This doesn’t last long, as the group returns to the main riff. Hooker uses displaced accents to highlight portions of this piece. He is joined by Soldier, this time on violin.

Track six, “Sante Lucia,” comes across as a piece Jimi Hendrix might have done. It’s a very experimental electric guitar showcase! On Davis is joined by Mark Hennen on piano, a longtime associate of Hooker. This piece is free but it’s not anything I’ve previously heard. Once Soldier joins in the mix, it’s get even more convoluted. Hooker climbs aboard applying a steady beat with the bass drum, pushing the band in a new musical direction.

Track seven, “Epilogue,” begins with a similar drum beat as was used near the end of the previous song. This time, Hooker plays the beat much faster without the use of his bass drum. It’s a variation of what metal drummers call “blast beats!” The saxophonist plays a slow melody while Hooker is executing this rapid pace which eventually isolates into a duo between the two instruments. Hooker is in the fast lane and does some of his best drumming on this piece.

Track eight, “Improv III,” provides yet still, one more take on this song. Hooker’s drumming is the main attraction this time around. There’s an additional sustained guitar chord plus Soldier on violin. This interpretation is much looser than the previous versions. Towards the end, Hooker adds some spoken word.

Track nine, “Clown (Alternate)”, revisits this song. The melody is quite nice. The band dominates with lots of melodic support, while Hooker chooses to rumble on the drums in the background. My sense is they’re trying to play the song free but the melody won’t let them. Some songs don’t lend themselves to a free approach so easily. The band wisely chooses to let the song end after a short musical excursion. As I said at the beginning, this recording sounded uneven to my ears. I would have preferred to have heard more songs as opposed to hearing multiple takes of the same tunes. William Hooker fans will enjoy this recording, his drumming has never been better.

Album Information

Personnel

  • William Hooker – Direction/Drums and vocals
  • Mark Hennen – piano
  • On Davis – guitar
  • Welf Dorr – reeds
  • Richard Keene – reeds
  • Dave Soldier – violin & guitar
  • Louie Belogenis – reeds

Track Listing

  1. Impro I (9:25)
  2. Selfcommunion (2:07)
  3. Clown (2:50)
  4. Fuliculi Fulicula (1:21)
  5. Impro II (5:35)
  6. Santa Lucia (5:01)
  7. Epilogue (5:49)
  8. Impro III (5:48)
  9. Clown [Alternate] (2:56)

Recorded at Dolan Studios, New York University by Aggie Hsin Wa Tai; cover art by Detta Andreana; photography by Enid Farber; mastering by Sheldon Steiger.

William Hooker, Pillars…at the Portal (Mulatta, 2018)

CD review by John Pietaro

The storied career of William Hooker has traversed sounds, genres and ensembles, usually under his own direction, his drumset the undeniably principal voice. Hooker’s projects have often focused on cultural and political matters of import, conjuring a creative expanse along the way, but on Pillars…at the Portal, no other lure is necessary to hold you to your stereo.

Blakey-like, he leads another youthful band, another array drawn from the most creative of the moment, but Hooker has landed on something particularly special here. This ensemble picks up on where Weather Report left off—early Weather Report, that is—blended with equal parts AACM and downtown NYC. The drummer is no stranger to any of these schools of envelope-pushing and casts rolling, thunderous commentary throughout. Listeners will note Hooker’s trademark vocal direction from behind the kit, shouting uproariously to his young charges as the sounds build to a boil.

The electric guitar of Anthony Pirog is in the front line and stands out both independent of and orchestrally within the reeds of Jon Irabagon (soprano and tenor saxophones) and James Brandon Lewis (tenor). Any one of these monstrous improvisers could have carried the front alone so as a section (“Proving Ground” and “Committed” are notable examples), the thicket is stirring. Pirog opens the album on “Ray of Will” with a loudly growling effects-drenched soundscape that leads to dry, close-miked Reichian group hand-claps moving in and out of phase. This intriguing intro brings us into the piece proper with a driving quarter-note groove that evoked nostalgic memories of Miroslav Vitous and Eric Gravatt, constructed here by the leader and young, gifted bassist Luke Stewart. Pirog’s effects at points sound synth-like, dropping in isolated notes, until he unleashes a screaming, contorting solo. It calls out the saxophonists who create an explosive double-time free jazz foray. It seems clear that most of what we hear on this disc is wholly improvised, but far from mindless blowing, this is creativity of a truly advanced level. This is the shit.

Throughout, the front line is given ample space to speak and Lewis only verifies what people have been saying for years now: he stands tall among the best of the 30-something lions. Lewis consistently produces artful, Trane-inspired work, but in this setting seems pushed into another zone. Irabagon is already known as a “jazz subverter”, so must have been the first-call for this gig. While both are goaded to play harder, louder, faster, one can feel the deft touch and tone that is Lewis’ musical voice. Irabagon too has a marked inside voice (so to speak), but revels in the world of sub-tones. Pirog, noted for his experimental Cuneform albums, soars as comfortably in free-flight as in playing structured melodic unisons with horns. Hendrixian doesn’t begin to describe his ample repertoire. And so then, the drumset of William Hooker, aggressively maintaining the unity, the agitation and the sheer joy of free expression. Let’s call this music in spite of the Trump era.

-------

1.      Ray of Will

2.      Ray of Purporse

3.      Comes into View

4.       Initiation of Decision

5.      Livingness

6.      To Be and Do

7.      Proving Ground

8.      Committed


NYCJR

WILLIAM HOOKER & LIUDAS MOCKŪNAS – Live At Vilnius Jazz Festival

NoBusiness

Thanks to this set – released in 2014 but only today played for the first time – I was introduced to Mockūnas, a foreign name to these ears until now. Make no mistake, he’s a brilliant reedist. Gifted with a rotund tone that betrays inventive fervor and sensible microtonal abilities, the Lithuanian approaches the not-so-easy task of a duet with drums with a mix of consideration and incorruptibility, raising the intensity level when the emotions fire on all cylinders and quietening things down where needed. In Hooker’s method we find the symbolism of a ritual and the serenity of wisdom; the man seems to know exactly where every cymbal whisper, tom roll or awkward pattern must be placed, to the point of making us wonder if some of his parts were scored. The recording quality lets us appreciate the intrinsic vibration of the drum skins, from which Hooker extrapolates vital correspondences with the saxophonist’s propositions. The earthly manifestations of a good acoustic chemistry materialize in front of a listener since the very beginning. Rewarding music by two deeply connected human beings.

ALL ABOUT JAZZ
WILLIAM HOOKER With JON IRABAGON / JAMES BRANDON LEWIS / ANTHONY PIROG / LUKE STEWART - Pillars... at the Portals (Self-produced; USA) Featuring Jon Irabagon on tenor & soprano saxes, James Brandon Lewis on tenor sax, Anthony Pirog on guitar, Luke Stewart on bass and William Hooker on drums. For more than four decades, Downtown drummer, Willam Hooker, has been leading bands, organizing improv sessions and searching for creative musicians to work with. Over fifty or so releases, Mr. Hooker has worked many of Downtown’s best players from David S. Ware & David Murray, to Lee Ranaldo & Thurston Moore (both from Sonic Youth), to Billy Bang & Text of Light (accompanying Stan Brakhage films). Each time I’ve seen Mr. Hooker play, he is working with another cast of musicians. For this disc Mr. Hooker is working with Jon Irabagon, award-winning saxist and member of Mostly Other People Do the Killing, as well as three members from saxist James Brandon Lewis’ (Okeh/Sony artist) current quartet (Stewart & Pirog). Mr. Pirog is also a ember of the prog duo, Janel & Anthony, as well as a new punk/jazz band called the Messthetics. This disc begins with a pulsating rumble of feedback (?) and clapping. Mr. Pirog takes his first brain-melting guitar solo while Mr. Hooker plays some powerful drums underneath. Soon Mr. Stewart launches into a sly, funky groove on the electric bass with Pirog adding his own sly lines underneath. Add Mr. Irabagon’s swirling soprano and Mr. Brandon Lewis’ spirited tenor sax on top. Over a great slamming groove, Pirog adds a layer of slinky lines while the saxes solo on top. Mr. Hooker has a way of pushing his band band members to take strong solos, keeping them focused with his often powerful drumming. Mr. Hooker is a master of mallets and sounds especially fine on “Come Into View”. At some 71+ minutes, this is a long and winding and spirited session. More tha  40 years later, Willam Hooker knows show to get the best from whomever is under his baton. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG      
CD $12
DMG , New York City

Cadence Magazine

Jun 18 (2 days ago)

WILLIAM HOOKER

ARIA: THE ITALIAN PROJECT

SELF PRODUCED


IMPRO I / SELFCOMMUNION / CLOWN / FUNICULI FUNICULA / IMPRO II / SANTE LUCIA / EPILOGUE / IMPRO III / CLOWN (ALTERNATE). 40:54.


Hooker, dr, p, voice; Dave Soldier, vln, g; On Davis, el g, g; Mark Hennen, p, el kybd; Richard Keene, sax, ob; Welf Dorr, Louis Belogenis, sax. No date given, New York, NY.



William Hooker, who has been on the jazz scene for over 40 years, is recognized, and defined, as a drummer on explorative free jazz recordings, though he hasn’t been accorded the widespread recognition that more frequently recorded musicians have received. Nonetheless, Hooker defies definition because he refuses to accept the role of back-up musician. Hooker brings to life his own statements about the subject matter of his concerns of the moment. During moments of 2016, when Aria: The Italian Project was released—and it is assumed, when it was recorded then as well—Hooker’s concern was of marital appreciation. For Hooker learned to appreciate Italian cultural contributions through his wife, who is and whose family is native to Italy. Who knows what experiences Hooker may have had in Italy or what narratives about the country he may have heard? One thing is certain: Hooker hasn’t compromised his unconventional interpretations. Aria: The Italian Project represents a very personal musical description of Italian culture. That is, some of the tracks aren’t allusive to conventional Italian music at all, such as recognizably popular melodies or celebrations, but they instead consist of poetic observations and percussive embellishments and exclamations. Like the recently departed free jazz pianist Cecil Taylor, Hooker at times recites his own poetry during his presentations. That is the case with Aria. In fact, the album starts on “Impro I” with a concise bass-clef motive of long tones on piano, elaborated upon by guitar improvisation for further haunting atmospherics, before Hooker declaims verses like: “The beauty I see / Is of another time / A time almost forgotten / Of the land.” Recitations of self-penned poetry continue intermittently through Aria. However, oddly enough, more attention often is paid to Hooker’s drumming than to his words, even though both elaborate upon each other for a totality of impression. As if acceding to expectations, Hooker concludes “Impro I” with extended drum work. Hooker indeed leads the group, as Mark Hennen on piano and On Davis on electric guitar repeat the theme behind his growing excitement until the abrupt ending. As if a musical reconsideration of “Impro I,” the next brief track, “Selfcommunion,” continues the dark piano theme (causing one to wonder about the nature of Hooker’s experiences in Italy) as oboe and tenor sax quietly introduce the melody. Hooker includes his “Impro II” and “Impro III” as well, and they follow the same slow dirge-like theme as “Impro I,” while varying the intensity of the drumming. “Impro II” is ferocious as a full-force group improvisation, cymbals crashing and piano clusters smashing and splashing, before the final furious, dashing violin-tom tom dialog for the ending. Hooker brings in Dave Soldier’s violin on “Impro III” too, again connected with the same deeply haunting piano theme. The pure improvisation of “Impro III” gives notice again of Hooker’s force as a group leader with the irrepressible puissance of his drumming before concluding with a spoken meditation on “beauty.” But the album after all is about Italy. And so, Hooker gives several musical hints about his wife’s Italian origins: that is, Neapolitan. For Hooker includes an entirely personal and free version of “Sante Lucia,” a celebration of the waterfront district in the Bay of Naples, Borgo Santa Lucia. As would be expected, Hooker’s version is like none other. On Davis develops an effects-infused electric guitar solo during the first two choruses, which lead into Hennen’s sprinkling of treble notes and Soldier’s more traditional violin rendition, thrown off-kilter by Hooker’s opposing meter. The track ends with a mash-up of string instruments, piano and drums creating quite a stirring of disparate but complementary elements. “Funiculi Funicula,” in honor of nearby Mount Vesuvius’s transit, comes across as more controlled. Davis plays the melody just as one would hear it on a street—that is, until Soldier and Hooker join in for a street-parade type of conclusion to this brief track. While the album refers to the Italian Aria, a vocal operatic style, no operatic references are evident in much of the album. Instead, a more appropriate title might have been Canzone Napoletana, Neapolitan singing favored by recorded singers like Mario Lanza which became popular throughout the world.  Italy is a diverse country with folk music ranging from Trieste’s, just across the border from Slovenia, to mountainous Lombardy’s, bordering Switzerland, to the metropolitan vigor of Rome’s to the islands of Sicily’s and Sardinia’s, each region with its own indigenous customs. More broadly recognized throughout the entire country than the Vesuvius incline is the character of the clown, costumed as the harlequin character of Italian plays and as the performer in operas like Pagliacci. Hooker incorporates his own impression of the jester on Aria, which indeed expands beyond Neapolitan boundaries to provide a self-contained melody of operatic expressiveness. It appropriately musically sketches the visual impression of the Italian clown. Saxophonists Richard Keene, Welf Dorr and Louis Belogenis trade choruses as guitars freely associate their own equally slowly paced impressions. As traditionally depicted, the combined effects are of sadness mixed with mirth. Ever unpredictable, and always evocative and independent, William Hooker utilizes his range of creative talents, including as always the individualistic force of his drums, to pay homage to a region, and by extension, a country that inspired him to record yet again. 


Bill Donaldson

CADENCE

by Phil Freeman; photo by Peter Gannushkin

Drummer William Hooker has been around since the 1970s and has played with everyone from saxophonists David Murray and David S. Ware (on his 1977 debut, …Is Eternal Life) to Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth (on multiple albums) to Donald Millerand Brian Doherty of Borbetomagus (on 1994’s Radiation). His duo album with saxophonist Liudas Mockunas, Live at Vilnius Jazz Festival, was one of Burning Ambulance’s best jazz releases of 2014.

On Remembering, he’s heard in a trio with guitarist Ava Mendoza and bassist Damon Smith. The 35-minute performance was recorded live at NYU on March 13, 2017. Many improvising musicians would likely have released the performance as a single solid slab, ensuring that no one ever played it twice. But Hooker and the label, Astral Spirits, understand that even abstract music should make a few concessions to the listener, and the album has been split into seven tracks, ranging in length from 2:36 to 7:02. They fade out and back in again, reinforcing continuity while allowing individual moments to flourish in the spotlight.

Mendoza’s guitar work is astonishing. Her ability to bear down on tightly compressed figures, obsessively working over variations on a phrase, is reminiscent of the work of Mick Barr(OrthrelmOctisKrallice), and just as breathtaking. She’s a perfect partner for Hooker, whose drumming has often been thunderous, but who’s just as capable of restraint and great beauty. Even in the quieter moments here, they generate tremendous power together. On “The Magistrate,” things start off slow, with the drummer building a foundation out of ominous toms, kick and cymbals as Mendoza emits a slowly rising whistle, eventually bending notes like Sonny Sharrock. When the moment comes, the two are at each other like MMA fighters, Hooker laying down a rhythmic bed like molten rocks tumbling out of a volcano as the guitarist unleashes a wild post-blues blast wave.

Remembering is an excellent album that creates its own zone somewhere between hard rock and free jazz. Fans of high-energy music of any stripe will likely find something here that clicks with them.

Stream and/or buy the album on 

burning ambulance
Jazz Right Now
William Hooker: Heart Of The Sun (2014)

By JOHN SHARPE, Published: January 28, 2014



Suddenly Heart Of The Sun from veteran drummer William Hooker's The Gift looks a whole lot more poignant. With the passing of trumpeter Roy Campbell in January 2014, Hooker has been deprived of one of his longest collaborators. Campbell first appeared alongside the drummer on Colour Circle (CJR, 1989) as part of the self styled three member William Hooker Orchestra, and then later as one third of The Gift on Live at Sangha (Bmadish Records, 2005). As ever here Campbell mixes speedy proto bebop outbursts with an earthy lyricism, this last trait being particularly appropriate as Hooker, in what seems something of a new departure, introduces more overt melodies than often found in his spirited concoctions.

Captured on a live date in Brooklyn's Roulette in early 2013, the continuous performance splits into eight cuts, with the divisions selected at suitable junctures, often when the leader prompts, cajoles and signals a change of direction through his controlled but free drumming. Multi-instrumentalist David Soldier completes the threesome, alternating between violin, banjo and guitar, and often providing the rhythmic elements which create momentum. It's not until the third track "Snowflakes" that Hooker adds a steady beat, behind Soldier's bluegrass inflected banjo, but it remains a fleeting moment, as the drummer most often punctuates in a portentous rubato, akin to orchestral timpani.

No matter that echoes of Americana and folk rub shoulders with abstract timbral explorations, energy levels stay typically high. Nonetheless there is an episodic quality to the seat of pants navigation that recalls a film soundtrack where one character's theme abruptly gives way to another. That's most obvious on tracks like the opening "Reflector Of Truth" and later "Seat Of Green" where honeyed exclamations from trumpet or violin transform into grainy dissonance and extreme registers before switching back to sweeter gambits. Of special note is the joyous celebratory violin hoedown which breaks out on "Rainwater," as Campbell spins a trumpet obligato. It feels like the perfect ending, but Hooker has other ideas and it is not until after the brief but atmospheric musings of "For Leroy..2" that this enjoyable disc ends, fittingly with a breathy exhalation from the now departed trumpeter.
Track Listing: Reflector Of Truth; Bike Lane; Snowflakes; Seat Of Green; Slippers; For Leroy..1; Rainwater; For Leroy..2.

Personnel: David Soldier: violin, banjo, guitar; Roy Campbell: trumpet, pocket trumpet, flute; William Hooker: drums.

Record Label: Engine
All About Jazz
By David Meadow.
May 2, 2014
Issue # 196 



The William Hooker Trio burned up the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center on April 21. They played as part of the highly-eclectic Arts for Art series, which showcases experimental and improvised art forms, and were the final act on a bill of avant-jazz-oriented outfits that ran the gamut from hard-driving post-bop to serene musings on fiddle and guitar. Hooker's ensemble, though, was the most explosive of all. Other critics have used words like “slash-and-burn” and “maelstrom” to describe the veteran drummer's approach, and I don't believe any of us are complaining.

The trio's performance was essentially one extended piece, an hour long, with discernible “movements,” dominated by each member in turn and signaled largely by discreet but authoritative hand gestures from Hooker. The thread that ran through it all was Hooker's repeated incantation: “Let light, let love, let power restore the plan on earth.” When he first uttered it, in the near-silence at the very top of the set, he was squeezed into the corner of one of the wings of the proscenium stage, and his words were quiet and matter-of-fact enough that, for a moment, I thought he was poking his head through an unseen hatch in the wall and bidding the organizers in the hallway outside to adjust the lights.

However, as he solemnly pivoted around, the words became clearer and more urgent — and, as he settled into his drum set, they were a shouted exhortation. With that, Hooker, 67, launched into a furious solo thudding of all drums, rolling and rattling, cymbals blazing. The jagged jitters of frantic ride-and-snare dialogue hurtled forward at a speed the ear could barely keep up with.

The next musician to grab the reins was pianist Mark Hennen, bestriding the length of the keyboard, advancing his fingers across the notes with vigor. His movements had an air of dance to them: two fingers on each hand were forming little homunculi stomping the keys like a refined Punch and Judy fighting it out. Broadway, Art Tatum and Tin Pan Alley hovered faintly and knowingly in the crevices of semi-tonal, semi-discordant wash, while Hooker sat grandly in his corner of the wing, taking it all in.

Hennen and Hooker wrangled together for a time, and then came the cue for their bandmate, Matt Lavelle, to join in. He alternated among the trumpet, Flügelhorn and clarinet — and he would later genially confirm to me that that's a rare combination indeed. Lavelle was very much in minimalist mode, blowing the shrill, clear blasts of a herald on the brass and weaving deceptively simple passages on the reed. Here and there he threw in the wail of an ecstatic klezmer goosing a hora, or a low moan from one of clarinetist Eric Dolphy's radically reinvented spirituals.

Somewhere in the middle of all this, the leader came in with the incantation, no longer exhorting, but sagely and with assurance, à la Sun Ra. Each time he spoke, the energy shifted. Anything resembling quiet was a pause between movements; no one movement was still or hushed, and my attention was rapt the whole time. The closest the set came to balladry was a moment when the churn of the instruments suggested violent natural phenomena like volcanoes and tidal waves, and then a moment of slight, collective restraint seemed to take us soaring over the top of the smoking mountains, the roar muffled and the wind whistling in our ears.

When it was all over, and the last piano key had been pounded, the last hot breath had blasted through the brass and the last cymbal ecstatically crashed, Hooker bookended the affair with a final iteration of his watchword — which, by now, we were all keenly expecting. He emphasized each word as though hearing it for himself with new ears and sensing a deeper meaning, his new understanding hard-earned through the tumult. With his tone of voice, the drummer seemed to be saying, “My concepts of light, love, and power have shifted, but this is still my wish and I'm sticking to it.”

Tracing some of Hooker's history, we find a fiercely eclectic and open-minded player. While he and his collaborators are clearly steeped in the great jazz traditions, as they showed during this performance, the artist has found multiple sub-niches in contemporary music, playing venues like the storied CBGB and collaborating with rock giants like Thurston Moore. Hooker has also stated in interviews that he doesn't necessarily buy into the line, now familiar in out-jazz circles, that “you have to learn to play ‘in' before you can play ‘out.'” Considering this, we can see this concert making the ultimate statement of pluralistic unity: we may communicate in a common language, and recognize some of our favorite words and phrases with relish, but we mustn't forget how many ways there are to learn a language and how many different experiences a word or phrase can reflect.

Concert Review - April 21, 2014 performance at the Clemente Soto Vélez Center
William Hooker & Liudas Mockūnas: Live at Vilnius Jazz Festival (2014) 

By JOHN SHARPE,  Published: January 17, 2015



Veteran drummer William Hooker continues to expand his varied discography on the No Business imprint, with the addition of Live At Vilnius Jazz Festival. Like Crossing Points (2011) with the late reedman Thomas Chapin, it's a meeting with a resourceful saxophonist -this time Liudas Mockūnas, a co-founder of the label. But unlike the former encounter, on this occasion Hooker avoids the all out aural assault which tested Chapin to the limits, settling instead for power exercised with restraint and precision. And the result is all the better for it. Even in the most extreme moments the two always seem to possess another gear should they need it. 

Both men are at the top of their game on this date, captured at the 2013 edition of the Lithuanian capital's jazz festival. Mockūnas and Hooker form a relaxed, purposeful pairing. A strong sense of mutual engagement pervades the four jointly extemporized cuts. Mockūnas comes out of the Peter Brötzmann/Mats Gustafsson lineage of saxophone players: like them he stands as a broad brush elemental presence, melding a roughly etched lyricism with overblown curdled squalls. Hooker responds as if following a score only he can see. His tightly focused exclamations create an unfurling carpet of structured interjection which both buoys and prompts the hornman. 

Each allows ample leeway for the other in spacious transparent interaction throughout the concert, leavened by two short solo interludes in "Ideal." Straight from the incremental beginning of "Id" where isolated strikes of cymbal and snare alternate with a gurgling saxophone stream, the confidence, trust and listening is evident. As the piece flows in unbroken dialogue into "Idea," the culmination arrives through an anthemic swell of rolling rhythm and impassioned blowing. But it's not until the concluding "Idol," where the heartbeat throb and convoluted soprano murmurs grow into piercing multiphonics recalling bagpipes, that the anticipated slugfest materializes. It makes for an exhilarating end to a superior free jazz outing. 

Personnel: William Hooker: drums; Liudas Mockūnas: soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone. 

Record Label: NoBusiness Records
All About Jazz

William Hooker & Liudas Mockūnas - Live At Vilnius Jazz Festival (NoBusiness, 2014) ****½

By Martin Schray

68-year old William Hooker is a veteran of the New York loft scene, his first album was released in the late 1970s, it was a band with David S. Ware and David Murray. Throughout the years he has been a very influential drummer, especially since he recorded a lot with people from the alternative noise rock environment like Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo, musicians (very often guitarists) that come from “outside” jazz, as Hooker once put it. But he has always teamed up with “inside” jazz people too, and some of this music has been recorded by NoBusiness, a label Hooker really likes. For example there is “Crossing Points” with the late Thomas Chapin or “Earth’s Orbit”, an album with Darius Jones and Adam Lane. Hooker is not interested in genre bounds, instead he has been searching for new forms of music. 

In 2013 he was invited to Vilnius to play with Lithuanian saxophonist Liudas Mockūnas. In an interview Hooker mentioned how much he respects Mockūnas and how much he liked the performance calling it “excellent” and “captivating”.  And this is what it is indeed.

Hooker is always able to bring dramatic tension and human warmth to avant-garde jazz mainly by using his drum set to the extremes – he either concentrates on the high sounds of the cymbals or the deep and mumbling sound of the toms. This makes his style very unique, although you can hear Elvin Jones and Milford Graves as well as Rashied Ali and Sunny Murray as important influences. In front of this background Mockūnas integrates Colin-Stetson-like sounds and techniques, eerie howls and violent outbursts that remind of Mats Gustafsson and Peter Brötzmann and excellent techniques Evan Parker could have used as well.

So it is no surprise that “Live at Vilnius Jazz Festival” is full of highlights, for example when both musicians go crazy in the first track ID, or Mockūnas’ playing a shivering spiritual sax melody in front of Hooker’s bumpy drums in IDEA, or the balladesque beginning of IDEAL. The last track, IDOL, nails everything down – the beauty, the agony, the joy, the easiness of their playing – with Mockūnas blowing his soprano onto (!) a chair. 

The music Hooker and Mockūnas play is about consciousness, it is about attention, about being awake, being present, not only about playing licks or preconceived stuff; it’s about making people work in a certain context, in this case a marvelous duo conversation. This duo can easily compete with today’s great sax/drums duos of free jazz like Peter Brötzmann/Han Bennink, Mats Gustafsson/Paal Nilssen-Love or Kidd Jordan/Hamid Drake – Hooker and Mockūnas seem to have found each other. 

William Hooker once said that he simply wanted to make great music with great people. This is what he has accomplished with this album. 

Watch  IDOL here:

William Hooker + Liudas Mockūnas: Live At Vilnius Jazz Festival
Author: Petr WeakJanuary 26, 2015

Nobusiness Records ( www.nobusinessrecords.com )

Lithuanian saxophonist and clarinettist Liudas Mockūnas (born 1976) studied jazz and classical in their homeland and in Denmark and currently focuses primarily on free improvisation and collaborates with musicians from around the world. We have introduced many times, most recently in December 2014 in Ostrava in space and Plato in Pardubice Theatre in 29 "low frequency" trio together with the Norwegian tuba player Lars Haug and Danish drummer Peter Bruun (29 played at the Theatre, among others earlier in duo with Vladimir Tarasov) . He has produced a series of albums that show the breadth of its coverage. With the French guitarist Marc Ducru clipped eruptive electric drive and acoustic meditation on Silent Vociferation , with Japanese pianist, vocalist and performer on "small objects" Ryojim heal again náladotvorné dialogues on Vacation Music and abstract noiseové poetry dealt together with the Danish electronic experimenter Jacob Riis . However, neither betrayed classical music, to which can introduce innovative features, which proves particularly recordingJura bowl on which surrendered together with pianist Petras Geniušasem hold symbolistickému composer Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis.

American drummer William Hooker (born 1946) has twelve Isley Brothers or accompanied singer Dionne Warwick and soon began to explore the creation of atonal Alban Berg and on the other side of the jazz label Blue Note recordings.In his career he played with rock avant-garde such as Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo and finally Zeena Parkins is, Christian or Marclayem Elliott Sharp.

Their joint performance at the Vilnius Jazz Festival is on CD natrackováno into four parts. The opening - ID - is to some extent a kind oťukáváním (and by blowing), where both artists define their lofty musical poetics to gradually worked their way to thoughtfulness ( IDEA ) perfection ( IDEAL ) to the personification of perfection ( IDOL ). Their common sonic conversation is taking off in all directions and has a number of branches and footnotes.Sometimes I note, though sometimes pass in order to turn intersected in audio infinity. Both illustrate the range of their skills, but with extraordinary lightness, unpretentious and yet often very expressive. Mockūnas there is sometimes lyrical, sometimes even positively zakřečovaný, repetitive and frisky. Likewise, Hooker is sometimes intently filigree, sometimes sweeping. The record actually has (i due to the absence of applause) concert atmosphere and rather like the space opened the gates and headed into infinite space, or perhaps to the common microcosm. It's plain to see that these two certainly have no problem fully indulge in unbridled improvisation and vice versa, in due time one imaginary reins adequately tightened. Their age difference and different roots they certainly are not an obstacle, on the contrary, they can inspire each other constructively and create a new dimension. There's no exhibování but revelatory process, in which listeners can fully immerse themselves and get surprise.
His voice
Thursday, February 12, 2015

William Hooker & Liudas Mockunas, Live at Vilnius Jazz Festival

It is ever more clear to me that William Hooker is one of the premiere free improv drummers of our time. In a small group setting he can be counted on to invent an almost orchestral panorama of sounds and gestures. You get this very strongly in his duet performances with soprano, alto and tenor saxman Liudas Mockunas on their 2013 performance Live at Vilnius Jazz Festival (No Business CD 68).

It is just the two of them in a totally free context for a lengthy and rewarding set. Mockunas has much spirit and a full sound that complements Hooker's drumming synergies with a parallel energy and flourish that make the meeting seem totally right.

There is a tumbling forward into our present-future throughout. Mockunas has his own sound on all three saxes and Hooker responds in kind.

There was magic in the air on stage and in the audience that day. And the duo brings it into our hearing with great, long cosmic phrasings and extended form.

This is a set that will satisfy those who like their freedom scalding hot. It's a blazer to clear your head and set you spinning into space. Bravo!

Posted by Grego Applegate Edwards at 5:39 AM

Labels: free improvisation today, free jazz duos in the present decade, william hooker and liudas mockunas live at vilnius jazz festival gapplegate music review
GAPPLEGATE MUSIC REVIEW


William Hooker Ensemble
The Firmament Fury

Cat. No.: SHCD123

Personnel:
William Hooker drums
Claude Lawrence alto saxophone
Charles Compo tenor & soprano saxophone
Masahiko Kono trombone
Donald Miller electric guitar

Track Listing:
1. For the Spirit of Earth / Cosmic (William Hooker) 10:13
2. Prayala (William Hooker) 13:58
3. Lustre (William Hooker) 13:16
4. The Coming One / Evolve, Part One (William Hooker) 8:19
5. Radiance (William Hooker) 11:05
6. Evolve, Part Two (William Hooker) 2:42

Total time: 59:49


"Hooker's music is good, unabash ed free-jazz improvising. He and Lawrence make an effective duet: Hooker's rolling bed of drumming avoids direct comment on Lawrence's strong, Lyons-inflected alto. Of the trio and quartet tracks on the album, Pralaya and Radianceare probably the strongest. The horn players get their solo moments and do well with them, but the music is framed to emphasize the group, and that's where a listener's ears are drawn. There's good group improvising to be heard here."
Dale Smoak, Cadence, February 1993

Liner Notes


1. Crises
"At first I was afraid; this familiar music had demanded action, the kind of which I was incapable, and yet had I lingered there beneath the surface I might have attempted to act. Nevertheless, I know now that few really listen to this music."
Ralph Ellison
The Invisible Man

It's my firm belief that the task of the musician in playing improvised music is to anchor a higher level of existence on the material plane. This doesn't mean to say that this happens, or that this view is shared by other composers, players and colleagues. There are, of course, more superficial views which address themselves to money, fame, prestige, women/men, and power. These views should not be dismissed, for these people also play music, write compositions, do interviews, make records, and (indeed) cause the direction of improvised music to go a certain way. But my alternative view still stands. I feel that when one is making music, it is the task of the musician to create what flows on a higher level of life-thought and idea. I believe this abstraction is acknowledged by most musicians who see each other, and ultimately respect each other, just because we are musicians. This is probably an unwritten code of thought in the creative field. It is one which seems to be realized wherever I go, amongst friends and enemies alike. We are neither promoters nor entrepreneurs first, we are artists with that unique talent to improvise and create music on the spot. This unites us. The other territorial boundaries separate us. But the first goal is in the bringing down from some higher place, an energy, a music, which exists on a realm outside of the ordinary everyday drudgery of life, and it is the realization of this that produces the crises. In coming down the music is used, abused, transferred and transformed, not always toward higher levels. And this music is (mostly) not heard by the human beings meant to receive its message.

2. Resolution
The fact of 'identification' with the music one makes is also a situation that can produce a desperate individual, with a life and creative juices that are even more desperate. I speak of the need to affirm self-identity for the artist. What is real (surely) is not only in the music's imaginative vista, but one begins to question the aspects of life and death which every individual questions, after a while.
This is the scenario: the musician is creating and no one is listening, no one is affirming higher art, no one is crediting the individual with products of higher life (or beauty) – yielding bad vibes all around.
At this point the artist asks, "Now am I just going to let these people destroy me and my own self-worth? Am I going to let them use me as their pawn in the scheme of technological know-how and materialism to place credence in their perverted vision of what art is, what my improvised music is, and what the direction of my improvised music is?"
This is an affront to my ability to say what my work is and my ability to be truthful in explaining it; thus making it impossible for me to teach it to others. At this point we stop asking what is correct for them, for I have (mistakenly) placed all of my self-worth in being an artist. For these people to tell me that my work is valid (or invalid) is to have the outside world confront my existence, my playing, and my outlook on life on this earth. I am and should be, the judge of this situation; yet it is important for me to have the final word on how I do my work, my improvisation, my life. Perhaps if the world weren't so specialized I would not have to deal with this. Perhaps, if money weren't the only yardstick for measuring the worth of things I wouldn't have to acknowledge this ignorance.
Nonetheless, we decide that we (the artists) make the music. We have played varied styles in many cities/countries, and when we play with others we know that it is ourselves calling for the instantaneous response to our musical framework. Therefore, within (the 'order' comes from ourselves and whatever the societal context) we know whether our music is true or not. We know how we felt on the day and night of the gig. We know what club owner messed with us, and who we had to be hassled by about the tapes, the pay, the working conditions, etc. Finally, in response to the higher order of things, we know we will die when it's time for us to die, and this no one else can do. It is the musician himself who can legitimize himself; but this is a given, for when he plays he says – I AM. This is the ultimate legitimation. Our notes are our being. I am my music. I initiated the action, and the people involved.
Who can question me? I say to the arrogant mind-set I am confronting, "Do you think you have the right?"

3. Plateau
"All growth is committed to a foundation; time is growth – We are extensions of what always was – and so the TREE grows."
It grows in its own fashion and in its own environment, and those that care will elaborate on it. This keeps the 'heart' of the matter in the correct place. The music is not merely a process of mix and match, of technological wizardry. There is a spiritual bond (if you will). The acknowledgement that another, be it the musician, the mentor or the teacher; is concerned, and would contribute. This encourages the individual to go to the next step of trying to get money from the business interests who must be persuaded to fund and support our work, so they can perhaps assuage their need to be respected as 'civil citizens' who have culture in mind. This may (or may not) be correct. But when we see the motivation of the true artist, we know that our journey is beyond the color of the participants; the race of the average audience; the environment of the presentation. We only know that we are to play and deliver in a strong and spontaneous fashion. Again, this challenge should be differentiated from the supporters. What is this? Talk, conferences, seminars, vocal meanderings... Sure we need the money, but this does not make our committment. We try to measure up to what our observers cite. This can be positive. Yet there is a paradox. My value triples in Asia. The dollar is on a different scale in Europe. And the white Anglo-Saxon ethic can make me be reproduced on a level that is so cold that everyone will be listening on this scale. This is part of my struggle. My music is Afro-American classical music and I reproduce it myself. No one should tell me how 'hot' I should be, or who I should play with; and I must push to eliminate these problems.
I have realized that the offering I'm making is to a higher place. This doesn't make me an idealist, or impractical, because the vision is always tempered by the world's lack of creativity and fire, and interest in improvisation. This is to be expected, it is the way of the world. But when we take on the rules and values and speculative schemes of others to make our own creative efforts legitimate, we, as artists, are doomed. The music ceases to flow, and hence there is nothing in this environment in any way creative, or giving, to the spontaneous impulse or the music. I try to keep this thought in mind, but not for too long because thought, in itself is also a trap, where the naturalness stops and yields to the master plan of the mind, not the sentences of the music.

4. Crisis – "Once said"
Another crisis is arrived at, for the cycle repeats itself. After creating and going through the stages we have already mentioned, you will find yourself in another cloud. The SUN stops shining, and the western sense of culture stops the mood of the soul's impulse. A cold, closed environ. I will remember the past; I will live to try to stay fresh. My committment to improvised music is in my practice of the art. My necessity to protect its legitimation can only go so far, for the mind only goes so far. It's up to others to realize the process and to listen, openly. I only hope you, the reader, will realize that truth after the natural course of listening is submitted to.

William Hooker
Liner notes/Firmament Fury/Silkheart Records
Mindfulness
A Review by Thomas Stanley

What started out as a William Hooker collaboration with mixologist DJ Olive at Slim's fortuitously expands to include west coast reedsman Glenn Spearman and something magical and enduring happens. Glenn sets it up with an opening that brings to mind lupine serenades to a waxing moon. Spearman's burled tone articulates the basic premise of Mindfulness: that studied involvement in the fullness of life is the central revelation of the human experience.

William rumbles in like the first gale of a brewing storm. His kit is vibrating like a bowed string -- shimmering masses of metal and taught drum that borrow the sweetness of a buzzing harmonium. Now Olive's palette of samples, waveforms, and records sketches a bright landscape in the midst of the storm. Olive can mimic the sound of herons fishing in the cattails. His cypher-copia of borrowed sound brims with aquatic noises -- humpback whales, tiger seals, and squawking gulls.

There's something warm and living in this "new" music that can often find itself dismissively relegated to the nihilistic urges of a postmodern aesthetic. "The cosmic warmth that heralds!" William cries out, seized by powerful intuitions that wrack his body. Hooker's art form is based on an honest surrender to powerful intuitions that must be mediated by a body that only has four limbs. As a drummer his playing is a paradox stretching the polyrhythmic concept to a point where he can point at time without having to stain his feet in its muck. Maybe Einstein would have told us that the natural offshoot of such vigorous timebending would be the production of new space.

Glenn is among an elite group of players able to command the tenor to simultaneously growl and sing. He's hang-gliding in all that space that William has created. Gliding on confident wings like a raptor or looping and darting with a swallow's precision. Olive brings the ritual to a close, corralling his briny symphony into a soothing drone. In the din of William's time machine a rupture has occurred in our conditioned approach to beholding our world. In Mindfulness we discover the taste of pure water and are startled by its tang.

Mindfulness - A Review by Thomas Stanley
The Distance Between Us
A Review by Noumenal Lingam

The Distance Between Us fills with broken glass, smart bombs, and unmarked mass graves. A lone voice crooning like Arthur Prysock to the accompaniment of tom toms rises up from this cleft of consternation. This is the opening scene to a passion play of conflicting aspirations and lost innocence. This is the first exhalation of redemptive sound issuing from William Hooker's latest recording.

William sent me the tape some time ago. It is, we both agree, his best recording. "I want your immediate impressions Thomas, without thinking about it. Just respond." Which I was prepared to do internally, but before I could discover what lurks in The Distance Between Us and externalize it in print, the planet needed a few more wobbly rotations. At the time that I heard a tape of the rough mix from this superb cd, the Dow had yet to hit 10,000; a half-million desperate refugees had yet to bruise their feet in flight; and a little town in the Rockies had yet to cringe in shock as its children set upon each other. All are referents for the global developmental crisis that's addressed through 7 selections and 10 musicians on this cd.

Following Hooker's solo prelude, our descent down the crumbling sides of the canyon is easy, even gentle. Mark Hennen's piano echoes the sparkling poetics of gravity's pull on fluids down the path of least resistance. Hooker's hands work the metal plates surrounding his toms and snare into a broiling foam on top of Hennen's seductive waves. The sound bumrushes the gorge like a flashflood as Hooker's battery pushes its waters downstream.

The strategy at play here involves stacking different instrumentations on top of each other. Each cadre of tone scientists works a different subset of the same limited universe of melodic and temporal truths. There's a brutally transformative tension generated in the juxtaposition of such radically different bodies of sound. There's also a moment of revelation after about the third time you've listened through The Distance Between Us when you realize that the electric and acoustic, the frenetic and the sublime, are all different takes on the same motif.

Boom Boom Whap. "The Gates" and "Pure Imagination" (tracks 1 and 2) are succeeded by Hooker in the guise of astral/funk/rock jam pilot. (Hell, he did share the streets of urban Connecticut with Tyrone Lampkin.) A beat that is as compelling as it is elemental becomes the fulcrum for a multiple-guitar, bass-heavy, overdriven refiguring of a Sonic Youth dirge. "Because (of You)" introduces us to vocalist Gisburg whose attack brings to mind both Diamanda Galas and Skin of the Brit-punk band Skunk Anansie. Her voicings, however, are not without qualities of lift and clarity that keep the vibe in more of a psychedelic vein than an aggressive one. It's being able to pull out of ten minutes of this setting and texture into nearly twice as much "Sensor Suite" that exposes the strengths of this recording and its intelligence. Here the squad is all acoustic. Charles Compo (sax), Lewis Barnes (trumpet), and the apparently brilliant Sabir Mateen (sax) wrap harmonic flesh around the simple theme enunciated at the beginning of our journey. Hennen, who was such a friendly voice as we started our slide down the walls of the chasm, now seems to take perverse pleasure in our predicament. Alternately dropping bricks on the lower register and pushing stabby little clusters from the middle up, the piano meets the drums at a very high level of intercommunication. Without divulging anymore of the plot, it's important to note that the recording concludes with a disciplined symmetry and sense of emotional closure that makes it the first concept album I've heard in a long time that is worthy of that tag.

Put the purists out of the house on this one. William Hooker don't play that stuff, and time is far too short for games of critical vanity. In the meantime we are commanded to choose what will be planted in the tortured distance that stands between us. More bombs and suspicion or healing herbs to assuage our sickness?

"The Distance Between Us" A Review by Noumenal Lingam


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