Jeff Kaiser / Kronomorphic / Keneally/Minnemann/Beller Porter's Pub, UCSD San Diego, CA March 11, 2011
The Friday, March 11 show at Porter's Pub, organized by UCSD promoter Brian Ross, was a wild, kaleidoscopic affair. Featuring two Southern California-based creative improvising exponents with a rock-fusion headliner represented a certain degree of risk: would the headliner's fans tolerate the opening acts? Conversely, would the jazz crowd stick around for the main attraction?
Well, it all seemed to work out in the end. There was a definite less-than-attentive vibe going on during the first two sets, but it was somewhat mitigated by the wild applause given up to the efforts of Jeff Kaiser
. At one point, he carried around 150 pounds worth of effects pedals, which, he ultimately replaced with a laptop.
Kaiser plays a custom-made, four-valve trumpet, which means that whatever note he's playing, depressing the 4th valve drops that note by a quarter-tone, allowing him to play all sorts of microtonal scales. With a microphone plugged into his laptop, Kaiser interacted with his customized version of MaxMSP software, which not only modified his sound in myriad ways, but also spatialized it in the room with a kind of surround sound. He used four different pedals, assignable to any aspect of the software, to improvise with sound and space.
Sitting down, Kaiser's short set began with him looping his muted trumpet and adding new parts to the loops until he created an ethereal, trumpet choir of sorts. This went on for several minutes, establishing a dreamlike and hypnotic reverie that's subtle beauty had the crowd leaning forward in their seats. Suddenly, all hell broke loose, and the first three rows recoiled in response to the sonic assault that exploded out of the speakers.
For the next 15 minutes, Kaiser kidnapped the audience for a manic, hallucinogenic joyride through time, space and tonal distortions. He took some of the extended techniques of Lester Bowie and Bill Dixon
, and stretched them past the breaking point. He would bend a note, transpose it to an impossible octave, and then send it spinning around the room like a remote-control airplane with a glass-pack muffler attached. He'd sample a phrase and distort it beyond recognition, causing it to ricochet around the space in pink and white noise reiterations. Kaiser's set was unbelievably creative, but extremely hard to follow.
Kronomorphic is an ensemble co-led by UCSD professor and saxophonist David Borgo
and Los Angeles drummer Paul Pellegrin. The two met while both were enrolled in UCLA's Ethnomusicology department. Part of the aesthetic driving their ensemble music is the use of African-derived, or inspired, polyrhythms that incorporate multiple interlocking meters like 5/3/4 and 7/5/3. These grooves are worked out on the drum kit, and then arranged in melodic and modal terms, and expanded for improvisation.
That's where the rest of this highly creative ensemble comes in. The extremely difficult assignment of anchoring these metrically subdivided repetitions into relatable grooves fell to veteran San Diego bassist Gunnar Biggs
, who navigated passages in 11 or 9 as if he'd been doing it all of his life. The inventive Paul "Junior" Garrison, whose stated mission is to "sound like anything other than a guitar," was given the role of color commentator.
Garrison successfully carried out said mission. Throughout the set, he created loops, sampled, then manipulated the samples, and used dozens of pedals to build walls of sound that disappeared as quickly as they arrived.
Sharing the frontline with Borgo was the creative chromatic harmonica virtuoso Bill Barrett, a veteran of electric bassist Steuart Liebeg's ensembles. The combination of Borgo and Barrett was sublime on the spooky Kronomorphic melodies, and his solos were mindboggling.