Konk Pack, Tim Hodgkinson, George Lewis and Bob Stewart
The ultimate revelation was expected: it was required to attend both of Konk Pack's New York gigs. The only predictable factor was that each set would offer up very different facets of the band's potential sound. From glorious overload to tentative puttering, their range is immense.
Issue Project Room
April 18, 2010
The night after the Konk Pack gig, Tim Hodgkinson was still in town for his own showcase gig, down in Brooklyn's deeply industrial Gowanus Canal zone. Involuntarily, so were the other two members of Konk Pack, immured by volcano ash. The evening was engagingly divided between an improvising trio and a composerly collaboration with the ever-metamorphosing Ne(x)tworks ensemble. Perhaps it would have been advisable to switch the performing sequence around. As it happened, the moderately bombastic, rock-derived trio opened, with the exquisite acoustics of the ensemble following on from this thunderous beginning.
A comparison with Konk Pack was bound to make this trio suffer. The rapport between Hodkinson, guitarist Chris Cochrane and drummer Jim Pugliese was in place, but couldn't possibly equal the ferocious dialogue that had built up between the road-seasoned Konkers. Even so, the trio embarked on an often exciting run of gruff exchanges, dominated by the immense rumbling of Pugliese's extended kit. Actually, his drum array wasn't excessively massive, but there was something in the means of amplification, and his deliberate way with slow emphasis that created a colossal rock-bottomed sound. Hodgkinson and the more conventionally rocky Cochrane were almost scratchy beside Pugliese, although the latter appeared slightly out-of-practice as he frequently dropped his sticks. This didn't damage the quality of his rumble.
Following this disruptive foray, the atmosphere regained its formality as Hodgkinson took his place in the midst of the string-dominated Ne(x)tworks ensemble. This gathering can vary its make-up according to the demands of each composer. On this evening, trombone and harp were present, creating a very specific chamber palette.
The three pieces (all feeling just right in terms of their duration) were by Jon Gibson, Miguel Frasconi and Hodgkinson himself. Gibson has long been associated with Philip Glass, and his "Multiples" hails from 1972. Regular member Frasconi's "Ne(x)traits" is a recent piece penned for the ensemble. Instead of bringing out his complete array of tunable glassware, Frasconi had reduced his singing essence down to a laptop vessel. Hodgkinson's clarinet was, no surprise, featured prominently on his own work "Jo-Ha-Qui." Even though involving a certain winding-down from high-volume, high-intensity freedom for the listener, these primarily serene, studied and scintillating works repaid the effort of renewed concentration, as Hodgkinson conducted as if he was a bonded member of Ne(x)tworks.
Issue Project Room
April 23, 2010
At the same venue nearly a week later, George Lewis paid minimal attention to his trombone, focusing on the laptop electronica elements of his output. This area has long been a parallel interest to his improvisatory practices within the jazz or post-jazz sphere. For this gig, he was sharing a tabletop with fellow processor Damon Holzborn, who has studied under Lewis at Columbia University. This created the immediate condition where it wasn't particularly clear which laptop was issuing which particular sounds. The duo's activities appeared to be exceptionally in-tune anyway, so maybe such divisions and distinctions were uncalled-for when appreciating their environmental textures.
When Lewis did haul out his trombone, his contribution was more recognizable. Two mutes were directly connected to the laptop, subjecting his breath to instant transmogrification. Even if it wasn't so, there was a sense that Lewis was improvising these elements, before they became interwoven with the full soundscape. The Issue Project Room's array of ceiling-dangled mini-speakers might not match a fully-loaded electroacoustic multi-channel system, but they definitely helped in dispersing the natural sounds of the pair's field-recorded material. Following what was a mesmerizingly relaxing flotation, the coagulated pair congratulated each other on their respective birdwatch sounds, Lewis being particularly impressed by Holzborn's exotic duck calls. Yes, the music featured recognizable real-life capturings, but also ventured into a finely-judged balance with subtly processed alterations.
The Bob Stewart Quartet
The Cornelia Street Café
April 27, 2010