House of Mirrors is a remarkable project in collaborative music making. It began in 1999 when bassist Mark Dresser expressed interest in supplying tones to complex rhythmic materials developed experimentally by the composer and trumpeter Ed Harkins. Eventually what began long-distance between the Brooklyn-based Dresser and the Californian Harkins became a regular interaction in 2004 when Dresser joined Harkins on the faculty of University of California at San Diego. A year later percussionist Steven Schick, who has recorded the complete solo percussion music of Iannis Xenakis, made the group a trio. The work is some distance from Dresser's more improvisatory projects, closer to contemporary chamber music, with much of the music through-composed by Harkins and Dresser with spontaneously formed connective tissue.
The interest arises in the stunning complexity of Harkins' rhythmic language, from its sudden accelerations to the endlessly unraveling meters and shifting accents, creating a relationship between rhythmic forms of serialism and certain aspects of African polyrhythms. The results are highly unpredictable, pitch and time fused into new, yet seemingly absolute, relationships.
Given the level of mathematical complexity of this music, there's a surprising range of moods, from the manic playfulness of "Floxy" to the odd hurry-up-and-wait of the delays and flurries of "Moa." The 15-minute "Oscula" is particularly notable for the complexity of relationships that arise among the various instruments and the sometimes structuring roles of timbre and dynamics, the piece eventually evolving into near silence. Schick has commented that his first entry into the music was timbral rather than rhythmic and there's plenty of that here, his percussion seemingly rubbing the resonance of trumpet and bass as much as it participates rhythmically. "Rebus," with its whistles of cymbal and bass, contains wind sonorities that testify to Harkins' own powers of invention. Investigating a new rhythmic language, the trio also expands its own sonic palette.
I love jazz because it is both challenging and exhilarating, and the endeavor of improvisation is the highest form of art.
I met so many great musicians--including my two earliest heroes, Maynard Ferguson and Dizzy Gillespie--by attending concerts
and being willing to treat them with the respect they deserve.
The best show I ever attended was the Pat Metheny/Ornette Coleman Song X concert at Cornell University.
The first jazz record I bought was an RCA compilation by Dizzy Gillespie.
My advice to new listeners is to not be afraid to listen to something because you're not familiar with the artists or the band or
the genre or anything - this is music that is best experienced through discovery.