All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Live Reviews

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

7

Karuna at LaFontsee Gallery

John Ephland By

Sign in to view read count
Karuna
LaFontsee Gallery
Grand Rapids, Michigan
April 23, 2017

Flute loops were the first sounds heard. Part of a music arsenal, the inconspicuous electronics served to heighten what was a vast array of traditional percussion instruments on hand. The duet Karuna was ending their spring 2017 Midwest tour before a modestly sized but full house at Grand Rapids' LaFontsee Galleries, the surrounding weather the kind of sunny afternoon that might beckon one to linger and catch whiffs of blooming nature out of doors. But these music lovers had other ideas on this Sunday, April 23.

Karuna is the 40-plus year team of Hamid Drake and Adam Rudolph, friends since childhood growing up in and around Chicago, collaborators ever since. Their performance came thanks to Adventure Music's Underground Series, curated, in part, by Lazaro Vega, jazz director of Blue Lake Public Radio.

Featuring spontaneous composition laced with much improvising, the sonic tapestries suggested a spirited mix of East/West energies, primary instruments being trap set and congas (four), played by Drake and Rudolph, respectively. And, of course, there was the intriguing assortment of bells, gongs, flutes and smaller percussion.

Those flute loops mentioned above eventually led to some fine brush, stick and crafted mallet work by Drake, his playing here suggesting sounds more akin to an established jazz-drumming style. With Rudolph first offering light chanting with loops, soon he was sliding sideways over to his conga drums, the two veering in and out of a recognizable pulse. It was clear to see that what was emerging was the mutual act of creation by two master drummers, and that all in attendance would be able to participate as witnesses to a stunning one-time musical event.

The art-gallery setting was ideal for an acoustically well-measured soundscape, not to mention a visual treat, with art not just supplanting the performing artists but available in every direction one might venture to look.

The first piece, clocking in at around 20 minutes, also offered contrasts of serenity mixed with bursts of intensity, up-tempo fevers followed by some lilting free playing, the pair eventually trading fours, then twos, only to merge into a combined sound that was brisk and ear-cleansing with its coordinated grooves and aural colors.

Following some hearty applause, the second piece was introduced by Rudolph, who addressed the audience in a very conversational manner. Acknowledging the beauty of the spring day that seemed to call from the nearby windows and open doors, he sought to assure the assembled that Karuna's music might offer a little "vibrational sunshine" as an indoor alternative.

Moving from drum set to nearby tablas, and congas to thumb piano, respectively, Drake and Rudolph shifted gears quite naturally, the music now suggesting breezes through a dense forest with food for a ripe imagination readying itself to get lost. This piece served to be the concert's shortest, but it continued to set the tone for sonic variety and the unexpected.

With this in mind, the music shifted from congas (skins) to gongs and cymbals (metals), every movement made by the artists deliberate, Drake now seated next to Rudolph, the two of them astride in a front-porch gesture of sorts. Drake took to his large frame drum, his rhythmic hand movements accompanying a clearly reverent, solemn chant, Rudolph in somewhat of a reclined position, offering delicate ostinato support from his three-stringed sintir. The music that emerged seemed to exist outside of time, clearly made in the present but somehow removed from it as well. Sitting side by side, their very conversational playing had the likings of a Sunday-afternoon chat between old friends, the music's extended groove towards song's end resulting in Drake's gentle entreaty for all to join in, clapping along.

What followed was a kind of primal energy unleashed as the two engaged in some fierce conga/drum set exchanges, their instruments filling the galleries as if there were no center to the music, only the music itself. It was free-flowing, Rudolph and Drake sharing drum patterns, locking in at certain points, their obvious telepathy tumbling out for all to see and hear, Drake's bass drumming, in particular, aligning itself with Rudolph's right-hand figures on congas.

And then, there was silence, the two, with eyes closed, clearly still listening to each other, perhaps both wondering to themselves (along with, maybe, everyone else in the room): "Are we finished?"

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read The Magpie Salute At The Grand Point North Festival 2018 Live Reviews
The Magpie Salute At The Grand Point North Festival 2018
by Doug Collette
Published: September 23, 2018
Read Chris Isaak at The Paramount in Huntington, NY Live Reviews
Chris Isaak at The Paramount in Huntington, NY
by Christine Connallon
Published: September 23, 2018
Read Detroit Jazz Festival 2018 Live Reviews
Detroit Jazz Festival 2018
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: September 19, 2018
Read Beethoven, Barber and Vivaldi at The Jazz Corner Live Reviews
Beethoven, Barber and Vivaldi at The Jazz Corner
by Martin McFie
Published: September 18, 2018
Read Bryan Ferry at the Macedonian Philharmonic Hall, Macedonia 2018 Live Reviews
Bryan Ferry at the Macedonian Philharmonic Hall, Macedonia...
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: September 16, 2018
Read Live From Birmingham: Dinosaur, Meatraffle, Hollywood Vampires, Black Asteroids & Paul Lamb Live Reviews
Live From Birmingham: Dinosaur, Meatraffle, Hollywood...
by Martin Longley
Published: September 16, 2018
Read "Temple University Jazz Band at The Appel Room" Live Reviews Temple University Jazz Band at The Appel Room
by Tyran Grillo
Published: February 1, 2018
Read "Danny Green Trio Plus Strings at Heckscher Park" Live Reviews Danny Green Trio Plus Strings at Heckscher Park
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 6, 2018
Read "Isabella Lundgren at Bullret Jazz Club" Live Reviews Isabella Lundgren at Bullret Jazz Club
by Patrick Burnette
Published: November 25, 2017
Read "Bray Jazz Festival 2018" Live Reviews Bray Jazz Festival 2018
by Ian Patterson
Published: May 24, 2018
Read "Henry Threadgill at Tilton Gallery" Live Reviews Henry Threadgill at Tilton Gallery
by Kurt Gottschalk
Published: December 10, 2017