On Leap of Faith: "Alien yet familiar, bizarre yet completely fascinating. Expanding, contracting, erupting, settling down, always as one force..." - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
Leap of Faith Orchestra performs Possible Universes by PEK
by Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery
LEAP OF FAITH ORCHESTRA With PEK/GLYNIS LOMON/ANDRIA NICODEMOU/SYD SMART/ et al - Possible Universes (Evil Clown 9144; USA)
It seemed hard to believe at first, but Dave PEK, leader of Leap of Faith, has continued to expand his long running ensemble by adding personnel and keeping his various ensembles playing live in & around Boston (and occasionally in New York), as well as recording them in his home/studio. Word is that PEK’s Evil Clown label has passed the point of 100 releases, many in the past few years.
The Leap of Faith Orchestra has played their first few gigs in the past year and this disc captured one on May 28th of this year (2017). There are some 24 musicians involved including a few longtime cohorts like Eric Zinman (piano), Jonathan LaMaster (violin) and Syd Smart (drums). What is even more impressive is that Mr. PEK has learned how to organize/lead this massive ensemble so that it doesn’t sound consistently like chaos. The core members of Leap of Faith, PEK on multi-reeds, Glynis Lomon on cello and Yuri Zbitnov on drums are often at the center with various layers of strings, reeds, brass, guitars, basses and percussion surrounding them. It is hard to believe that there are so many musicians involved since certain sections are stripped down to silence of spaciousness. Unlike some of the other more out-there excursions by Leap of Faith, this one is more balanced and unfolds in a most organic and magical way. Everyone takes their time and sounds completely focused. I know that Mr. PEK has been employing a timer or clock to help keeps things more balanced and the results are indeed phenomenal. This could be the best Leap of Faith release so far, which is pretty amazing considering that I’ve reviewed some two dozen plus discs so far. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery
Possible Universes is the latest release from the multi-faceted Leap of Faith collective. In the orchestra formation, the group has released some half-dozen recordings but the "full" orchestra is a biannual occurrence where the normally fifteen-piece ensemble grows. On this album, the collaborative expands to twenty-four musicians and, as always, the long-time anchors are composer and reed player PEK (David Peck) and cellist Glynis Lomon.
As is often the circumstance in Leap of Faith Orchestra recordings, the album consists of one very long (almost eighty minutes) title track. The highly capable improvisers engaged by PEK are participating in the composer's unique method of Frame Notation where (as he describes in the liner notes) ..,"written English descriptions of the overall sonority desired and simple graphic symbols are given durations for each player on their part along with direction on when to play and when not to play." The notation looks more like playoff brackets but within are the only directions that the composer chooses to offer—the mechanics of "who" and "when." What is not within the brackets are melodic or rhythmic data, placing Possible Universes in an often frenzied situation as the improvisations develop within controlled blocks of time and space.
Along with strings and three basses, a large assortment of percussion instruments, and two tubas, the orchestra utilizes an assortment of non-conventional devices such as bullroarers, claves, flex-a-tones, slide whistles, wind sirens, crank sirens, bells, Tibetan bowls, ratchets and a tube-o-phone. Even in the midst of scores of instruments, the piece utilizes silence as a much-needed balance. The Leap of Faith catalog has grown at a rapid pace in recent years; remarkable in that the collective and the enormous orchestra stay largely intact through these always complex works. Possible Universes works in a surprisingly paradoxical way, allowing structure and freedom to coexist, while constantly challenging the ear. It's not quite like anything else.