Review by Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery
LEAP OF FAITH with PEK / GLYNIS LOMON / MELANIE HOWELL / TODD BRUNEL - Coherence Disturbed (Evil Clown 9285; USA) Featuring PEK on clarinets, saxes, bass flute, double reeds, balafon, bowls, chimes and assorted percussion instruments; Glynis Lomon on cello, aquasonic & voice, Melanie Howell-Brooks on contrabass clarinet, alto sax, flutes and assorted percussion and Todd Brunel on clarinets, tenor sax and assorted percussion. The Evil Clown label which releases CD’s from Leap if Faith and assorted offshoots projects has recently passed the 150 count/mark, which like quite a bit of product considering that it started around six years ago. Dave PEK sends us a new box of 6-10 CD’s every 6-8 weeks and yes it is hard to keep up with reviews. I must admit that I admire what PEK / Evil Clown does and have enjoyed each release of any disc that I’ve reviewed. Our world would indeed be a better place if more folks/musicians would put together a series of creative music ensembles which utilized the talents of dozens of creative musicians, many of whom rarely if ever get an opportunity to improvise together at length on a weekly basis. There are no doubt 1,000’s of musicians worldwide who love to play with other musicians from their locals if they only could.
Leap of Faith is the longest running of PEK’s assorted groups and it has the most releases on Evil Clown. They’ve had a core group of four or five musicians, two of whom have moved to other places. Hence, there are only original members: PEK and Glynis Lomon and for this release they’ve added two new members: Melanie-Howell-Brooks and Todd Brunel. As far as I can tell, Ms. Howell-Brooks was a member of Turbulence, another Evil Clown band, plus Todd Brunel is a member of the Eric Hofbauer Quintet, two of whose CD’s on Creative Nation I have reviewed. This disc starts with some haunting low-end tones: cello, clarinet and/or other double reeds. I dig the heated interaction between the cello and the low-end reeds, they are all in a similar tonal range and sound like they are having a solemn conversation. The music is often slow and thoughtfully improvised with occasional eruptions. There is some warm, toasty tenor sax (by Brunel?) midway which adds a more calming vibe to the proceedings. Eventually, things heat up and the reeds & cello start to agitate and push each other higher. This disc is different from other Leap of Faith releases as the members of the quartet don’t switch between instruments nearly as often as they usually do. Things never get too dense or too out which is a good thing. Perhaps 70 plus minutes is a bit too long but if you/we have the time, this is somehow fascinating most of the time.
- Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
Liner Notes by PEK
Leap of Faith is the core duet of the Leap of Faith Orchestra (LOFO) comprised of PEK on clarinets, saxophones, clarinets & flutes, and Glynis Lomon on cello, aquasonic & voice. The ensemble is based in Boston and dates back to the early 90s. We utilize a huge arsenal of additional Evil Clown instruments to improvise long works featuring transformations across highly varied sonorities. At times, the core unit has been a trio or even a quartet. The longest running core unit was comprised of PEK, Glynis and drummer Yuri Zbitnov, who played for the last couple of years of the archival period and the first 5 years of the reboot starting in 2015. The ensemble has always been highly modular and our many recordings (well over 100) feature the core unit in dozens of configurations with a huge list of guests and occasionally as only the core unit with no guests. Currently, the core unit is PEK and Lomon and we are regularly presenting LIVESTREAMs to YouTube from Evil Clown Headquarters with other guest performers.
This is the first Leap of Faith set with this quartet lineup. There have been some changes to the Evil Clown roster over the pandemic. While many of the regulars are still around and have been participating in the LIVESTREAMING shows from Evil Clown Headquarters, some have changed up in one way or another and are no longer available. Likewise, I have some new players, and I have some that participated in the past and are now rejoining us. Melanie is new, this is her second Evil Clown session, the first being with Turbulence a few months back. I met her during the pandemic when she bought my old contrabass clarinet, and of course, I recruited her. Todd did a few sessions with Leap of Faith and the Leap of Faith Orchestra maybe four years back and then withdrew due to scheduling issues.
Outside of the Evil Clown umbrella, Todd and Glynis have played together in the past and Todd and Melanie have played together in the past. I love to bring in skilled players like these who have pre-existing experience with each other: The combination of reacting to the completely new and the existing connections between the various sub-groups creates an interesting and exciting dynamic.
Another interesting dynamic at work here is the contrast between the dirty and chaotic sounds that typically dominate my improvisations with Glynis and the clean, precisely articulated sounds that typically dominate both Todd and Melanie’s expression. I discovered long ago that it is not necessary for all the players in an improvisation to share the same backgrounds and musical languages: for example, we’ve played with a number of players who come from the world of classical performance and others who are much more jazz than we tend to be. The pull between different approaches often produces a sound space which would not occur but for these contrasts. When the players are all as strong as those in this quartet and skilled at listening/reacting/predicting, extraordinary performances are the natural result.
This is a strong set as I expected, since everyone is still very excited to be able to play music again with others. Stay tuned for a steady stream of new sets over the next few months from Leap of Faith and all the other active Evil Clown ensembles.
Composer and multi-instrumentalist, PEK, set his sights on something bigger with the Leap of Faith Orchestra's Supernovae. The previous incarnation of the LOFO expands from the fifteen musicians on The Expanding Universe (Evil Clown, 2016) to twenty-one players on this new outing. Another noteworthy element of this project is PEK's use of Frame Notation where the score is seen in written descriptions and straight-forward symbols within Duration Bars. The system provides the musicians with immediate understanding of their own parts and the higher-level arrangement of the music.
Supernovae consists of a single track composition running just under eighty minutes. The digital download includes a bonus track. Though the extended piece is not broken out by formal movements, there are clear delineations within the score. PEK's ensemble—not surprisingly—includes enough non-traditional and weird instruments to compete with a Dr. Seuss orchestra. Though they are not playing in a vacuum, that group of instruments dominates the first ten minutes before strings and reeds make themselves more clearly heard. Forty-five minutes in, we have the first case of prolonged melody, darker and more subdued than the overall tone of the first half.
Supernovae gives way to free improvisation overlaying the melody. Eventually the piece introduces a brilliant percussion passage before it reintroduces the non-traditional music elements, but here in a more refined manner. As with all of PEK's compositions, there is—behind the scenes—a painstaking amount of organization that is not always evident in the listening. That is part of the beauty of this album; the non-traditional approach to instrumentation and the lack of adherence to Western structure continue to make the various iterations of Leap of Faith consistently interesting. And interesting look at the written score can be viewed at http://www.evilclown.rocks/lofo-supernovae-score.html.
Audio CD Evil Clown 9285
Leap of Faith - Coherence Disturbed
streaming, downloads and CD mail Order
1) Coherence Disturbed - 1:10:47
PEK - clarinet, contralto & contrabass clarinets, tenor, alto & bass saxophones, bass flute, piccolo oboe, English horn, bass ocarinas, gongs, xylophone, balafon, Tibetan bowls, chimes, orchestral chimes, electric chimes, [d[ronin, chime rod & spring boxes, telstar, aquasonic
Glynis Lomon cello, aquasonic, voice
Melanie Howell-Brooks - contrabass clarinet, alto saxophone, flute, piccolo, crotales, glockenspiel, wood blocks, temple blocks, log drums, chimes, cow bells, almglocken, brontosaurus & tank bells, Englephone, xylophone, balafon, Tibetan bowls
Todd Brunel - clarinet & bass clarinet, tenor sax, brontosaurus & tank bells, wood blocks, temple blocks, log drums, chimes, Tibetan bowls, cymbells
Leap of Faith - Coherence Disturbed
Evil Clown Headquarters, Waltham MA - 29 September 2021
Review from Review by Bruce Lee Gallanter
“… This disc starts with some haunting low-end tones: cello, clarinet and/or other double reeds. I dig the heated interaction between the cello and the low-end reeds, they are all in a similar tonal range and sound like they are having a solemn conversation. The music is often slow and thoughtfully improvised with occasional eruptions. There is some warm, toasty tenor sax (by Brunel?) midway which adds a more calming vibe to the proceedings. Eventually, things heat up and the reeds & cello start to agitate and push each other higher…”
Liner Notes Excerpt by PEK
“… Outside of the Evil Clown umbrella, Todd and Glynis have played together in the past and Todd and Melanie have played together in the past. I love to bring in skilled players like these who have pre-existing experience with each other: The combination of reacting to the completely new and the existing connections between the various sub-groups creates an interesting and exciting dynamic. …”
On Metal Chaos Ensemble: "... using unique strategies to yield densely active and eerily surreal music, an incredible excursion through experimental improvisation." - Squidco website staff
On Leap of Faith: "Alien yet familiar, bizarre yet completely fascinating. Expanding, contracting, erupting, settling down, always as one force..." - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG