On Leap of Faith: "Alien yet familiar, bizarre yet completely fascinating. Expanding, contracting, erupting, settling down, always as one force..." - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
Photos by Catherine Hammond
Leap of Faith - Principles of an Open Future
Evil Clown Headquarters, Waltham MA
23 January & 13 February 2020
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.
Liner Notes by PEK
This is a huge release for Leap of Faith on Relative Pitch. Long-time friend to Evil Clown, Kevin Reilly, has put us in the company of elite improvisors including Tim Berne, Nate Wooley, Joe Morris, Zeena Parkins, Bruce Ackley, Fred Frith, Jessica Pavone, Ingrid Laubrock, Peter Brotzman, Wadada Leo Smith, Evan Parker, Maty Halvorson and many others!
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 various core units in dozens of configurations with a huge list of guests and occasionally as only the core unit with no guests.
There are relatively few recordings of the PEK/Lomon core duet without other players since previous core units have generally been trios/quartets. There are, however, a few sets from the archival period in the 90s and the more recent Categories of Being and Their Relations from July of 2018. It is interesting to expose Glynis and myself without other performers, since out history is so long and since in many ways the development of my mature improvisation language is a direct response to Glynis’. The core duet behaves as a bellwether to the balance of larger ensembles, guiding the improvisation, and when presented alone, reveals our deep connection not always so readily apparent in bigger bands.
In 2014, I was working in NYC for my day gig and I swung by Downtown Music Gallery where I had been a mail order customer for years. I had a great conversation with Bruce Lee Gallanter and the next week I sent him a bunch of CDs recorded during the archival period. Bruce sold these CDs quite well and I later realized that Kevin Reilly and a few of his NY pals had purchased the lion’s share. Kevin became a fan and has purchased many of our releases from bandcamp. Kevin runs Relative Pitch Records which releases CDs by many of the movers and shakers in the downtown improvisation scene… At the end of last year Kevin asked me if Glynis and I would like to record for Relative Pitch and I immediately responded in the affirmative since we will be in such amazing company!
I scheduled two sessions in January and February 2020 with Glynis, myself and the Evil Clown resident recording engineer Joel Simches. Instead of our typical full concert duration of 70 minutes, we played two 35 minutes pieces at each recording session. We then selected two of the tracks for Principles of an Open Future for Relative Pitch and two of the tracks for Phenomena which is available now on bandcamp and our other regular venues…
This is a huge release for us on Relative Pitch. Long-time friend to Evil Clown, Kevin Reilly, has put us in the company of elite improvisors including Tim Berne, Nate Wooley, Joe Morris, Zeena Parkins, Bruce Ackley, Fred Frith, Jessica Pavone, Ingrid Laubrock, Peter Brotzman, Wadada Leo Smith, Evan Parker, Mary Halvorson and many others!
Review: by Paul Acquaro, FreeJazzBlog
“… The world of the Evil Clown: Leap of Faith duos, trios, quartets, orchestras, percussion duos, and solo woodwind is just as rich of an experience, beautiful and terrifying at turns. It's there for you to explore and Principles of an Open Future is a great place to begin.”
Review by Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG (Full Text Below)
“… What is wonderful about this is how well these two work together, creating a stimulating dialogue as they go. The main thing I dig about this disc is this: it doesn’t quite sound like other Leap of Faith discs on the Evil Clown label, it sounds warmed and somehow friendlier, never too weird but still immensely creative and exploratory.“
Liner Notes Excerpt by PEK (Full Notes Below)
"... There are relatively few recordings of the PEK/Lomon core duet without other players since previous core units have generally been trios/quartets. There are, however, a few sets from the archival period in the 90s and the more recent Categories of Being and Their Relations from July of 2018. It is interesting to expose Glynis and myself without other performers, since out history is so long and since in many ways the development of my mature improvisation language is a direct response to Glynis’. The core duet behaves as a bellwether to the balance of larger ensembles, guiding the improvisation, and when presented alone, reveals our deep connection not always so readily apparent in bigger bands.…"
"An embraceable & explorative example of the core duo of the Boston-area free improvising ensemble Leap of Faith (the foundation of the Leap of Faith Orchestra) of David Peck on reeds and Glynis Lomon on cello, aquasonic & voice, both employing the enormous Evil Clown arsenal of percussive and sonic devices, in two large works recorded at their headquarter studio."
Photos by Rob Miller
Audio CD Relative Pitch 1112
Leap of Faith - Principles of an Open Future
bandcamp: streaming, downloads and CD mail Order
Sqiodco: CD Orders
1) Changing the Basis - 35:25
PEK - clarinet, contralto clarinet, tenor & bass saxophone, contrabassoon, aquasonic, sheng, game calls, gongs, Englephone, crotales, cymbells, flex-a-tone, voice
Glynis Lomon – cello, aquasonic, voice, claps
2) Principles of an Open Future - 35:32
PEK – clarinet, alto & tenor saxophones, tarota, bass tromboon, flute & alto flute, sheng, melodica, orchestral chimes, Tibetan bowls, brontosaurus & tank bells, gongs, voice
Glynis Lomon – cello, aquasonic, voice
Joel Simches - Live to 2-track recording
Free Jazz Blog
Where to start with a review of Leap of Faith? The group, the orchestra, the one man band, the duo, begins with woodwindist David Peck aka PEK and spirals forth from his home base in Boston. PEK identifies with fractals, as far as I know, it is the motif of all his many archival and more recent recordings. I think that it serves as a strong metaphor for his musical relationships and prodigious output. As for the mathematical explanation of a fractal, I recommend starting perhaps with Wikipedia, I'm not going to be able to do any justice with that. For my purposes here, I'm sticking to the iconic visualizations (you can still refer to that Wikipedia link or the image above), the ones that capture broadness, specificity, flatness, and infinite depth.
This branch of the fractal, equation, subset what have you, is the core of Leap of Faith, a group that PEK and co-conspirator Glynis Lomon have been working with since the 1990s. The group has been documented in many formulations: trio, quartet, orchestra, but rarely as a duo. After long term percussion Yuri Zbitnov exited the trio last year, it seems that LoF decided to keep to its roots for a bit. This is also where Kevin Reilly and Relative Pitch Records appear. Reilly, a long time supporter of LoF offered the chance for them to record as a duo and release on it the Relative Pitch label, which is, as far as I know, is the first time LoF has recorded outside PEK's own Evil Clown label.
I kind of wonder why it took so long. It was Reilly who first introduced me to the work of PEK and LoF in an email that I somehow vividly recall while waiting for the train to New York City from Commuterville, NJ. Now years later, I have reviewed several of LoF's recordings and other colleagues from the blog have picked up on them as well. I kind of see it as a fractal of influence, a spreading of colorful musical ideas.
Principals of an Open Future - a hopeful title and one that seems applicable to imagining both a world free of authoritarian figures and one of infinite musical possible, stretching out with fractal intensity - begins with some percussion. The group, as mentioned earlier, is the duo of PEK on clarinets, saxophones and flutes, and Glynis Lomon on cello, aquasonic and voice. The percussion, if you ever see a LoF concert, you know can consist of everything from tiny bells to sheet metal (here I think PEK is playing a radiator), sets a ground layer. Sounds begin swirling around until an organ appears - or maybe it's not an organ at all, it's hard to tell. It is playing atonally, or rather, mutli-tonally, or maybe the idea of tonality needs to be stretched and folded on itself a bit too. It is a conversation between two absolutely free thinking musicians with a long history of collaboration, thus its deep, it begins where it does, hardly needing set up or scaffolding rather the scaffolding is real and PEK has appropriated it into his set up! About five minutes in, we hear the two on their core instruments: woodwinds and cello. I think I hear a bass clarinet, woodsy and resonant, delivering sonorous lines. The cello scrapes and slides, glissandos and elongated tones slice through the air. Then in the middle of this first track, percussive tones and chimes and wordless vocals provide a break and then a renewed sonic direction.
The title track, which is 35 minutes (the first one, 'Changing the Basis,' was also 35 minutes, you get your money's worth here!), starts off with an unusual percussion and cello interaction that is simultaneously abstract and compelling. It would be foolish at this point to expect a 'melody' or 'bass line' or anything like that, but what we get is so unfettered and genuine that such elements are unnecessary to convey music. When PEK returns to woodwinds - this time I believe a Bb Clarinet - the mix with Lomon' cello, it feels natural, like a stroll through their collective subconscious, where dissonances do not jar and consonances just happen. Some lovely, expressive passages begin around the 7-minute mark and continue for a long while.
It would require an even larger fractal of words to describe the music in technical detail, which is okay becuase this is emotional music anyway - it is better to enjoy in its fully expanding, contrasting, folding, and unfurling colors and textures. The world of the Evil Clown: Leap of Faith duos, trios, quartets, orchestras, percussion duos, and solo woodwind is just as rich of an experience, beautiful and terrifying at turns. It's there for you to explore and Principles of an Open Future is a great place to begin.
-- by Paul Acquaro, FreeJazzBlog
PEK tweak of a Catherine Hammond photo
Review by Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery
LEAP OF FAITH with PEK / GLYNIS LOMON - Principles of an Open Future (Relative Pitch RPR 1112; USA) Featuring PEK on clarinets, alto, tenor & bass saxes, contrabassoon, sheng, game calls, percussion & aquasonic and Glynis Lomon on cello, aquasonic and voice. Considering that Boston-area-based Leap of Faith (various versions from duo to orchestra & several offshoot projects) have more than a 100 discs out on their own Evil Clown label, you might think that I had heard (and reviewed) enough of their vast catalogue, I still look forward to those boxes of 5+ new titles every few months. Glynis Lomon and Dave Peck are two core members of Leap of Faith having worked together on all of the Leap of Faith releases. Kevin Reilly, cofounder of the Relative Pitch label caught Leap of Faith at a couple of New York locations (at DMG & at Cisco Bradley’s place) and decided to offer LoF a chance to record for RP. The core of Leap of Faith has changed over the years somewhat, the band is most often a quartet or larger. Duo versions are pretty rare so that is what this is. Things begin with the mysterious sound of an acquasonic (or bowed waterphone) and then joined by percussion and what sounds like a melodica. This disc is well recorded and well-balanced. Ms. Lomon is in truly fine form here, bowing intense bent-note, free-music while PEK slowly worked his way through some 14 instruments, one at a time. At times Ms. Lomon lets loose with her wacky vocal antics with PEK occasionally joining her. Although the duo do get weird at times (w/ occasional odd voices), everything flows organically, nothing is forced. What is wonderful about this is how well these two work together, creating a stimulating dialogue as they go. The main thing I dig about this disc is this: it doesn’t quite sound like other Leap of Faith discs on the Evil Clown label, it sounds warmed and somehow friendlier, never too weird but still immensely creative and exploratory.
- Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
On Metal Chaos Ensemble: "... using unique strategies to yield densely active and eerily surreal music, an incredible excursion through experimental improvisation." - Squidco website staff