Photos by Catherine Hammond
Review by Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery
STRING THEORY With PEK / GLYNIS LOMON / ELINOR SPEIRS / ERIC ZINMAN - 3 of 9 Dimensions (Evil Clown 9215; USA) String Theory is PEK on clarinets, saxes, double reeds, wood flute, percussion, etc., Glynis Lomon on cello, acquasonic & voice, Elinor Speirs on violin & percussion and Eric Zinman on piano, inside & on the keyboard. String Theory is just one of the half dozen Leap of Faith offshoot projects that Dave Peck has organized and recorded. The two constant members are Leap of Faith constants: PEK (multiple reeds) and Glynis Lomon (cello). This quartet version also includes Elinor Speirs on violin and pianist, Eric Zinman. You most likely recall Boston area-based keyboardist, Eric Zinman from his work with Linda Sharrock, Ted Daniel and Francois Tusques. The set here was recorded live at Outpost 186 in Cambridge, MA in May of 2019, just a few months ago. This disc is superbly recorded, hence we can hear all four members in perfect balance. What is the tea-kettle-like whistle? Strings, rubbed piano and other strings?? Things start our sparse and calm and build slowly towards more dense and heated passages. It sounds as if both string players were classically trained, hense this music has a controlled chamber-like quality. PEK often lays back to let the strings and piano fill up the sound so this doesn’t quite sound like other Leap of Faith offshoot sessions. Even when Pek enters, he works well with the strings and piano, everyone listening closely, bending their notes together, taking their time to create a suspense-filled soundscape. PEK plays a bit of low end horns, like contrabassoon or bass sax, which match well with the strings. Ms. Lomon is a longtime member of Leap of Faith and can be found on perhaps 90% of their 100+ records. She is gifted cellist and gets a chance to stretch out here, but never hogs the spotlight. Ms. Speirs, whose name I’ve only seen on a few LoF sessions, also get a chance to add her own spice, changing the direction of the improv at times. Pianist Eric Zinman is an amazing free player who has been around for many years and deserves wider recognition. He too sounds nightly, adding sparse yet lines and bursts selectively throughout. This is one the most laid back, yet still somehow enchanting of the many Leap of Faith offshoot projects.
Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
PEK tweak of a Raffi Photo
On Leap of Faith: "Alien yet familiar, bizarre yet completely fascinating. Expanding, contracting, erupting, settling down, always as one force..." - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
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.
String Theory - 3 of 9 Dimensions
Outpost 186, Cambridge MA - 18 May 2019
Review by Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtowm Music Gallery (full text below)
“… Things start our sparse and calm and build slowly towards more dense and heated passages. It sounds as if both string players were classically trained, hense this music has a controlled chamber-like quality. PEK often lays back to let the strings and piano fill up the sound so this doesn’t quite sound like other Leap of Faith offshoot sessions…. This is one the most laid back, yet still somehow enchanting of the many Leap of Faith offshoot projects.”
- Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
Program Notes by PEK
In the early Leap of Faith (LOF) period (90s), we did a number of shows with Strings and myself, in fact, for a while the core trio was myself on reeds, Glynis Lomon on cello, and Craig Schildhauer on bass. String Theory is the extended string section of the Leap of Faith Orchestra, and the current incarnation of this early period Leap of Faith ensemble. As well as being the string section of the orchestra, String Theory performs and records independently. Since we rebooted the Leap of Faith project in 2015, we have released over 10 albums of string and woodwind improvisations…
For this set, Glynis and I are joined by one of our favorite violinists, Elinor Speirs, and pianist Eric Zinman from Glynis’ other trio New Language Collaborative (NLC). Elinor first did a Leap of Faith session last summer just before joining the LOFO performance of Cosmological Horizons at Killian Hall MIT in July of 2018. She has finished her DMA at New England Conservatory and now splits her time between New York and Boston. Despite her crazy travel schedule, she has managed to make time for more Leap of Faith sets recorded at Evil Clown Headquarters and now this String Theory performance at Outpost 186.
Eric, Glynis and I all go way back, since Eric was on the Boston Free Music scene when I arrived in 1989, and we played back then. During the long Leap of Faith hiatus, Eric played a great deal with Glynis and the brilliant drummer Syd Smart in NLC. In more recent times. Eric has been the regular pianist for the Leap of Faith Orchestra and a frequent guest in smaller Leap of Faith ensembles, Metal Chaos Ensemble, and String Theory.
This performance is a very interesting development in this history, combining long prior history with Eric and recent small format Leap of Faith performances with Elinor. One of the main characteristics of String Theory compared to Leap of Faith is the absence of a drummer. We love Yuri’s playing and there are many wonderful performances by LOF with additional strings, but occasionally we do the strings without drum set. String Theory, as a result, has a much more chamber music vibe than Evil Clown albums by the other bands. Although Yuri is absent, there is still percussion, just no drum set; I brought some gongs and a couple bags of wood and metal instruments and Eric included several cymbals in his piano set up, and also played the piano interior with mallets…
PEK, 19 May 2019
Audio CD Evil Clown 9215
String Theory - 3 of 9 Dimensions
3 of 9 Dimensions - 1:10:41
Outpost 186, Cambridge MA
18 May 2019
PEK - clarinet & contralto clarinets, alto, tenor & bass saxophones, contrabassoon, bass tromboon, wood flute, sheng, theremin, gongs, flex-a-tone, rattles, rachets, wood blocks, castanets, Tibetan bowls & bells, aquasonic, kazoo, game calls, voice
Glynis Lomon - cello, aquasonic, voice
Elinor Speirs - violin, castanets, Tibetan bells, rattle, voice
Eric Zinman - piano, piano interior, cymbals
On Metal Chaos Ensemble: "... using unique strategies to yield densely active and eerily surreal music, an incredible excursion through experimental improvisation." - Squidco website staff
Leap of Faith Orchestra performs
by Karl Ackermann, AllAboutJazz.com
Photos by Raffi