Sunday, April 29, 2018

Performance Review: William Hooker, the Great Migration, Roulette, Apr 5, 2018


Published in "The NYC Jazz Record", May 2018

NY@Night: WILLIAM HOOKER 
“The Great Migration”, Apr 5, 2018
Roulette, Brooklyn NY

by John Pietaro

The vision of master drummer William Hooker artfully extends beyond the fourth wall, through time and space, conjuring jazz’s socio-political foundation. With the multi-media piece “The Great Migration”, he traces the northward path of African Americans and through pre-recorded interviews, the lives of elders Nannie Lampkin and Alton Brooks, both pridefully present in the audience. Still, most of the action took place onstage.
The stories were intertwined with powerful music, mostly live but also through early recordings of spirituals and a haunting chain-gang song. Hooker’s ensemble of Ras Moshe (tenor saxophone), Eriq Robinson (electronics), Mara Rosenbloom (piano), William Parker (bass), David Soldier (violin, banjo) and Ava Mendoza (guitar) shook the sturdy house with searing improvisations that painted an aural manifesto of the Black experience; the band’s free jazz, the living embodiment of liberation. Moshe, as always, played with compelling passion, Mendoza’s features were downright gripping and the electronics of Robinson tore up the soundscape.
The leader’s composed melodies guided the action, particularly a blues hook so prominent in Parker’s bass, often varied fluidly by the others. The music, emotively directed by Hooker, recalled the rural south sans any trace of parody (Soldier’s fiddle was exceptional here but his banjo needed stronger amplification), while other sections were ethereal and expansive (Rosenbloom, yes!). Dancer Goussy Celestin’s majestic segments flanked the production and she, Jeremy Grosvenor and Hooker also acted as narrators. So vital is this epic work, right now, that a lack of future productions would simply be criminal.

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