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Saturday, May 29, 2021

Leap of Faith - Principles of an Open Future (Relative Pitch, 2020) ****

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 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 stick to these roots for a bit. This is also where Kevin Reilly and Relative Pitch Records appears: 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 may be 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, it hardly needs a 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 core instruments: woodwinds and cello. I think it is 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. When PEK returns to woodwinds - this time I believe a Bb Clarinet - the mix with Lomon's 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 because 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.