by Phil Freeman; photo by Peter Gannushkin

Drummer William Hooker has been around since the 1970s and has played with everyone from saxophonists David Murray and David S. Ware (on his 1977 debut, …Is Eternal Life) to Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth (on multiple albums) to Donald Miller and Brian Doherty of Borbetomagus (on 1994’s Radiation). His duo album with saxophonist Liudas Mockunas, Live at Vilnius Jazz Festival, was one of Burning Ambulance’s best jazz releases of 2014.

On Remembering, he’s heard in a trio with guitarist Ava Mendoza and bassist Damon Smith. The 35-minute performance was recorded live at NYU on March 13, 2017. Many improvising musicians would likely have released the performance as a single solid slab, ensuring that no one ever played it twice. But Hooker and the label, Astral Spirits, understand that even abstract music should make a few concessions to the listener, and the album has been split into seven tracks, ranging in length from 2:36 to 7:02. They fade out and back in again, reinforcing continuity while allowing individual moments to flourish in the spotlight.

Mendoza’s guitar work is astonishing. Her ability to bear down on tightly compressed figures, obsessively working over variations on a phrase, is reminiscent of the work of Mick Barr (Orthrelm, Octis, Krallice), and just as breathtaking. She’s a perfect partner for Hooker, whose drumming has often been thunderous, but who’s just as capable of restraint and great beauty. Even in the quieter moments here, they generate tremendous power together. On “The Magistrate,” things start off slow, with the drummer building a foundation out of ominous toms, kick and cymbals as Mendoza emits a slowly rising whistle, eventually bending notes like Sonny Sharrock. When the moment comes, the two are at each other like MMA fighters, Hooker laying down a rhythmic bed like molten rocks tumbling out of a volcano as the guitarist unleashes a wild post-blues blast wave.

Remembering is an excellent album that creates its own zone somewhere between hard rock and free jazz. Fans of high-energy music of any stripe will likely find something here that clicks with them.

Stream and/or buy the album on Bandcamp:

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One Comment on “William Hooker

  1. Pingback: Newsbits: Keiji Haino and Sumac / Jeff Cosgrove Trio / William Hooker / Ellen Arkbro – Avant Music News

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