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The Gift: Live at Sangha

The Gift is a trio of New York-area improvisers: drummer William Hooker, trumpeter Roy Campbell and violinist Jason Hwang. The album consists of a single hour-long free improvisation, recorded live in medium-fidelity at a concert in Takoma Park, Md. Those who know Hooker for his ultrahigh-energy work might be surprised at what they hear throughout the performance’s first half: a sensitive colorist, interacting almost diffidently with Hwang’s pointillist violin and Campbell’s jagged trumpet. The roaring press-rolls and deafening toms that often characterize Hooker’s playing also obscure the definition of which he’s capable. Absent the loud volume, we hear an interactive, dynamically prescient percussionist. He cuts loose later, but by that time we’ve gotten a clear and attractive look at peacefulness beneath the disquiet, making his eruptions all the more effective.

It’s fascinating to compare Hwang’s electronically modified sound with Campbell’s acoustically manipulated trumpet. Both are effective, yet I can’t help but be especially impressed by what Campbell does with timbre, unaided. Like most freely improvised pieces, this one has a lull or two–particularly the ending, which comes off as anticlimactic if not downright arbitrary. There is, however, more than enough raw beauty to compensate.

Originally Published