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William Hooker: Looking at the Next Step

Restless invention and an urge to create

William Hooker

As soon as I step off the bus from Philly in Midtown Manhattan on a drizzly August afternoon, William Hooker is there to greet me with a beaming grin and a large umbrella to share. We’ve made plans to talk over dinner prior to a recording session at pianist Mark Hennen’s Piano Magic loft space downtown, but the ever-prolific drummer-composer has added another stop to the agenda. As he leads me to the nearby rehearsal and studio space he’s used for the past 30 years, Hooker, bristling with energy at 67, says he needs to play the drums before our interview or else “I’ll be all up in your face.”

A few minutes later, he instructs me to switch off the lights before embarking on a polyrhythmic exploration in complete darkness, his preferred element for practicing. The visual environment plays a key role in Hooker’s music; in recent years he’s used lighting or films to alter the tone of a performance. “If you change color every 10 or 15 minutes, regardless of how you change it, it has an effect on the whole performance,” he explains. “It’s good to throw people curves so they don’t feel like, ‘I got this.’ I don’t mean that in the sense of doing it just to be a pain in the butt. It’s a part of being creative.”

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