William Hooker with DJ Olive & Glenn Spearman

William Hooker with DJ Olive & Glenn Spearman

Mindfulness

Knitting Factory

The recordings begins with “Solemn Earth,” as Hooker taps lightly around his tom-toms, the proverbial quiet before the storm. He is then joined by Spearman for a quick but engrossing nine-minute duet in which they set the initial boundaries for the encounter, not that they stay around long. DJ Olive makes his first appearance during the tenth minute, scratching under Hooker’s spoken word. It takes restraint beyond the reach for most turntablists to not come into this kind of situation with Technics blazing, but Olive is secure enough in his chops to go for atmospherics instead of histrionics. The ensemble’s timing is excellent; no one seems to get lost, despite the constant shifting of the tempo.

Olive and Hooker reprise their cut and chatter to begin “Flow.” Spearman lays out on this track, Hooker pulls out a few drum tricks that sound straight out of Gretsch Drum Night At Birdland. The speed and power that Hooker applies in his playing frees up the other musicians to explore their own work without worrying about the state of the rhythm. Olive sounds downright introspective for a great deal of the album. “Principle of Duality,” is but a minute long, and segues into “Living Organs — Parallel Planes.” Spearman returns, infusing late-period Coltraneisms with a sense of high drama, while Hooker plays harder than any drummer I can think of. His style makes me think of John Bonham as far as finesse and the line they take across the kit, and why not? (Had he and Keith Moon lived, drumming would be a lot different. Hooker and Louis Bellson are probably the only two guys alive who can play like this and do it well. In this respect, this is a historical document. Fuck Moving Pictures!)

Olive comes in, throwing out eruptions of noise that mix well with Spearman’s sound-sheets and Hooker’s bass drum from Heaven. You’ve got to love an album that has two twenty-minute freakouts on it. At 10:20 Olive takes a brief solo before Spearman does some things on his horn that I thought died with Coltrane. Hooker is a fucking madman, as usual. The trio is up in the ozone layer by seventeen minutes, then Spearman makes his exit and the track fades into animal sounds and light scratching, a minimalist background for Hooker’s spoken word. The spoken word, the quiet moments, are but interludes, but give a few seconds to relax amidst the flurry of activity. This gives way to “Archetypal Space,” the album’s final track. Hooker and Olive make their final statements, and both play it relatively softly, making for a cool, relaxing ending to the experience.

This is why I work, to buy albums like this. this is definitely one of the most under-appreciated albums of the past year. Of course, this came out late, so we can really consider this a 1998 release. But then again, it was recorded in 1996, so then what? Is this record some kind of sacred artifact, or something shiny and new? Can’t we just think of this as a really cool Christmas present from Hooker, Knitting Factory, et al to the world? And if so, in this new year, can’t we go out and spend our money on something that’s really, really good so we don’t have to hear any more about “Candle In The Wind?” Knitting Factory Works, 74 Leonard St., New York, NY 10013; http://www.knittingfactory.com

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