David Peck is one of the more prolific musicians in free jazz today. His Leap of Faith Orchestra (LOFO) is his primary vehicle for generating his brand of musical notes and tones. The first track, “Luminous,” is taken from a live performance done late last year at the Somerville Amory in Somerville, MA. The ensemble’s approach on this take is so soft, at times, it’s almost inaudible, but that’s the concept of this piece. The musicians give themselves plenty of space between their exchanges. It’s not rushed or hurried. Instead, they allow the space to become part of the musical landscape like an artist painting a specific color on the canvas as the background. The various instruments used by the musicians, now add splashes of color, as they hit the canvas. This song has a zen-like quality. The listener’s point of view will determine what they get out of this music. The oboe is about as interesting as it gets, suggesting sounds from the Mideast or elsewhere.
This piece almost touches on John Cage’s music with its low key circle. This is probably the softest approach I’ve heard from the Leap of Faith Orchestra. This ensemble has released countless number of CDs. I’ve only heard a few of them so far. As “Luminous” progresses, the music reminds of my early years which included many hours spent out doors in the woods and forests. There was a degree of serenity that one won’t find in the major cities. While the woods are alive with myriad of sounds, emanating from living creatures from A to Z, this track projects a similar vibe. From the opening sounds of David Peck’s bass clarinet, the rest of the ensemble follows suit; Mimi Robson’s darting in and out with short violin statements, and quiet percussion from Yuri Zbitnov; perhaps this is a temporal space, with a rip in the space-time- continuum? The group’s improvisations gel around the 12-minute mark. Zbitnov’s decision to be forceful pushes the group out of this non-moving stasis into more familiar space. Glynis Lomon’s contributions cannot be ignored. Her rough bowing cello technique comes to the fore front. This generates a firestorm of its own. This is perfect for the misty web Zbitnov is generating on the drums.
While this is a recording of a live performance, I cannot stress enough the importance for listeners to see the Leap of Faith Orchestra in person. The way the music lands on them is likely to surprise most. This music washes over the listeners gently. It has its own way to hook the audience. “Luminous” ends in silence, the same way it began.
“Fractal Dimension” begins with much more activity than I recall. I attended this performance at the Downtown Music Gallery when the Leap of Faith Orchestra made an appearance on April 2, 2017. I was very excited to meet David Peck as I had listened to some of his recordings. He showed me his method of scoring his music. As this composition proceeds, everyone is contributing to an odd mix of staccato, sliding elongated notes and rapid fire musical lines. Peck’s constant use of subtle nuances guides every phase of this group’s musical development. Instead of standing in front of the ensemble engaging in a physical conduction, he chooses to use his bass clarinet to spin a series of eerie long tones that are quickly absorbed by the rest of the band members. They jump on board pronto, following his lead. Gradually, this helter-skelter subsides and everyone is in sync with the new direction. The Leap of Faith Orchestra presents other worldly tonal poly-phonics which are taken up by Lomon’s hyperactive bowing on her cello. I’m hearing sea gulls and other glorified exotic template being thrown about within this tempestuous pool of music. Like a swirling vortex gathering momentum, the musicians seem to be creating a portal to another dimension, another time or period of existence not known to mankind. Zbitnov brings the fire on his drums burning a path for the rest of his band mates to follow through this thick unknown space.
While the musicians move their musical thoughts up and down, there is a probing angular attack at work, allowing them to go even deeper into what appears to be a hot mass of molten materials. Yuri’s drumming magnifies the risks they are taking by even being in this unknown place. More series of rapid lines emerge from nowhere and everywhere as the LOFO continues this journey. Dan O’Brien and Zach Bartolamei enter a playful duo which is enhanced by Glynis’s adept vocal skills. She matches the musicians both in tone and pitch, and even the extreme high notes during this brief musical triangle of improvisation. There are bells in the background that are in the process of setting up the next area of musical exploration. I too, employ this technique when I work with my band. Bells have a magical vibe that tend to soften whatever musical space a musician is operating. This whole scenario is shattered by Dan Peck’s baritone saxophone. He comes in strong and really breaks glass with his overwhelming presence. These dragon-like roars are joined by Lomon’s vocals and one other horn player. As we near the 23 minute mark, Dave cuts back to utilizing short statements off and on. I’m hearing nice percussion work from Zbitnov using pitter patter sounds around the drum kit with minimal bass accents and lots of cymbals. A lone saxophonist floats across this busy intersection of music, playing long loopy lines that evoke memories of a television soundtrack. Glynis knows how to use her vocal work. They’re always done in a timely manner in the midst of whatever is happening within the LOFO. The group enters another space as they support a melodic version of four-part harmony and more during this interlude. It’s quite engaging as they each pour their sounds into this melting pot, creating a cosmic soup. As we near the 30-minute mark, the group becomes much more active. Zbitnov’s drumming is the reason they are starting to play harder. This is very much entering the arena of high energy free jazz. For the most part, Zbitnov has kept his drumming on the down low, but here he’s not holding back. Something is driving him, and in turn, he’s pushing everyone else in the band. This section ends with a horn that makes a short but piercing alarming sound as a closing statement, letting everyone know to move on to the next section. This part is more ethereal, than what we’ve previously heard during this set. There are lots of moving parts, mostly percussive sounds in the background, bells, chimes, gongs, and an occasional woodblock. This section is so nebulous, it’s hard to tell if they’re going to continue to play at length or not. Yet, there is a sense of forward momentum. It’s almost like pulling a rubber band. It can stretch quite a distance, if sufficiently pulled to its fullest length.
Peck returns to his bass clarinet spinning out his snake-like melodies. This pushes the band into a different plateau. Glynis’ vocals are more guttural, almost animalistic in quality. As the ensemble continues they adjust their musical statements according to the new template that’s emerging in the present moment. The overall feeling is that the music is winding down heading towards the end of this composition. They’ve made their statements and now, it’s time to come home. This is happening over a period of the final eight minutes or so. At the 43:39 mark, Zbitnov engages in a drum solo as a basis for the group to continue its improvisations. His drum work is the highlight of this section. An oboe soars on top of Zbitnov’s playing near the end of his solo while the others join in playing softly, or sometimes they’re very forward on other horns. I can hear more vocals from Glynis as this growing mayhem continues to develop. Zbitnov is still pounding away on the drums showing a relentless spirit. I don’t know if he can’t stop or he doesn’t want to stop. This display of fury builds until it ends with a well-timed cymbal crash. This was a great way to end this set. Do check out Infinite Perimeter. This CD is available online and in select music stores.