|Conjure Karl Berger and Jason Kao Hwang|
Every once in a while it is both exciting and challenging to let yourself walk on the wild side and openly listen to an unscripted, free improvisational work. In this case, a work that centers around the spontaneous interplay that can occur when two talented musicians join together to stretch each other's perceptions and have faith enough in each other's creativity to let what will happen, just happen.
I recently received Conjoure, a work by composer/pianist/vibraphonist Karl Berger and composer/string master ( violin and viola) Jason Kao Hwang. The album will be released on Oct 1, 2019. Both of these musicians are well respected and appreciated for their creative work and the mastery of their instruments. They have both collaborated with some of the jazz world's most contemporary and creative musicians of this era and have explored music that probes areas on the outskirts of the mainstream. This album is free-wheeling, improvisational interplay, that is not necessarily based on a fixed melodic or rhythmic theme. It is more "conjured up" from the momentary cerebral inspirations of the artist who leads and influenced by his partner's responses. Clearly Conjoure is a totally apropos title to this album.
The two artists seem perfectly at ease with each others directional inclinations and they add some unexpected twists and turns to the path that they spontaneously create, leading the music in a direction that is unpredictable to both the listener or the musicians. If you let yourself be taken by this music there is an eerie attraction to being sent directionless and totally afloat.
The music includes eight compositions made in collaboration with the two musicians and recorded in Berger's home studio in Woodstock, NY on March 20, 2014. The music has evocative titles like "Prophecy," "Beyond Reach," "Vanishing Roots,", "Arise" and "Below Zero."
My favorites are "Silhouettes" that features Berger on a hollow, hauntingly echoing vibraphone line that sets the theme of being caught in a phantasmagorical loop, as Kwang plays his piercing violin like a captured entity, mesmerized by the repeating sounds. Caught like a silhouette entranced by Berger's drone. There is a desperation and lack of resolution to this music that is just captivating and at the same time eerily spooky.
"Faith" opens with Kwang's poignant viola and features Berger on piano which rings with a beautiful resonance. The two explore and follow each other through the emerging music as it develops organically from the muse of the musician who takes the lead, which in most instances seems to be Berger, and then expanded on by his band mate, often Kwang.
"Water Finds Water" features a simulated flow of streaming water as created by Berger's masterful hammering vibes and Kwang's fluttering viola The two musicians manipulate their instruments to create a world of suspension, a liquid atmosphere of water and flotation. It is quite unreal to listen to this music with your eyes closed. You envision yourself being weightlessly propelled through an other world conjured up by these two musicians fertile imagination.
The music of Conjure may be lost to some listeners or fail to touch other listeners, who are harnessed to the norms of more traditional music. If you allow yourself to listen to this music with an open mind and take an unfamiliar journey into foreign territory, then I can say listening to Conjure will turn out to be an enjoyable and expanding experience.