William Hooker | LIGHT | The Early Years 1975-1989 | No Business Records

4 CD box set

Featuring: David S. Ware, David Murray, Jemeel Moondoc, Roy Campbell Jr., Booker T. Williams, Alan Braufman, Hasaan Dawkins, Mark Hennen, Lewis Barnes, Richard Keene, Les Goodson, Mark Miller.

DISC ONE – IS ETERNAL LIFE

Drum Form (includes) – Wings – Prophet Of Dogon – Still Water – Desert Plant – Tune) [18:06] | William Hooker – drums, percussion, vocal | Soy: Material / Seven [26:48] | David Murray – tenor saxophone; Mark Miller – bass; William Hooker – drums | 3. Passages (Anthill) [19:27] | David S. Ware – tenor saxophone; William Hooker – drums

Track 1 – recorded on 28th May, 1975 at Columbia University, New York City by Joe Walker | Track 2 – recorded on 4th May, 1975 in performance at the Cubiculo, New York City by Carl Williams | Track 3 – recorded on 5th February, 1976 in performance at the Langston Hughes Library, Corona, New York City by Carl Williams

All music composed by William Hooker, published by William Hooker Music / BMI All compositions originally released on a double LP “is eternal life” on William Hooker’s label Reality Unit Concepts / RUC – 444

DISC TWO – IS ETERNAL LIFE / BRIGHTER LIGHTS

Pieces I & II 18:46 – Les Goodson – tenor saxophone, flute, percussion; Hasaan Dawkins – alto saxophone, flute, percussion; William Hooker – drums and percussion | Above and Beyond 4:50 | William Hooker – drums

Track 1 – recorded on 20th May, 1976 in performance at the Columbus Branch, New York Public Library, New York City by William Hooker | Track 2 – recorded on 19th November, 1976. It is an excerpt from TOWARDS THE NEW MUSIC / Public Broadcast Special for WHNB-TV, Channel 30, West Hartford, Connecticut. | Others (Unknowing) [4:57] | Patterns I, II and III [14:54] | Alan Braufman – alto saxophone, flute; William Hooker – drums | 3 & 6 / Right [13:15] | Mark Hennen – piano; William Hooker – drums

All music composed by William Hooker, William Hooker music / BMI. All compositions originally released on a double LP “Brighter Lights” on William Hooker’s label. Reality Unit Concepts / RUC – 445.  Present Happiness [16:47]. Jemeel Moondoc – alto saxophone; Hasaan Dawkins – tenor saxophone; William Hooker – drums

Music composed by William Hooker, William Hooker music / BMI. Recorded in 1980. Previously unreleased track

DISC THREE – WILLIAM HOOKER TRIO – FORMULAS OF APPROACH

Roy Campbell – trumpet; Booker T Williams – tenor saxophone; William Hooker – drums

Tracklist: Anchoring / Inclusion / 3 & 6 (Right) [24:16] | Clear, Cold Light / Into Our Midst / Japanese Folk Song (traditional) [42:32]. All music composed by William Hooker, William Hooker music / BMI. Recorded on 22nd February, 1988 at Roulette Club, New York City with assistance of Jim Staley and staff. Previously unreleased session

DISC FOUR – WILLIAM HOOKER – TRIO TRANSITION

Lewis Barnes – trumpet; Richard Keene – soprano, alto and tenor saxophones, flute; William Hooker – drums, spoken word

Tracklist: Contrast (With A Feeling) [11:56] | Naturally Forward [32:20]

All music composed by William Hooker, William Hooker music / BMI. Recorded on 12th February, 1989 live at “Chumley’s” in the Castle at Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts by Brian Crawford and staff / Broadcasted on 100.1 FM WBRS. Continuity of Unfoldment [16:18]. William Hooker – drums

Recorded in1981 at WKCR-FM, Columbia University, New York City

Booklet design by Jeff DiPerna, tabula rasa graphic design. Design by Oskaras Anosovas. Re-mastered by Arūnas Zujus at MAMAstudios. Produced by Danas Mikailionis. Co-producer: Valerij Anosov

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bookletcover

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Light Box: Conception of William Hooker

by Thomas Stanley

Don’t tell him he plays loud. He learned about music and his instrument playing within a tradition that straddles R&B and jazz. That tradition congeals in the smoothly accessible, yet sonically forceful music of the organ trios of the mid-sixties and it demanded amplitude. “An organ is powerful— a Hammond B3 with a Leslie tone cabinet. That’s a six foot cabinet. It’s got that swirly thing inside and you have to play with a certain amount of power,” Hooker says. Long before synthesizers and electric guitars had come to define the infusion of electrophonic sound into popular music, the organ and accompanying revolving speaker system were expanding the spatial dimensions of what could be heard in performance and on record. This combo was as loud as it was bulky. Organists like Brother Jack McDuff, Don Patterson, Baby Face Willette, and Big John Patton worked with drummers who could be heard over all of that whirring Hammond wonder. Hooker ruefully paints a picture of lugging the Leslie across the state of Connecticut as part of an organ trio apprenticeship that included mentoring under older Black musicians and a thorough internalization of jazz standards learned from the binder of photocopied sheet music that musicians fondly call the Fake Book. Of the great organ trio drummers, Hooker singles out Joe Dukes’ work with Jack McDuff as a dominant influence on his playing. “He was just a person that dealt with power.” I’ve heard Dukes’ crisp attack and fluid rolls, but my ear found a bit more proto-Hooker in the playing of Jerold Donavon on Willette’s “Song of the Universe” that seems to foreshadow both the way that Hooker aggressively consumes his instrument, just as its title suggests the limitless scope of Hooker’s artistic concept. Hooker, however, remembers the side, but not the drummer. Joe Dukes (whose licks from a 1970 Lonnie Liston Smith Blue Note recording were sampled by hip hop pioneers Tribe Called Quest) is Hooker’s primary stylistic source point. “That’s the one that stands out in my mind,” he says. “I start my career as a professional musician in New Britain, Connecticut,” Hooker continues. “I was playing professionally at thirteen and fourteen years old. That is basically me playing drums in rock and roll bands, rhythm and blues bands, and quote-unquote traditional jazz bands. The organ trio bands dealt with the entire vocabulary of the music. There was more regularity and the musicians that I played with in that organ trio, I was closer to them as mentors of me.
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I was the youngest in that group and we had a singer as well—a great singer. During that period, we would play in clubs, backing shows, backing dancers, and obviously we would play major Black social events that would happen throughout Connecticut. This society creates itself and it perpetuates itself through the music and through the musicians that provided constant breath to the way people were living.” To this day, he reverentially recalls those early days as a journeyman on the chitlin’ circuit and the deep grounding that it provided in music as expression and as a sometimes brutal business. But Hooker’s interests couldn’t stay folded in the pages of the Fake Book forever. He always had his ear on the more progressive currents of musical culture, but it was a brief, but life altering, period in San Francisco that ruined him for fake books and counterfeit music. I first saw Mr. And Mrs. Hooker together after a Knitting Factory show many years ago. I don’t think either one of them smokes anymore, but at the time they were sharing drags from a single cigarette like high school kids, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense because I was also at the time meeting their grown son Yureesh. The two have the kind of union in which their mirror narratives complete each other’s stories. Donna reminds William that they only had $114 when they poured their meager belongings into a battered Chevy (the Blue Goose) and set off for Cali.
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William reminds Donna that he’s kind of “parochial” and doesn’t remember being particularly warm to the idea. In San Francisco, Donna worked as a long distance telephone operator and William collected unemployment insurance while struggling to find his place in a musical scene that had as its center neither an established repertoire nor an established Negro social life. It was Black Power, baby, and some conception of freedom was at the root of every cultural gesture. William started playing almost daily at Seal Rock with a group of conga players. These were brothers with limited training in music or drums who could roll for hours off of the militant energy of an imagined re-emersion in an African gestalt. There was a lot of jamming, but very little of what might constitute real work, even for a musician. When not rehearsing, William used his time to study broadly, reading the spiritual writings of Hazrat lnayat Khan, Madame Helena Blavatsky, and Rudolf Steiner alongside pioneering Afrocentric historians Cheikh Anta Diop and Chancellor Williams. Three sets of congas and a kit is a lot of drums and William Hooker quite suddenly found himself in a context that was not structured enough to either limit or redirect the connection between sound and spirit. Quite bluntly, the men he was playing with didn’t know enough music for him to play any way other than free. “I couldn’t stay out there any longer, because the level of music that I had come from was higher than where I was,” Hooker remembers. “And I couldn’t continue with that level of musicianship. I had gone out there with a full encyclopedia in my soul and in my head and I was only using a small part of that.” Hooker was 25. Donna remembers their trip down the tie-died rabbit hole of west coast counterculture as seminal, if draining: “We were just exploring and exploring everything. I think it must have been about a year and a half. Time had stopped in our consciousness.” A pause, a laugh, then, “It totally destroyed us.”

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By the time he had finished his Pacific pilgrimage, William had picked up his drum kit and left the rhythm section without fully realizing the implications of his mutiny. And while it would take a few more years rummaging around broke in Connecticut, there would be no turning back. “I’m back on the east coast, as a person who has to establish the fact that I’m back here in my hometown and nobody has even noticed that I’d left,” he says, “and what 1 was doing at that point, I was trying to become a part of the establishment. The establishment never wanted me there in the first place. This was Hartford—Trinity College. They still haven’t changed; they’re still playing the same songs.” In Hooker’s mind, the drums were reconceived not as a backdrop or rhythmic container for more melodic expressions, but as a lead instrument like guitar or saxophone, a potent source of timbre, form, and direction.

Hooker had a way of taking any tune he was given to play and turning it into free jazz. “What are you doing, what are you doing we’re playing this; you’re a part of the rhythm section! They didn’t realize that I had graduated from the rhythm section,” he says. “I didn’t play anywhere. I couldn’t. I was free at that point. I was totally free.” James Blood Ulmer once told me, “ain’t anything quite as expensive as this so-called free jazz.” The Hookers’ poverty and William’s artistic frustration drove them out of Connecticut in short order. So, somewhere between Nixon’s resignation and the Vietnam War’s last bucket of blood, William lands in Manhattan and attempts to elbow his way into what is usually referred to as the 197os jazz loft scene. “People always make such a big thing of this loft scene,” Donna interjects, “But it’s almost like people reimagining the time. Yes there were lofts and Billy played in them, but there were a lot of libraries. There were galleries. No nightclubs, no.” Within this constellation of ad hoc venues, Hooker is singly appreciative of the personal support of Pastor John Gensel and St Peter’s Church.

Hooker arrived in NY with a concept of his instrument’s place within the music that immediately put him at odds with the prevailing soloist/rhythm section model of the jazz ensemble. Sam Rivers kept him out of his loft on the explicit grounds that a drummer was obliged to put in his time as a sideman before headlining as a leader. In other quarters however, like the famed Kitchen, Hooker’s ecstatic expressionism was embraced by artistic mavericks like minimalist musician Rhys Chatham and playwright Eric Bogosian. Early collaborators in the venues where he was permitted to play included tenor player David S. Ware and trumpeter Malachi Thompson. Throughout this period, there was considerable pressure on these jazz experi-mentalists to create their own opportunities to play, and an activist bearing was a necessary prerequisite for having your music heard. Released in 1977, but assembled from live dates in ’75 and ’76, … is eternal life, was the first of many fruits of William Hooker’s activism. A double LP (heard here as Disc One and the first pair of tracks of Disc Two) that a close friend of William and Donna funded, it was a brash assault on the smugness of the gatekeepers. It features two of our era’s defining tenor players: David Murray (making his recording debut) and David Ware, in one of his earliest appearances on LP. The essential qualities of Hooker’s drum language and unique approach to band leadership are heard here in their fullness. Any vestiges of beats or swing are swallowed by a smearing constancy; super fast rolls are stacked and interleaved holographically with crashes and hi-hat chatter to fashion structures that are functionally more tonal than temporal. These spaces and platforms are the sonic basis for the improvisations of whomever William has brought onstage with him. These other voices—in this case Hasaan Dawkins, Mark Miller, and Les Goodson, in addition to Murray and Ware—are contained by this idiosyncratic approach to drum sound, even as they are supported and informed by it. The remainder of the second disc expands the documentation of Hooker’s sophomore album, Brighter Lights, originally released in 1982. Like … is eternal life, this record was pressed on Hooker’s 501C-3 record label Reality Unit Concepts. Without artist-owned labels and curatorial collectives like Carla Bley’s Jazz Composers Orchestra Association (JCOA), the best of this music would have left no historical trace. Brighter Lights features Alan Braufman on alto sax and flute and pianist Mark Hennen, who William still works with frequently. In this set, especially the duet with Braufman on flute, we can hear how Hooker’s vigorous embrace of the kit provides a compelling canvas for soloists and draws his accompanists into territory that exceeds any contrived expressionisms of free jazz clichés. In addition to the sides that made up the original LP, the second disc contains a stellar performance with Dawkins and altoist Jemeel Moondoc.

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The third disc features alternate takes from a 1988 live date at Roulette that was used as the basis for a record released on Cadence in that year. With the late Roy Campbell, Jr. on trumpet and the under-recorded Booker T. Williams on tenor, the three tracks on Disc Three provide an excellent opportunity to hear William Hooker as a composer keenly aware of the complex interactions between instrumentalists and between their lines and his drumming. Campbell was a virtuosic colorist whose sense of humor and depth meshed well with Hooker’s long form constructions. Williams knows how to dig into the spaces implied by Hooker’s busy patterns to build melodic extensions that bring an almost vocal-like quality to the work. Closing out this set, the fourth disc was recorded in 1989 and also features a trio (William with saxophonist Richard Keene and trumpeter Lewis Barnes) and marks one of the last sessions where Hooker will be identified exclusively with the jazz improvisation scene. By the early 9os he has begun associations with a host of rock/punk guitarists, although his style never fundamentally changes in pursuit of these novel collaborations. Barnes and Keene are well equipped to populate the architecture that Hooker erects. His power-packed, swing-free drumming and Salvador Dali-inspired brushwork can be heard as incentives for longer, perhaps more deliberate phrasing on the part of the tonal improvisers. Keene and Barnes work together as a unit, a pair of interconnected engines churning out light and shadow, harmony and tension, in equal measure. The last track in the set is a rare extended solo Hooker performance called “Continuity of Unfoldment” providing a rare opportunity to hear this very lyrical percussionist without support or augmentation.
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Listening here is like watching time-lapse video of a Buddhist sandpainting and may provide the high point of this very well assembled collection. At the end of this four-disc time capsule you have a small but crucial chapter near the beginning of a great artist’s public life. At 69, Hooker is fit and determined and should, thankfully, be making novel and valuable music for years to come. He has revolutionized the way the jazz drum kit is conceived, played, and recorded. As he was told by the late Bernard Stollman, an important if controversial figure on the business side of contemporary jazz, shortly before his death, William Hooker’s place within this music is established. Established and illuminated.

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One thought on “William Hooker | LIGHT | The Early Years 1975-1989 | No Business Records

  1. Light constitutes another welcome instalment from the back pages of NYC free jazz by the Lithuanian No Business imprint, following on from Jemeel Moondoc’s Muntu Recordings (2009), Commitment’s Complete Recordings 1980/1983 (2010) and William Parker’s Centering: Unreleased Early Recordings 1976-1987 (2012) box set, among others. The label has released some of drummer William Hooker’s most accomplished work in recent years, such as Bliss -Earth’s Orbit (2010) and Live At Vilnius Jazz Festival (2014) as well as previous documents from the archives. Now they have raided the vaults to put out a 4 CD box set which unites Hooker’s first two self released discs with two never before heard live sessions.

    Writer Thomas Stanley puts his finger on what makes Hooker special in the accompanying booklet when highlighting that he plays drums as a lead instrument, rather than being content to be part of the rhythm section. That uncompromising stance has meant that he has often skirted the fringes rather than luxuriated at the core, even in the already rarefied free jazz arena. In the heyday of the loft era Hooker was told he couldn’t work the prestigious Studio Rivbea as leader as he hadn’t put in time as a sideman. Consequently he worked where he could, frequently with others on the edge. among that number were some at the start of their careers who later scaled the heights, such as David Murray and David S. Ware here.

    The first CD comprises a welcome resighting for Hooker’s 1975 double LP debut …is eternal life, a. With no little chutzpah, he sets out his manifesto with a side of solo drums to. Merging his lilting voice with small percussion and earthy chant like drum patterns, the result is organised and controlled. It’s already clear that Hooker possesses a finely honed sense of dynamics and form. So a passage of shimmering cymbals precedes a sequence of rumbling toms. Then when the two are combined it produces a choral effect which only increases the impact. It’s an approach that has served him well since.

    “Soy: Material / Seven” represents the first appearance on disc of 21-year old Murray. Already his facility in the upper registers is apparent. After a conversational start, with blues inflections, there’s a synergy evident between drums and saxophone, although Mark Miller’s bass seems incidental, and tellingly it’s the last time the instrument appears on this compendium. On “Passages (Anthill),” David S. Ware shows that he shares Murray’s prodigious imagination along with stamina and relentless power. Ware and Hooker goad each other into an incendiary dialogue in which melodic material from the head serves to reignite Ware’s incantatory outpouring.

    Sound quality becomes more of a problem on the second CD. The first two tracks comprise the final side of Hooker’s debut. “Pieces I & II,” a trio with the flutes and saxophones of Les Goodson and Hasaan Dawkins, suffers greatly because of the distortion on the drums. The solo “Above and Beyond” is better and again displays Hooker’s sense of organization, alternating avalanche and silence.

    The next three cuts make up Hooker’s second LP Brighter Lights first issued in 1982. “Others (Unknowing)” and “Patterns I, II and III” showcase Alan Braufman’s pastoral flute and oboe-like alto saxophone, restrained initially with dancing flute but building to multiphonics saxophone bursts by the end. “3 & 6 / Right” matches Hooker with pianist Mark Hennen’s Cecil Taylor inspired flow. Unfortunately the imaginative interplay is marred by more distortion which mean that it’s not possible to fully appreciate the drummer’s attention to pitch and texture. Slightly muffled and distant sound also affects “Present Happiness,” an otherwise fine meeting with Jemeel Moondoc’s alto and Hasaan Dawkins tenor saxophone, who respond eagerly to Hooker’s exhortations. Thereafter there were no releases from Hooker until the close of the decade.

    It all comes together on the third CD where Hooker pairs his structured solo method with a group of top notch collaborators. The February 1988 concert was captured five days before that issued as The Colour Circle (Cadence Jazz Records, 1989) with the same participants in trumpeter Roy Campbell and tenor saxophonist Booker T. Williams, Jr., and seems to feature extended renditions of some of the same charts, although the titles differ. Not for nothing was the original disc credited to the William Hooker Orchestra. Even though only three strong, Hooker arranges his resources, whether that be the three instrumentalists or the different parts of his kit, with such acumen that they deliver a truly orchestral experience.

    Hooker pits mournful themes against blistering extemporization on two suite like tracks with “Anchoring / Inclusion / 3 & 6 (Right)” over 24 minutes and “Clear, Cold Light / Into Our Midst / Japanese Folk Song” clocking in at 42 minutes. Campbell blends lyricism and energy into a fluid whole, calling on melodic ideas which surfaced later in some of his own leadership dates. Williams, something of an undersung talent, works from reiterated phrases which mesh well with the drummer’s style. Among the many excellent moments, the interlude for Hooker’s hi-hat and Williams’ rampaging tenor around the 10-minute mark on the latter stands out.

    The final disc presents another previously unreleased live session from a year later, featuring similar instrumentation. This time Lewis Flip Barnes, who has gone on to become a stalwart of William Parker’s bands, holds down the trumpet chair, while Richard Keene, also active with Parker in his Little Huey Orchestra, deploys a range of reeds in freewheeling interchange. Their fast paced give and take and empathetic phrasing echoes Hooker’s roiling bombast on “Contrast (With A Feeling)” which sounds more like a blowing date than “Naturally Forward” where the leader’s architectural underpinning lends order to Keene’s aching falsetto and Barnes’ fizzing fanfares. Rounding out the disc and bringing the collection full circle, “Continuity of Unfoldment” is another solo recital, which includes one of the few grooves in the set. It also contains a recitation by Hooker, presaging an increasing interest in expanding his breadth of expression via poetry and film.

    Overall it’s a mixed bag not helped by the sonic fidelity at times, but one where the pluses definitely outweigh the misfires. And that makes it essential listening for those curious as to Hooker’s origins and indeed the development of free jazz.

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