BY David DacksPublished Dec 1, 2004

Recorded live at the Distillery Jazz Festival in Toronto last year, Powerbuch brings together musicians from diverse backgrounds. Reedist Glen Hall, trumpet Gordon Allen, John Kameel Farah on piano and computer and Dave Clark on drums bring many dimensions to improvisation. Allen and Clark have played together in the Woodchopper’s, but Powerbuch really seems to have gotten the best out of everyone. This 49-minute adventure shows each musician really listening to one another and changing their approaches both frequently and successfully. Farah is all up and down the keyboard, but he's equally adept to stay in one figure. He sounds a bit like Keith Tippett, although not in terms of preparing the piano. His understated computer contributions give him a different voice when required. His cascading piano runs are a rhythmic element that works well with Clark, who has a tendency to explore one part of his kit at a time — to great effect. Clark is full of energy throughout. Hall pulls out his whole bag of reeds and plays them either with great lyricism or frenetically like Dewey Redman back in the day. Allen is the sparest of all, providing much needed longer tones and acting as a foil for Hall. This music is entertaining and compelling both in its free sections and its repeated motifs. This aggregation of talent is a well-constructed one.

Is Powerbuch a completely free concept or is there any kind of structure to it? Gordon: It is a completely free concept. We play long pieces, 30 minutes to an hour. We never discuss the music. The sound we try to get is the full spectrum of our collective experience, focused through the prism of where and when and who we are.

Could you expand on the diverse instrumental repertoire of the group? There is a contrast between simple and complex: Dave sticks to the mostly conventional drum kit, and I play trumpet, whereas Glen and John move around more. We're all into expanding the sonic aspects of the music; you can do it with more instruments, or by digging into one instrument. I like to travel light. I use the trumpet and extend that into the acoustic environment, playing into pianos and drums, and using mutes. I've made a choice not to plug in [with electronics]. My way is to go ever deeper into the trumpet. You work on this difficult instrument and it comes alive.

Do you have plans to record this ensemble in a studio? This music is always live. I think the alchemy of this band works best in front of people. We seem to be at our best when there is a certain energy exchange with the audience, a being in the moment and the risk that entails.

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