Photos | William Hooker offers a textural pronouncement at Bohemian Caverns


William Hooker played a set on Sunday that sorted and commingled its textures: corpulent, digital, reproduced, swollen and flaringly percussive. Paul Bothwell/CapitalBop

by Giovanni Russonello
Editorial board

Aside from music, hardly any form of artistic expression is both performative — tied to the passage of time — and free from visual considerations. Musicians, unlike dancers, or actors, or so-called performance artists, make their art right in front of you with little care about what they look like doing it. It’s an irony, and an opportunity at another type of observation.

This past Sunday at Bohemian Caverns, during the last of three movements to his “Human Form, Cosmic Activity” suite, William Hooker and his five-person group built monuments to texture and volume and chaos and poise. They weren’t paying any attention to the shape their “human forms” might be taking, but the photos below – snapped by the remarkable Paul Bothwell – somehow give a taste of how piercing and walloping the music was.

Hooker, who was performing as part of Transparent Productions’ “Sundays at 7 at the Caverns” avant-garde jazz series, emerged in the 1970s as part of Lower Manhattan’s loft jazz scene. He went on to partner with experimental musicians in both the rock and jazz traditions, from the tenor saxophonist David Murray to the guitarist Thurston Moore, of Sonic Youth. Fame has escaped him, but his followers stay devout.

On Sunday, the reason was clear. His music might demand too much for a mass audience, but it gives too much to be taken lightly. After a solo drum set, then a duet with the guitarist Anthony Pirog, Hooker brought in the MOM2 trio: Thomas Stanley on effects and samples, Bobby Hill on turntables, and Luke Stewart (who is also an editor at CapitalBop) on electric bass and pedals. This last set found Hooker, Pirog and the trio locked into a collective improvisation that dilated and spiked and stayed glued even as it found its own sutures. Hooker battered the drums in tight, full-bodied rolls, and kept his eyes alight as he scanned his bandmates. There was a lot inside those eyes — invitation, curiosity, peace, burning coals, wisdom — and every so often he would call out to another improviser with something phonetic, or just simple: “Right!” or “Yes!” or “Ahh!” He was guiding the flow of the improvisation from crest to crest, as surely as a Duke Ellington or a Butch Morris, and by the end of the unbroken half-hour of music you felt like you’d heard at least four modules of Hooker’s thought, logically pieced together.

Eventually, Pirog and Stewart stopped playing their instruments; Hill silenced his turntable; Stanley truncated his ruminating, stream-like sound effects. Hooker held himself upright at the drums, and made a final pronouncement: “Human Form, Cosmic Activity. It has meaning.” It wasn’t clear if he meant just the words in the title, or the music itself.

You can find more of Paul Bothwell’s work at paulbothwell.com/blog.

3 Responses to Photos | William Hooker offers a textural pronouncement at Bohemian Caverns

  1. Totally Avante Guard innovation!

  2. Thanks for the photos/article and attending this performance..I am always glad to see folks that come with open minds to attend the performances. I do not want to be elitist…..Take care!

  3. My statement about the elitism is in reaction to the quote about FAME….this really is not a mass music…wh

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