After a pandemic furlough that pushed PEK to a year of relentless solo exploration, Leap of Faith is back. Although this is not the unit's first release since reuniting, it is an especially strong one that speaks to the new life that has been breathed into the project. Here, the core duo of PEK (on reeds, percussion, strings and other instruments) and Glynis Lomon (cello, aquasonic and voice) are joined by relatively new additions Ellwood Epps (trumpet and percussion) and Eric Rosenthal (percussion) and, for the first time, Nate McBride (bass).
As one might expect with this line-up, Meaning Arising is a fiery set. PEK and Lomon have developed a telekinetic connection over their decades of collaboration and that bond remains as strong as ever. For her part, Lomon leans on some serious muted/distorted cello work and, in addition, lends her voice. She has sung before, but her work on this album really stands out. She is a talented vocalist, whose throaty, at points almost primal incantations wend beautifully around the cavernous soundscape that takes shape around her. They also add a human element that is often suppressed in PEK's system, which focuses more on sound gestation and bedlam than on the swing, scales and tunefulness of its ultimate free jazz inspiration. In a similar manner, the three musicians that fill out that central diploid add new, welcome elements to the abstract and increasingly futuristic computerized aesthetics that LoF has embraced recently. Rosenthal offers his understated but deliberate drumming, which nods to hard bop while it merges into the electro-acoustic windstorm whirling around it. Epps and McBride, however, really stuck out to me on this one. McBride, because of his rhythmic drive, which he has been forced to reign in somewhat. Epps, because of his lurching melodicism which, in brief fits, cuts through the largely depersonalized sonic mire. Although he can bend and squeak and huff with the best of them, he can also ride atop a groove that he picks out of the bubbling cauldron festering around him.
And then there is PEK. Through it all, he remains the organizer, the convener, the bandleader, and an essential sonic element in the ensemble. Despite his ubiquity, however, he refuses to step to the front. He is the glue but not the grandstander and his sound prints can be heard on every minute of this release.
Meaning Arising is a PEK effort and fits snugly into the aesthetic universe he has developed. As is all his ensemble work, however, this is a remarkably balanced effort wherein each individual, including the grandmaster himself, surrenders themself to the whole. Truly, an inspired effort all around, and one which will likely entice the converted and might even draw in a few new ones looking for new adventures in cosmic abstraction.
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