"Percussionist William Hooker, the genre-bending free jazz legend, improvises a live soundtrack to pioneering African-American filmmaker Oscar Micheaux's 1920 silent film classic The Symbol of the Unconquered, originally advertised as a chance to come see "the annihilation of the Ku Klux Klan."
William Hooker is an artistic whole, a vast circle of vision and execution. A body of uninterrupted work beginning in the mid-seventies defines him as one of the most important composers and players in jazz. As bandleader, Hooker has fielded ensembles in an incredibly diverse array of configurations. Each collaboration has brought a serious investigation of his compositional agenda and the science of the modern drum kit. As a player, Hooker has long been known for the persuasive power of his relationship with his instrument. His work is frequently grounded in a narrative context. Whether set against a silent film or anchored by a poetic theme, Hooker brings dramatic tension and human warmth to avant-garde jazz. His ability to find fertile ground for moving music in a variety of settings that obliterate genre distinctions offers a much-needed statement of social optimism in the arts. A disciplined, adaptive, and energetic approach to his medium insures that the oeuvre of William Hooker will continue to grow thicker and richer. William Hooker has released more than 40 critically acclaimed CDs. As a composer, he has received commissions from Meet the Composer, the NY State Council on the Arts, Real Art Ways, Walker Arts Center and others.
About William Hooker:
Drummer William Hooker, who moved to New York in 1974, remained fundamentally faithful to the aesthetic of free-jazz (despite a passion for exoteric/spiritual themes), starting with the double-LP Is Eternal Life (May 1975), a set of collaborations with other improvisers (including tenor saxophonists David Murray and David Ware. Rediscovered by Sonic Youth's guitarist Thurston Moore for the rock audience, Hooker returned to a more abstract and free-form kind of creative improvisation in the main works of his prolific middle age: Darkness (November 1992) and The Spirits Return (April 1994) on the live Radiation, by Hooker's band featuring Donald Miller (Borbetomagus), electronic musician Brian Doherty, Compo, Kono; a duet with Moore (Sirius) and an electro acoustic duet with guitarist Elliot Sharp (The Hat) on Shamballa (1993), and recordings with Zeena Parkins, Billy Bang, and Lee Renaldo (Sonic Youth), DJ Olive, and Christian Marclay.
The albums with Ranaldo were heavily influenced by his screeching sounds, just like his turbulent wall of noise heavily influenced the albums with Donald Miller. Armageddon (February 1995) marked a change in direction, both because the improvisations turned towards a more sophisticated kind of sound painting and because the stylistic palette expanded dramatically, ranging from a Dadaistic duet with turntabilist Gregor "DJ Olive" Asch to the 16-minute free jam State Secrets for drums and two guitars.
About the film:
Oscar Micheaux was an independent filmmaker and entrepreneur, whose earliest and most significant films were responses to D.W. Griffith's "Birth of a Nation," portraying the African-American struggle against white racism and the KKK. These films were "Within Our Gates" (1919) and "Symbol of the Unconquered" (1920), both lost for decades and restored in the 1990s. In "Symbol of the Unconquered," the black hero holds his ground and chivalrously protects a lovely light-skinned mulatto neighbor (who is passing as white) as a local gang of thieves and hooded, torch-carrying Klansmen plots to frighten him, steal his land and finally, to kill him. Though how they do it remains unknown due to a key missing reel, the amorous "black" couple emerges from the ordeal unscathed and thrilled to discover their shared racial identity. Laced within these (and many other) Micheaux melodramas are themes of inter- and intra-racial tensions and hatred."-Media Sanctuary
NTSC; Color; Stereo
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NY Downtown & Jazz/Improv
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