The Squid's Ear Magazine

Soldier, Dave / William Hooker: Lewitt Etudes (Mahakala Music)

Inspired by the graphic wall drawings of American artist and sculptor Sol Lewitt, designed as graphic scores for flexibility in improvisation, violinist Dave Soldier and drummer William Hooker assembled this impressive ensemble to present 9 etudes, performed with Rebecca Cherry, Kirk Knuffke, Ayumi Ishito, Hans Tammen, Alex Greene, Luke Stewart, and Ken Filiano.

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product information:

UPC: 195269186098

Label: Mahakala Music
Catalog ID: MAHA-036
Squidco Product Code: 32486

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2022
Country: USA
Packaging: Digipack
Recorded at Dolan Studios, in NYC, on April 3rd, 2022.


Dave Soldier-violin, mandolin, 5 string banjo

Rebecca Cherry-violin

Kirk Knuffke-cornet

Ayumi Ishito-tenor saxophone

Hans Tammen-guitar, electronics

Alex Greene-piano

Luke Stewart-double bass

Ken Filiano-double bass

William Hooker-drums

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Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"These pieces are inspired by Sol Lewitt's compositions for wall drawings. Lewitt wrote instructions to create drawings that can be executed in innumerable ways, according to the tastes and skills of the artists who realize them. The Lewitt Etudes are meant to foster adventures in musical group compositions by players from any tradition at any level of training including none"

Grains of Sand Bringing Sonic Pearls:

Dave Soldier and William Hooker present LeWitt Etudes 7, 9, 16, 24, 39, 40, 43, 45 & 48

The first sounds leaping from your speakers when you play this album are two upright bass lines, one grounded in blues grooves and harmony, the other freely vocalizing with sinuous interjections from high on the neck. Right out of the gate, the twin voices foreshadow the extreme contrasts explored in this interpretation of Dave Soldier's LeWitt Etudes: Fifty Architectural Designs for Musicians (2015, Op. 34), namely selections 7, 9, 16, 24, 39, 40, 43, 45 and 48. The etudes, emulating rules for visual artists set down in Sol LeWitt's Wall Drawings series, are brief prompts for improvisers that deftly bring shape to collective compositions. For this album, a nine-piece ensemble gathered in the spring of 2022 to collectively compose in just this manner, over three hours at New York University's Dolan Studios. Their performance seamlessly blends the harmonies, groove and coordination of arranged music with the unfettered sonic sculpture of seasoned improvisers. And while others have interpreted the LeWitt Etudes, this latest recording by Soldier and William Hooker, under the Mahakala Music imprint, stands as the work's finest manifestation yet.

Hooker, a trailblazing, genre-defying drummer in New York's free improvisation scene since the mid '70s, feels the chemistry between the players and the resulting music lends this album historical significance. "This project was pretty damned heavy," he says. "I think it makes a dent in the music of the 21st Century. I hope people worldwide, speaking other languages, can hear this music. That's my purpose now."

The music's universal appeal is clear: simply hearing the instrumental odyssey, without intellectual trappings, is inherently compelling, as the richness of each instrument's tonal possibilities comes to the fore, beautifully recorded and mixed by engineer Parichat Songmuang, mastered for maximum clarity by Gene Paul. The musicians' melodic arcs, growls, sighs and drones - built on the sounds of wood and string, reed and mouthpiece, oscillating electric voltages, and sticks on skins - create a smorgasbord of sound beyond the realm of language or even most other music.

But the chemistry in the room that day didn't come from nowhere. Soldier and Hooker have been making music together for decades. "Dave and I have four albums out together," says Hooker. "We've done a lot of work together, and I don't separate the LeWitt Etudes from any of the work we've done so far." Rather, it's a continuation of a years-long dialogue between them, with Hooker's drum kit and Soldier's violin, mandolin, and five string banjo bringing multiple voices to their conversation on this album.

From there, the collaborators added other voices to their palette: In one corner were the aforementioned bassists, Luke Stewart (recently named one of the 25 most influential jazz artists of his generation by Downbeat magazine) and Ken Filiano (both an orchestral double bassist and a pillar of New York's jazz scene for decades), their weave of slapping, deep tones and whispering harmonics perfectly complementing the dynamics of Hooker's drumming. Beside them, Hans Tammen, renowned for multiple projects from Endangered Guitar to the Dark Circuits Orchestra, sat playing either a "big fat jazz guitar that's older than me," as he puts it, or a Buchla synthesizer.

Further spaced around the tracking room were Dave Soldier, his three instruments at the ready; Rebecca Cherry, a violinist deeply versed in the classical canon, yet with an adventurous streak; Kirk Knuffke, with 18 albums under his name, dubbed by the New York Times "one of New York City's busiest musicians," on cornet; Ayumi Ishito, who's new Open Question project has received glowing reviews, on tenor saxophone; composer Alex Greene, a thirty-year veteran of the Memphis indie rock and jazz scene, on piano; and William Hooker, whose thunderous-yet-nuanced drumming had a profound effect on the dynamics of each piece.

Just what sort of score were these seasoned composers and improvisers faced with? The LeWitt Etudes, Soldier explains, "were literally inspired by Sol LeWitt's Wall Drawings." The visual artist LeWitt devised a rules-based approach to creative projects in the late '60s. His Wall Drawing No. 26, for example, reads: A one-inch grid covering a 36 inch square. Within each one-inch square, there is a line in one of the four directions.

The open-ended possibilties of such guidelines fired Soldier's imagination. "Within LeWitt's rules, there are many ways you can realize them," he reflects. "So why can't music be made the same way?"

While Soldier has scored thousands of pieces with standard notation, from avant garde operas to arrangements for rock bands, in this case he emulated LeWitt's rules with purely textual guidelines, "to foster adventures in musical group compostions by players from any tradition at any level of training including none," as he writes in the introduction.

The two words, "including none," hint at what made this approach so intriguing to Soldier. "Writing the etudes grew partly from my experience with doing things like working with Thai elephants. How do you get elephants to play music? You have to work with their mahouts, their handlers. They don't know how to read music, so we do it with stories. That's also how I did those kids' records, like the Tangerine Awkestra with kids from Brooklyn, or Yol K'u, with Mayan kids in Guatemala."

That approach also echoes the guided improvisational strategies Soldier encountered in the downtown New York avant garde scene. "Butch Morris led a lot of groups with a thing he called 'conduction.' He wouldn't write anything down, but he would conduct people with hand signals. And in the 80s when I moved to New York, I played in his band - the violin section was Billy Bang, Jason Hwang, and me. And Pauline Oliveros was definitely an inspiration for the LeWitt Etudes as well."

And so these novice-friendly pieces are also compelling to seasoned musicians. What player would not be intrigued by instructions to play "the most lonesome possible solo," as in LeWitt Etude #43 (After Hank Williams)? Or by #44 (After Pauline Oliveros), "the players walk through the hall trading pitches with each other and with the audience members"? Indeed, the complete collection of etudes makes for an intriguing, intricate, and even comical read.

"My own instructions get kind of humorous and down home," says Soldier. "That's just my personality. LeWitt's are more like, 'You will draw these circles, you will attach them at right angles.' With mine, you can change the rules, just like we changed the rules in our recording session," says Soldier. "The major rule is, it has to be music that you want to listen to. You don't want to just play any nonsense." Curious listeners can read the LeWitt Etudes score in full at, or peruse the cover art for the nine etudes salient to this album. Better yet, just listen - and try to tease out the logic governing each piece, as players dance with the words on the page.

While all the players on this album excel at pulling ideas from thin air, the dynamics and drama that emerge from the etudes' "stories" push their improvisations to new heights. "It's just as great to use great improvisers as it is to use untrained musicians," notes Soldier. "The difference is, of course, that we could put that whole album together in just three hours." Indeed, if the crack band assembled by Soldier and Hooker was perched in an oyster shell, each etude a grain of sand tossed in among them, then this album brings you the musical pearls that emerged."-Mahakala Music

Artist Biographies

"Dave Soldier played violin in Western swing bands and guitar in rhythm and blues groups, including Bo Diddley, and studied composition with Roscoe Mitchell before moving to New York City in 1981, where he studied with Otto Luening. In 1985, he founded the seminal punk chamber group, the Soldier String Quartet, followed by the punk Delta blues band, the Kropotkins. In addition to compositions for classical musicians ranging from solo works to two large operas, with conservationist Richard Lair, Soldier co-founded the Thai Elephant Orchestra, consisting of 16 elephants in Northern Thailand, for which he built giant musical instruments. He has coached children to compose their own music in Harlem (Da Hiphop Raskalz), Brooklyn (the Tangerine Awkestra), Washington Heights, and northern Guatemala. In addition to repertoire for these groups, Soldier's compositions include The People's Choice Music: the most wanted and unwanted songs, following poll results of likes and dislikes of the American population, a collaboration with artists Komar & Melamid; to song cycle collaborations with author Kurt Vonnegut; music on specially designed instruments by songbirds and pygmy chimpanzees; music performed by electrical brain activity in the Brainwave Music Project with Brad Garton: arrangements for John Cale, David Byrne, and Guided by Voices, and various song cycles /oratorios/ operas and TV and film soundtracks including I Shot Andy Warhol and Sesame Street, and has played on many pop, jazz, experimental, and classical recordings. Soldier received a Ph.D in neuroscience at Columbia University, where he is a professor in the Neurology, Psychiatry, and Neuroscience departments. His book "Music Math and Mind" on the physics and neuroscience of music is published by Columbia University Press (2021)."

-Dave Soldier Website (

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"Rebecca Cherry has been featured internationally as a soloist, performer and composer. Her work as a violinist and composer has won critical acclaim, also winning her a Clio Award for her groundbreaking performances and writing in TV and film. Rebecca was born in Vancouver, Canada to classical musician parents. They began her on violin at age three, and started singing shortly thereafter. She studied first at the Vancouver Academy of music, earning a diploma and then continuing her studies at Peabody Conservatory of Music for a BM and Graduate Performance Diploma. During her studies, Rebecca sang with the Vancouver Opera and performed throughout North America for Competitions, Chamber Music and Solo concerts. Ms. Cherry has performed, recorded and been featured on many TV appearances with artists including, Adele, Florence and the Machine, Arlo Guthrie, Jay Z, Kanye West, The Roots, Chris Martin, Cindi lauper, Common, Lambchop, Michael Buble, Arlo Guthrie, Achinoam Nini, The Jonas Brothers, Enya, Beyonce, and Thalia. Including: SNL, David Letterman, Conan O'Brien, Grammys 2008, BET Awards, MTV, MTV Unplugged, BET Specials, Live World, Jimmy Fallon, Telemundo. Her talent has also found her performing with symphony orchestras in North America and Europe, with The London Philharmonic, Bergen Philharmonic, Oslo Chamber Orchestra, New York Chamber Orchestra, New York Pops, Vancouver Symphony, and the Baltimore Symphony in the most prestigious halls and TV shows including Carnegie Hall, Vienna's Musikverein, and Avery Fischer Hall.

Rebecca has worked on several collaborations with Dave Soldier, including current project The Lost Victrola Sessions. Ms. Cherry is featured on several tracks on Soldier's "Chamber Music" named one of the top classical recordings by The New York Times in 2007. Ms. Cherryis sponsored by NS Designs Electric Violins, the leader in electronic string instruments. Her solo performances have been heard broadcast on National TV in the USA, Spain, Canada, Russia, Italy, UK, Ireland, France, Norway, Denmark, and Germany. Solo and Chamber Music recordings with Ms. Cherry can be found on major digital stores worldwide."

-Rebecca Cherry Website (

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"Cornetist and Composer Kirk Knuffke is the winner of Downbeat Magazine's "Rising Star"critics poll for 2015. A recipient of the Jerome Foundation composers grant, Kirk has released 15 recordings as a leader or co-leader. "One of modern jazz's most skilled navigators of the divide between inside and outside, freedom and swing", he has "full command of his most demanding instrument" - All About Jazz. Kirk placed in the top five in the World in the El Intruso critics poll and was one of 6 nominees for Trumpeter of the year by the Jazz Journalist Association.

Matt Wilson, Allison Miller, Butch Morris, Uri Caine, Michael Formanek, and many more have hired him as a sideman for over 60 recordings, he has been called "One of New York City's busiest musicians" - New York Times.

Knuffke has been based in NYC since 2005. Shortly after his arrival Knuffke began playing with Butch Morris, this friendship resulted in 4 recordings and several European tours. Kirk joined the celebrated Matt Wilson Quartet in 2009, recording "Gathering Call" (Palmetto) featuring John Medeski and touring each year. 2016 brought Matt Wilson's "Beginning of a memory" Palmetto, which received 5 stars in Downbeat Magazine. Michael Formaneks "The Distance" ECM was also awarded 5 stars this year. Knuffke also plays in "Sifter" with Mary Halvorson and Wilson, Ideal Bread, Allison Miller's "Boom Tic Boom", Todd Sickafoose's "Tiny Resistors" and groups led by Ray Anderson, Uri Caine, Mark Helias, Bill Goodwin, Karl Berger and Ted Brown to name a few. "Arm and Hands" a recent release garnering praise from every major Jazz publication as 4 Stars in Downbeat magazine review and Sunday New York Times. The Following CDs "Little Cross" Steeplechase records and "Lamplighter" Fresh Sound Records have also received much praise. Kirk Has had feature articles in Downbeat Magazine, Jazz Times, Germany's "Sonic", and Denmark's "JazzSpecial" among others."

-Kirk Knuffke Website (

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"Ayumi Ishito was born and raised in Ishikawa, Japan. At the age of 19, she began playing tenor saxophone in a college big band at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto.

In 2007, Ayumi received a scholarship to attend Berkee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. She spent three years there studying performance and composition. At Berklee, she studied with George Garzone, Hal Crook, and Frank Tiberi.

After graduating from Berklee, Ayumi moved to New York in 2010. Currently, Ayumi is a regular member of The Jazz Thieves, GADADU, The Eighty-pound Pug, Platypus Revenge and Big Squid performing and recording for numerous projects. As a member of the Jazz Thieves, she performed at renowned music festivals around east coast such as Burlington Discover Jazz Festival (VT '18), River Jazz Festival (PA '17, '19), and Sowebo Arts and Music Festival (MD '17).

In 2017, Ayumi joined Marc Edwards & Slipstream Time Travel led by Marc Edwards, former drummer of the Cecil Taylor's band. She has also worked with several renowned musicians and artists in New York's creative music scene such as Daniel Carter, Dave Sewelson, Elliott Levin and Steve Dalachinsky.

Ayumi has been leading her own group since 2011. She released two albums, "View From A Little Cave" (2016) and "Midnite Cinema" (2019), that consist of all her original compositions. The albums are receiving a lot of attention from home and abroad and have been featured on national and international music blogs including Jazz Trail, Bandcamp Daily, Divide and Conquer, The Family Review, Left Bank Magazine, Odd Creative, and Disk Union, just to name a few. In December 2019, Ayumi was invited to WFMU-FM's radio program "Give the Drummer Radio" as a guest musician and talked about her music and performed live with the host saxophonist Dave Sewelson."

-Ayumi Ishito Website (

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"Hans Tammen likes to set sounds in motion, and then sit back to watch the movements unfold. Using textures, timbre and dynamics as primary elements, his music is continuously shifting, with different layers floating into the foreground while others disappear. This flows like clockwork, "transforming a sequence of instrumental gestures into a wide territory of semi-hostile discontinuity; percussive, droning, intricately colorful, or simply blowing your socks off" (Touching Extremes).

He currently plays guitar, Buchla Music Easel, a Blippoo Box chaos synthesizer plus other small electronics devices. He also performs with various pieces of software of his own design, i.e. the "Endangered Guitar" (a hybrid software/guitar instrument), and "Prozesshansl" (made to process the sounds of other instruments). He regularly writes for large ensembles, notably his 18-piece chamber-jazz ensemble Third Eye Orchestra, and the all-electronic Dark Circuits Orchestra, both founded in 2005. In 2021 FLUX String Quartet commissioned him to write a large work for string quartet and live electronics.

His works have been presented at festivals in the US, Canada, Mexico, Russia, Ukraine, India, South Africa, the Middle East and all over Europe. He has recorded on labels such as Clang, Innova, ESP-DISK, Nur/Nicht/Nur, Gold Bolus, Nachtstück, Creative Sources, Leo Records, Potlatch and Outnow.

Hans Tammen received grants and composer commissions from NewMusicUSA, Chamber Music America, MAPFund, Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, American Music Center, Lucas Artists Residencies Montalvo, New York State Council On The Arts (NYSCA), New York Foundation For The Arts (NYFA), American Composers Forum w/ Jerome Foundation, Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Funds, New York State Music Fund, Goethe Institute w/ Foreign Affairs Office, among others.

Hans Tammen is currently teaching at School of Visual Arts, Hunter College and NYU. From 2001 to 2014 he worked at Harvestworks Digital Media Art Center in NYC, where he was responsible for the Client Services, Education and Artist In Residence program, helping countless digital media artists through completion of their works. As an arbitrator at BTQ in the 1990s, he spent a decade advising unions about electronic monitoring and surveillance at the workplace, and negotiating contracts and agreements to minimize surveillance aspects. He received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Kassel, studying on a stipend from Friedrich Ebert Foundation."

-Hans Tammen Website (

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"Alex Greene is a musician, anthropologist, and writer based in Memphis, TN. His musical work encompasses many genres, including garage rock, jazz, exotica, electronic soundscapes, musique concr¸te, and soundtracks for film. His last project, ReMix Memphis, incorporated field recordings of the Bluff City into musical settings by diverse local talent.

Since 2009, he collaborated with the Rolling Head Orchestra, a band of jazz and soul rockers he assembled in 2009 to score the Boss Crump documentary, Citizens Not Subjects! Reawakening Democracy in Memphis (Verissima, 2010)."

-Crosstown Arts (

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"Luke has pursued a vast number of creative projects over the years. He plays bass and saxophone with DC-based indie rock band Laughing Man, who has performed at historic venues in the city including the Black Cat and St. Stephen's Church, opening for national acts such as The Evens, Wavves, Junkyard Band, and Wale. He has also played saxophone with his own experimental group Ziggurat, as well as various special collaborative performances throughout the East Coast.

As an electronic artist, he has been showcased in local exhibitions alongside legendary hip hop artist Grap Luva, and DC beatmaker Damu the Fudgemunk. He has also been a participant of Sonic Circuits' Festival of Experimental Music, performing on the same bill as cellist Okkyung Lee, as well as performing in other venues alongside instrument builder Layne Garrett and saxophonist Sam Hillmer (Diamond Terrifier). He is also a member of experimental electronic trio Mind Over Matter, Music Over Mind, which has participated in numerous festival performances, including Sonic Circuits' Festival and Noise Fest at George Mason University.

On the jazz side, Luke has performed at many of DC's historic venues including Bohemian Caverns, Twins Jazz, and HR-57. He had the honor of studying and performing with saxophonist Hamiett Bluiett. Recently he lead a 12-member ensemble in an hour-long tribute to John Coltrane on his birthday at the legendary Bohemian Caverns. He is also a member of Trio OOO, a collaborative ensemble featuring saxophonist Aaron Martin, and drummer Sam Lohman.

More recently he has helped establish, a DC-based jazz website and 501c3 non-profit organization, as its Avant Music Editor. Through the site, he has helped launch a live jazz performance series dubbed the "DC Jazz Loft", presenting some talented jazz artists in and around the DC area. He has also presented other jazz performances in his "Red Door Loft" series at the now-closed Goldleaf studios, as well as shows at CD Cellar in Arlington, VA, Bossa Bistro and Lounge, and DIY space the Paperhaus, where his performance curation was picked by Bob Boilen as one of the best shows of 2012.

He is also an Artist-In-Residence at the art space Union Arts and Manufacturing, in Washington, DC, where he regularly rehearses his numerous musical projects as well as hosts special performances and workshops.

During the day, he is the Production Coordinator for WPFW 89.3FM, as well as the host of THE VIBES edition of Overnight Jazz, weekly eclectic jazz program which showcases music from various sources in Luke's musical explorations. Through WPFW he has had the privilege of working with some seminal figures in music and social justice such as Chuck Brown, Yusef Lateef, Randy Weston, Muhal Richard Abrams, Juma Sultan, and Amiri Baraka. He has had the opportunity of producing many successful programs including a month-long commemoration of Black Music Month., featuring notably the reunion of trombonist Phil Ranelin and saxophonist Wendell Harrison from the Tribe organization of Detroit. He also co-produced a month-long tribute to pianist Horace Tapscott Los Angeles based community organization UGMAA (Union of God's Musicians and Artists Ascension). He also produced Washington, DC's first live radio appearance of political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal on the program Jazz and Justice with Tom Porter."

-Luke Stewart Website (

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"Ken Filiano performs throughout the world, playing and recording with leading artists in jazz, spontaneous improvisation, classical, world/ethnic, and interdisciplinary performance, fusing the rich traditions of the double bass with his own seemingly limitless inventiveness. Ken's solo bass CD, subvenire (NineWinds), received widespread critical praise. For this and numerous other recordings, Ken has been called a creative virtuoso, a master of technique ... a paradigm of that type of artist... who can play anything in any context and make it work, simply because he puts the music first and leaves peripheral considerations behind.

Ken composes for his quartet with Michael Attias, Tony Malaby, and Michael T.A. Thomspon; a collective with Attias and Tomas Ulrich; and for his decades-long collaborations with Steve Adams and Vinny Golia. His prolific output also includes performances and/or recordings with artists including Bonnie Barnett, Rob Blakeslee, Bobby Bradford, Taylor Ho Bynum, Roy Campbell, John Carter, Nels Cline, Alex Cline, Connie Crothers, Mark Dresser, Ted Dunbar, Marty Ehrlich, Giora Feidman, Bob Feldman, Eddie Gale, Georgian Chamber Orchestra, Dennis Gonzalez, Lou Grassi, Phil Haynes, Fred Hess, Jason Hwang, Joseph Jarman, Sheila Jordan (with the Aardvark Orchestra), Raul Juarena, Joe Labarbera, Joelle Leandre, Frank London, Manhattan Chamber Orchestra, Tina Marsh, Warne Marsh, Dom Minasi, Hafez Modirzadeh, Butch Morris, Barre Phillips, Don Preston, Herb Robertson, Bob Rodriguez, Roswell Rudd, ROVA Saxophone Quartet, Ursel Schlicht, Paul Smoker, Chris Sullivan, Peeter Uuskyla, Fay Victor, Biggi Vinkeloe, Kenny Wessel, Andrea Wolper, Pablo Ziegler. With Tomas Ulrich, Elliott Sharp, and Carlos Zingaro, he is a member of T.E.C.K. String Quartet.

Ken has been a guest lecturer, performer, and workshop leader at institutions in the United States and Europe. He earned a MM from Rutgers University and is currently on faculty at Mansfield University."- All About Jazz

-Pi Recordings / All About Jazz (

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"William Hooker is an American jazz drummer and composer.

Hooker has performed as a leader of many ensembles of improvised and new music. "Recognized as an iconoclast, and one of the most innovative musicians and drummers of his generation, William knows no genre bounds and ceaselessly searches for new forms of music, always with the intent to inspire."

Accompanying musicians have included: Billy Bang, Thurston Moore, David Murray, David S. Ware, William Parker, Melvin Gibbs, Donald Miller, DJ Olive, Elliott Sharp, Malachi Thompson, Zeena Parkins, Lee Ranaldo, DJ Spooky, Rob Brown, Roy Campbell, Mark Hennen, Steven Bernstein, Roy Nathanson, Jason Hwang, Dave Soldier, Sabir Mateen, Glenn Spearman, Joseph Celli, Ellen Christi, Liudas Mockūnas, and many others."

-William Hooker Website (

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Track Listing:

1. Etude 7 4:29

2. Etude 9: Sounds of Failure 5:27

3. Etude 16: Palimpsest 5:15

4. Etude 40 9:33

5. Etude 24: 1 Bit Code 3:40

6. Etude 43 Version 1 5:16

7. Etude 43 Version 2 14:56

8. Etude 39 Part 1 3:13

9. Etude 45: Waves On The Golfi Di Napoli 6:10

10. Etude 39 Part 2 2:44

11. Etude 48: Water Canon 3:42

Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
Chamber Jazz
Graphic Scores
Large Ensembles
NY Downtown & Metropolitan Jazz/Improv
New in Improvised Music
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