The Squid's Ear Magazine

Convergence Quartet (Taylor Ho Bynum / Alexander Hawkins / Dominic Lash / Harris Eisenstadt): Owl Ja (NoBusiness)

The 4th release from the international quartet of NY cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum, Canadian drummer Harris Eisenstadt, and UK bassist Dominic Lash and pianist Alexander Hawkins, with compositions from all 4 players, including an adaptation of traditional Ghanaian & Gambian pieces.

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product information:

Limited edition of 300 records.

UPC: 4779022078965

Label: NoBusiness
Catalog ID: NBLP84
Squidco Product Code: 20815

Format: LP
Condition: New
Released: 2015
Country: Lithuania
Packaging: LP
Recorded at Fish Factory Studiosin London, England, on October 9th, 2013 by Steve Lowe.


Taylor Ho Bynum-cornet

Alexander Hawkins-piano

Dominic Lash-doublebass

Harris Eisenstadt-drums

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Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"The Convergence Quartet's last album, their third, Slow and Steady (NoBusiness, 2013) evinced a maturing collective identity, and rightly attracted a lot of attention for bettering the eclectic Song/Dance (2009, Clean Feed), a fine set in itself.

Owl Jacket-recorded in a London studio in October 2013, two years after the Slow and Steady concert recording-confirms the Quartet's steady refinement and maturity. It's a beautifully unforced set, and, although there's plenty of individual artistry on display throughout, the players eschew expressive extravagance in favour of depth of feeling.

It's no wonder this international group, each of whom is a bandleader in his own right, continues to find time for one another, since few other groups channel both the charge of free improvisation and the sensitivity of empathetic performance quite as well as Convergence do.

As ever, all four members contribute compositions or arrangements, including two of traditional African music by Canadian drummer Harris Eisenstadt. One of these, a Ghanaian traditional, is the lead track on side one. (Although I'm reviewing a promotional CD, Owl Jacket is available commercially only in digital or vinyl editions, the latter limited to just 300 copies.)

"Dogbe Na Wo Lo" is given a stately but mournfully smouldering interpretation, with cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum only simmering at first over brittle percussion and simple chordal piano. His playing gets impassioned as a percussion thunder rises, only for accumulated tensions to dissipate after billowing just briefly. Bassist Dominic Lash is remarkable throughout, binding sinuously to pianist Alexander Hawkins' chords then slipping free to pulse amid the dying embers.

Lash is not just a formidable improvising bassist but also a composer with a particular interest in post-Cageian music. His group The Set Ensemble, for instance, focuses on works by composers in the Wandelweiser Group, as well as and Lash's own compositions in that idiom. But his two pieces evidence none of that - just a keen appreciation of the Convergence group aesthetic.

"Jacket", the album's longest cut at 9:42, begins as a delicate duet for piano and muted cornet. Then Lash's bass bounds in only after 3:25, with crisp but increasingly incendiary drumming by Eisenstadt, sparking suddenly charged pianism from Hawkins and a tumbling propulsive impetus. Another change of pace comes at 7:30, as staccato line breaks are introduced to dampen the pace but do little to dissipate the music's charge or intensity.

Lash's "Azalpho" is yet more tightly organised: jaunty, episodic and brief, the quartet hammering home the last of its serial variations.

Taylor Ho Bynum's sole contribution, "Coyote" (04:00) picks up on the clipped ensemble attack of "Jacket", though here the effect is jauntier. The album's first side closes on an almost playful note.

Hawkins' "Owl" begins side two briskly, with unison figures in serial counterpoint, the group's momentum gradually fading as each individual line melds and blurs. In the tune's second half, notwithstanding Bynum's highlighted cornet soloing, each player is seemingly absorbed, reflecting on eddies in their gently ebbing collective momentum.

On "Mamady Wo Murado Sa", Eisenstadt's arrangement of a Gambian traditional, Hawkins highlights rhythmic fragments that he's picked up amid the brittle abstractions of an opening kit percussion/cornet duo, and his lyricism recalls the gentle folk-spiritualism of South Africa's Abdullah Ibrahim. And so the album ends, openly, on notes of unclouded transparency.

Owl Jacket confirms Slow and Steady as the first mature work of a beautifully calibrated collective enterprise, here fine-tuned: Jazz as a thriving evolutionary force." - Daltson Sound

Limited edition of 300 records.

Get additional information at Dalton Sound

Artist Biographies

"Taylor Ho Bynum (b. 1975) has spent his career navigating the intersections between structure and improvisation - through musical composition, performance and interdisciplinary collaboration, and through production, organizing, teaching, writing and advocacy. As heard on over twenty recordings as a bandleader, Bynum's expressionistic playing on cornet and his expansive vision as composer have garnered him critical attention as one of the singular musical voices of his generation. He currently leads his Sextet and 7-tette, and works with many collective ensembles including a duo with drummer Tomas Fujiwara, the improv trio Book of Three, the UK/US collaborative Convergence Quartet, the dance/music interdisciplinary ensemble Masters of Ceremony, and the trans-idiomatic little big band Positive Catastrophe.

His varied endeavors include his Acoustic Bicycle Tours (where he travels to concerts solely by bike across thousands of miles) and his stewardship of Anthony Braxton's Tri-Centric Foundation (which he serves as executive director, producing most of Braxton's recent major projects). In addition to his own bands, his ongoing collaboration with Braxton, past work with other legendary figures such as Bill Dixon and Cecil Taylor, and current collective projects with forward thinking peers, Bynum increasingly travels the globe to conduct community-based large ensembles in explorations of new creative orchestra music. He is also a published author and contributor to The New Yorker's Culture Blog, has taught at universities, festivals, and workshops worldwide, and has served as a panelist and consultant for leading funders and organizations. His work has received support from Creative Capital, the Connecticut Office of the Arts, Chamber Music America, New Music USA, USArtists International, and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation."

-Taylor Ho Bynum website (

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"Alexander Hawkins is a composer, pianist, organist, and bandleader who is 'unlike anything else in modern creative music' (Ni Kantu) and whose recent work has reached a 'dazzling new apex' (Downbeat). A largely self-taught improviser, he works in a vast array of creative contexts. His own highly distinctive soundworld is forged through the search to reconcile both his love of free improvisation and profound fascination with composition and structure. In 2012, he was chosen as a member of the first edition of the London Symphony Orchestra's 'Soundhub' scheme for young composers. He also received a major BBC commission in late 2012 for a fifty minute composition: One Tree Found was first performed and broadcast in March 2013, and was subsequently performed and broadcast for the WDR in Cologne (2014). He has also twice been commissioned by the London Jazz Festival (once as composer, once as an arranger), and by the Cheltenham Jazz Festival (2016).

An in-demand sideman, Hawkins continues to be heard live and on record with vast array of contemporary leaders of all generations, including the likes of Evan Parker, John Surman, Joe McPhee, Mulatu Astatke, Wadada Leo Smith, Anthony Braxton, Marshall Allen, Rob Mazurek, Taylor Ho Bynum, and Harris Eisenstadt, amongst many others. He has also been noted in recent years for his performances in the bands of legendary South African drummer, Louis Moholo-Moholo. Concert appearances have taken him to club, concert and festival stages worldwide."

-Alexander Hawkins Website (

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"Born Cambridge, England, in January 1980; played bass guitar since 1994; studied with Hugh Boyd and Pascha Milner and at Basstech (London) with Rob Burns, Terry Gregory and others. Played double bass since 2001; basically self taught, with grateful thanks to Simon H. Fell. First class BA in English Literature from Oxford University (2002). Received MA Composition from Oxford Brookes University in 2003, having studied with Paul Whitty, Ray Lee and others. Received PhD from Brunel University in 2010, having studied the work of Derek Bailey, Helmut Lachenmann and JH Prynne and been supervised by Richard Barrett and John Croft."

-Dominic Lash Website (

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"One of only a handful of drummers equally well known for his work as a composer, Brooklyn-based Harris Eisenstadt (b. Toronto, 1975) is among the most individual and prolific musicians of his generation. His resume includes studies with some of the most respected names in jazz and improvised music, West African and Afro-Cuban drumming, and performance credits in jazz, film, theater, poetry, dance, contemporary concert music and opera.

Eisenstadt has performed all over the globe, received grants from organizations such as Meet The Composer, American Composers Forum, Canada Council for the Arts, and appeared on more than 60 recordings since 2000, including twenty as a leader. Recordings of his compositions often appear on the Songlines, Clean Feed, No Business, and 482 Music labels, and are consistently included on critics' best-of lists. Recent honors: Rising Star Percussion Percussion, Arranger, and Composer categories of the Downbeat international critics poll; Best Album, Drummer, Composer categories of the El Intruso international critics poll.

His first work for orchestra, Palimpsest, was premiered by the American Composers Orchestra, as part of the Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute at Miller Theater, Columbia University (2011). Eisenstadt's second orchestral work, Four Songs, commissioned by the Brooklyn Conservatory Community Orchestra, was premiered at the Brooklyn Museum (2013). His first string quartet, Whatever Will Happen, That Will Also Be, was premiered as part of Eisenstadt's twelve-set residency at The Stone in NYC (2015). As a writer and radio producer, he has contributed to National Public Radio and AfroPop Worldwide. Eisenstadt is also an active AfroCuban batá drummer in New York and a longtime researcher in African and diaspora vernacular traditions. He has travelled to West Africa twice (Gambia, Senegal) to research Mandinka and Wolof music, and to Cuba twice (Matanzas, Havana) to research Afro-Cuban music."

-Harris Eisenstadt Website (

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Track Listing:


1. Dogbe Na Wo Lo

2. Jacket

3. Coyote


1. Owl

2. Azalpho

3. Mamady Wo Murado Sa

Related Categories of Interest:

Vinyl Recordings
Improvised Music
NY Downtown & Metropolitan Jazz/Improv
London & UK Improv & Related Scenes
Quartet Recordings
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