The Squid's Ear Magazine

Leap Of Faith Chinese Orchestra: Jade Mirror of the Four Unknowns (Evil Clown)

A unique and fascinating edition of the Leap of Faith Orchestra, bringing special guests Jimmy Zhao, Yazhi Gao, Jiaxin Winky Wan, Ziya Gao, and Jiangcheng Guan performing on Chinese instruments to join with the core duo of David Peck on clarinets, saxophones, clarinets & flutes, Glynis Lomon on cello, aquasonic & voice, along with percussionist/drummer Michael Knoblach.

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product information:

Label: Evil Clown
Catalog ID: 9332
Squidco Product Code: 33839

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2023
Country: USA
Packaging: Digipack
Recorded at Evil Clown Headquarters, in Waltham, Massachusetts, on April 1st, 2023.


David Peck (PEK)-clarinet, contralto clarinet, contrabass clarinet, sopranino saxophone, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, bass flute, tarota, hulusi, melodica, novation peak, moog subsequent, prophet, nord stage 3, [d]ronin, soma pipe, theremin with moogerfooger, 17 string bass, guqin, chime and spring boxes, gongs, plate gong, Englephone, log drums, brotosaurus and tank bells, Tibetan bowls, bells and chimes , orchestral chimes, danmo, balafon, xylophone, almglocken, orchestral anvils

Glynis Lomon-cello, aquasonic, voice

Jimmy Zhao-ban hu, jing hu, erhu, bawu

Yazhi Guo-suona, xun, dizi, soprano saxophone, hulusi, shen, didgeridoo

Jiaxin Winky Wan-guzheng, spring and chime rod boxes, Englephone, danmo, chimes, woodblocks

Ziyi Gao-pipa

Jiangcheng Guan-Chinese percussion

Michael Knoblach-frame drum, busy box drum, enamel bowls, devil chasers axatse, abacuses, African rattles, Fischer Price toys, sheep shears, wooden billiards triangle, tit fer, bells, sand blocks, antique child rattles, horses ass a phone, basket of rocks, spooky world, noise makers, spinning toy, acme siren whistle, mortar and pestle, lobster pot, gong, slinky, wood robot, jar of nails

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Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"Leap of Faith is the core duet of the Leap of Faith Orchestra (LOFO) comprised of PEK on clarinets, saxophones, clarinets & flutes, and Glynis Lomon on cello, aquasonic & voice. The ensemble is based in Boston and dates back to the early 90s. We utilize a huge arsenal of additional Evil Clown instruments to improvise long works featuring transformations across highly varied sonorities. At times, the core unit has been a trio or even a quartet. The longest running core unit was comprised of PEK, Glynis and drummer Yuri Zbitnov, who played for the last couple of years of the archival period and the first 5 years of the reboot starting in 2015. The ensemble has always been highly modular, and our many recordings (well over 100) feature the core unit in dozens of configurations with a huge list of guests and occasionally as only the core unit with no guests. Currently, the core unit is the duet of PEK and Lomon and we are regularly presenting LIVESTREAMs to YouTube from Evil Clown Headquarters with other guest performers.

Due to the pandemic, and the associated lack of appropriate venue for larger ensembles, the Leap of Faith Orchestra has not performed in a while. Generally, I add Orchestra to the name of any of the ensembles when the group is 7 or more performers, so this session with 8 players counts. Our very special guests for this set are Jimmy Zhao, Yazhi Gao, Jiaxin Winky Wan, Ziya Gao, and Jiangcheng Guan on Chinese instruments. Jimmy has been on two Evil Clown recordings for the Expanse Meets the JMDE Quartet albums (Scope and Span). For those performances, he brought a broad range of Chinese Instruments and a few Western ones... We had a great time and Jimmy asked if we could expand the Chinese section for future performances! The ensemble is rounded out with Glynis Lomon and Evil Clown regular Michael Knoblach on percussion. For this edition of the LOFO I have titled the ensemble the Leap of Faith Chinese Orchestra... Not because it is like a traditional Chinese Orchestra, but because it is Leap of Faith Orchestra with a strong Chinese element.

Last fall, right before the studio conversion construction began which shut down production for about 4 months, we did the first session of Leap of Faith Chinese Orchestra with Jimmy, Yazhi and Yazhi's wife Tao and a 4 person string section. I originally set out to have a large string section for this set, but I could not get all the schedules to line up, so this session has more Chinese musicians and fewer string players. Until a day before the set I thought we were going to have bassist Tony Leva, who was a regular for a couple of years 5 or 6 years ago.

Large improvisation ensembles create a tricky aesthetic problem. Without preplanning, many times big impov bands generate a wall-of-sound, which as it continues, does not display much development. My broad palette approach, along with a general direction to the players to spend about a third of the total duration laying out, is designed to address this difficulty. With the musicians changing instruments and the ensemble size shrinking and swelling throughout the work, the sonority undergoes dramatic transformation, the sequence of which is the form of the piece emergent from the decisions of the improvisors.

I had really been looking forward to this set and I was not disappointed... Everyone had their big ears on and really listened to each other. The combination of Evil Clown regulars with newbies and relative newbies from very different cultural origins r eally produced a striking and unique contribution to the Leap of Faith Orchestra's catalog. Look for more from the Leap of Faith Chinese Orchestra later this year."-David Peck, from the liner notes

Artist Biographies

"PEK (aka David Peck) is a multi-instrument improviser who plays all kinds of instruments including saxophones, clarinets, double reeds, percussion, electronics and auxiliary sound making devices of all kinds.

PEK was born in 1964 and started playing clarinet and piano in elementary school. In 7th grade he started saxophones, first on alto, then switching to tenor in high school. He spent 10 years playing in rock bands and studying classical and jazz saxophone with Kurt Heisig in the San Jose CA area before moving to Boston in 1989 to attend Berklee where he studied performance with George Garzone. While Berklee was an excellent place to study harmony, voice training and other important aspects of a conventional formal music training course of study, it was not a very good environment for learning contemporary (or pure) improvisation (apart from his work with George). PEK did find, however, that Boston had a thriving improvisation scene, and it was here that he developed his mature pure improvisation language.

During the 90s, PEK performed with many notable improvisers including Masashi Harada, Glynis Lomon, William Parker, Laurence Cooke, Eric Zinman, Glenn Spearman, Raqib Hassan, Charlie Kohlhase, Steve Norton, Keith Hedger, Mark McGrain, Sydney Smart, Matt Samolis, Martha Ritchey, Larry Roland, Dennis Warren, Yuri Zbitnov, Craig Schildhauer, Keith Fullerton Whitman, Leslie Ross, Rob Bethel, Wayne Rogers, Eric Rosenthal, Taylor Ho Bynum, Tatsuya Nakatani, James Coleman, B'hob Rainey and George Garzone.

PEK met cellist Glynis Lomon when they played together in the Masashi Harada Sextet which existed between 1990 and 1992. They developed a deep musical connection which they continued following the MHS; first with the Leaping Water Trio for a few years and then with the first version of Leap of Faith in 1994. Leap of Faith was very active in Boston from that time until 2001 and went through a series of several core ensembles which always included both PEK and Glynis. Other key Leap of Faith core members during this period were Mark McGrain (trombone), Craig Schildhauer (double bass), Sydney Smart (drums), Yuri Zbitnov (drums) and James Coleman (theremin). Leap of Faith was always a very modular unit with constantly shifting personnel and many different guests. The early Leap of Faith period concluded in 2001 with a dual bill at an excellent room at MIT called Killian Hall with George Garzone's seminal trio the Fringe.

At this time, PEK changed careers for his day gig, returning to college for a computer science degree and beginning to work in the structural engineering industry at Simpson Gumpertz & Heger. He became far too busy to continue the heavy music schedule, and preferring not to do music casually, he entered a long musically dormant period.

Flash forward to early 2014. PEK was a regular mail order customer of Downtown Music Gallery, the premiere specialty shop in Manhattan for free jazz, contemporary classical and other new music. While in New York on SGH business, he went down to DMG and had a lengthy conversation with proprietor Bruce Lee Gallanter about the early Leap of Faith period. He then sent Bruce a package of about 15 CD titles from the 90s and was pleasantly surprised when Bruce managed to sell nearly all of it. This public interest in the old catalog spurred PEK into getting back into performance. He reformed Leap of Faith with Glynis Lomon (cello, voice, aquasonic), Yuri Zbitnov (drums) and newcomer Steve Norton (clarinets and saxophones) and started to record and perform in early 2015.

Now having access to financial resources always absent in the early period, PEK began to accumulate a huge collection of instruments both for himself and also to expand the palate of Leap of Faith and the other projects soon to follow. He acquired new recording equipment and many new saxophones, clarinets, double reeds, metal and wooden percussion instruments, electronic instruments, signal processing equipment and other sound-making devices from many cultures. He revived his old record label, Evil Clown, and created reissues and new releases for much of the early period work by Leap of Faith and many of his other projects to sell at shows, DMG and the internet (around 100 archival titles).

The Arsenal of equipment has a grand purpose: To establish a large scale aesthetic problem to use the instruments to make long form broad palate improvisations with dramatic transformation and development. The very broad palate enables the long improvisations to evolve with very different movements and pronounced development over their length. PEK started the Leap of Faith Orchestra, a greatly expanded Leap of Faith, to achieve this purpose along with a number of smaller ensembles which are sub-units of the full orchestra including String Theory (focusing on orchestral strings), Metal Chaos Ensemble (focusing on metallic percussion), Turbulence (horn players), Mekaniks (electronics) and Chicxulub (space rock). In all, the Evil Clown roster includes over 40 musicians who contribute to one or more of the various projects, with PEK participating in all of them. Leap of Faith has also had some special guests like Steve Swell (trombone), Thomas Heberer (trumpet), Jeremiah Cymerman (clarinet) and Jim Hobbs (alto sax). The Leap of Faith Orchestra happens whenever several of these groups play together at the same time, or the ensemble exceeds 7 or 8 players. The Full Orchestra is a special case discussed below.

The current roster is comprised in part of: - Core Leap of Faith: PEK, Glynis Lomon, Yuri Zbitnov (Steve Norton has since left to go to Graduate School) - Percussion: Andria Nicodemou (vibes), Kevin Dacey (perc), Joe Hartigan (perc), Syd Smart (drums) - Strings: Jane Wang (cello), Clara Kebabian (violin), Tony Leva (bass), Mimi Rabson (violin), Kirsten Lamb (bass), Brendan Higgins (bass), Silvain Castellano (bass), Rob Bethel (cello), Kit Demos (bass), Matt Scutchfield (violin), Helen Sherrah-Davies (violin) - Piano: Eric Zinman, Peter Cassino, Emilio Gonzales - Horns: Dave Harris (tuba, trombone), Charlie Kohlhase (saxes), Bob Moores (trumpet), Sara Honeywell (trombone), Forbes Graham (trumpet), John Baylies (tuba), Dan O'Brien (woodwinds), Zack Bartolomei (woodwinds), Kat Dobbins (trombone), Steve Provizer (trumpet, baritone horn), Matt Samolis (flute) - Electronics: Greg Grinnell, Jason Adams (electric bass, electronics) - Guitar: Dru Wesely, Grant Beale, Chris Florio - Voice: Dei Xhrist

Evil Clown is documenting the ongoing solutions to this aesthetic challenge by creating limited CD editions and digital download albums of every performance and studio session by this array of ensembles. Interested audience can track the development of the grand scale project over the many releases - over 80 albums recorded and released so far between Jan of 2015 and March of 2017. All of the bands are highly modular, changing personnel and instrumentation with each meeting. The result is an enormous amount of music that shares the same fundamental improvisational language but differs from event to event greatly both in sonority (overall sound) and specific detail.

For the full Leap of Faith Orchestra, PEK composes a graphic notation score to guide the improvisation. The full Orchestra is comprised of roughly 20 players from the roster and performs twice a year. Two performances have occurred to date - The Expanding Universe in June of 2016 and Supernovae in November of 2016. Composition for Possible Universes is completed and the work will be performed on May 28, 2017 with another performance (score not yet begun) scheduled for November.

The scores use a device called Frame Notation where written English descriptions of the overall sonority desired and simple graphic symbols are given durations for each player on their part along with direction on when to play and when not to play. The directions are put in little boxes called frames which are arranged on a timeline and are simple enough to be immediately understood by the performers. Horizontal lines, called Duration Bars, extend across the page indicating when each Event (the Frame + the Duration Bar) begins and ends. An Event can be intended for the full ensemble, a defined group within the ensemble (for example, Metal Chaos Ensemble), a custom group (for example, Tubas), or an individual (for example, Andria Feature).

Parts are the full score annotated with Hiliters so that each player's instructions stand out. They can clearly see their individual instructions, but can also see the big picture, enabling far more knowledge about the pending actions of the rest of the ensemble than typical in pure improvisation. The players track the elapsed time on a very large sports clock. There is no melodic, harmonic or rhythmic information specified. This system allows PEK to compose detailed Ensemble Events without having to notate pitches or rhythms which would require significant rehearsal to accurately achieve."

-All About Jazz (

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"Improvising cellist, vocalist and aquasonic player Glynis Lomon graduated from Bennington College in 1975 with a degree in Music/Black Music. At Bennington she studied with musician/composer Bill Dixon and continued to perform and record with his ensembles until his recent death. Glynis has also been privileged to play with Arthur Brooks, Jimmy Lyons, Cecil Taylor, Butch Morris, William Parker, Joe Morris, Greta Buck, Masashi Harada, Lowell Davidson, Raqib Hassan and many others. For almost a decade she and multi reed player PEK performed in the Boston area with their group Leap of Faith."

-Evil Clown Website (

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Jimmy Zhao is a Boston area musician and improviser, performing on erhu, bandhu, other Chinese instruments and viola.

-Squidco 9/20/2023

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Yazhi Guo: "Co-founder and founding President of the American Academy of World Music, performer, educator,and musical instrument reformer, active on the international stage. He is good at playing suona and a variety of Chinese and Western wind instruments. He is recognized by the industry as one of the best suona performers in the world, and he is committed to integrating Chinese music with world music. Graduated from the Traditional Music Department of the Central Conservatory of Music in1990, and stayed on to teach at the school; in 2000, he became the principal of suona of the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra (HKCO); in 2012 he went to the United States to study, and also gave lectures and held lectures at Harvard University, Philadelphia University of the Arts and Berklee College of Music concert. He won the Pro Musicis International Award in New York in 1998 and the Hong Kong Artist of the Year Award in 2013. In 2015, he obtained the Artist Diploma of Berklee College of Music, and He has led the Berklee College of Music Band to visit China and Singapore many times.. He has recorded more than adozen of solo albums, many of which were released globally. The Suona active core developed by him won the second prize of Science and Technology Progress Award of the Ministry of Culture in 1993; he also developed Polyphonic Hulusi and and Guzheng transposition double-slot bridge, which has attracted much attention in the industry. In 2021, Co-founded the American Academy of World Music and the "Two Tune" World Music Ensemble in Henderson House.

Art achievement:

Guo's invention of the suona "Living Core" was awarded the "Second Prize for Progress in Science and Technology" by the Ministry of Culture, which made a major breakthrough in the performance of traditional suona in converting all modes and temporarily changing sounds. Zhao Songting, the master of the flute, praised it as: "Small invention, great achievement". Now "live core" has been used by many people in ensemble and solo. Guo used the suona live core to cooperate with many composers to develop new suona works, giving suona a new position.


In 1998, Guo won the Pro Musicis International Award at Carnegie Hall in New York, the United States. The American "Qiao Bao" described it as "an important step for Chinese national wind music to go global". In July of the same year, he was selected as one of the most outstanding musicians in China, and he performed at the concert to welcome US President Clinton's first visit to China, which was highly praised. In 2013, Kwok won the "Hong Kong 2012 Best Artist Award (Music)" and the "Chinese Culture Communication Contribution Award" issued by the Confucius Institute in the United States. In 2016, he was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation by the Governor of Massachusetts and the Mayor of Boston in recognition of his strong support for local culture and arts.

Artistic resume:

Yazhi Guo studied jazz at the Berklee College of Music in the United States and obtained the Artistic Diploma in 2015. In 2013, he was invited to participate in the Cleveland Arts Festival in the United States and the Chicago Summer Music Festival in 2014. He has participated in the Chinese New Year Gala held by the Confucius Institute in various parts of the United States for several consecutive years, and received the Chinese Culture Communication Contribution Award from the institute.

In June and September 2016, two concerts of fusion jazz "One night in Beijing" and modern classical music "Desert River" were successfully held in Berkeley Recital Hall (Caf Hall) and the world-famous Jordan Hall (Jordan Hall) successively. Different styles of concerts.

In the 1990s, Guo was a popular suona musician in the Beijing recording studio, recording suona music for hundreds of films and TV shows, as well as for the Spring Festival Gala over the years. Kwok is also a popular Chinese musician in the Hong Kong pop music industry. He has been invited many times to be a special guest in large-scale concerts by Hong Kong singers such as "Da Ming faction" Huang Yaoming, Li Hackin and Liu Meijun. CCTV "National Music Fragrance" and Hong Kong TVB "Tuesday Archives" produced special introductions for him, CCTV International Channel's 2007 special topic: "Hong Kong Character Yazhi Guo - Suona is also fashionable"; In 2007, he was invited to be the first national instrumental music of CCTV The judges of the TV competition performed "One Night in Beijing" at the awards TV show, which was refreshing.

Over the years, as a soloist, Guo has often cooperated with orchestras and folk ensembles of many countries and regions around the world; he has premiered many modern-style suona concertos such as "Calling the Phoenix", "Trace No. 4" and "The Great Desert". He has published more than ten solo albums such as Rivers of Water, Yazhi Guo's Wind instrument World, and Listening to Birds. CCTV has a special report: Guo Yazhi, a character in Hong Kong, "suona is also fashionable". In 2016, RTHK traveled through China and the United States and produced an exclusive interview documentary "Master" for him. The Geneva Forum commented: "He is the focal point of the stage, impressive" and was called "China's Louis Armstrong" by Boston Radio."

-Yazhi Guo Website (

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"Jiangcheng's hometown has a name "The Rock City" and that's where he learned first rock and pop song. He grew up with music and he started to learn drums when he was 7. After years of studying, he got some prize: Hebei art and music award -Gold Award, China contemporary percussion award-- Gold Award of Drum Set. Now, he finished his undergraduate program and start to find out the best mix of vocal and instrumental in the production. He wants to tell some stories with new genres for young people and share the love with them.Jiangcheng 's music is a reflection of indie electric dance music. After over a year of observation with different independent artist like Tennyson, Moods, and Benji, he starts to record his first Ep this year. He wants to find his way to illustrate stories with rhythm and love."

-Jiangcheng Guan LinkedIn (

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"Michael Knoblach Percussion---Knoblach has played with Ad Frank, Twitcher, Reg Bloor (from Glenn Branca Ensemble), Cul de Sac, John Fahey, Jon LaMaster's Saturnalia, Neovoxer Ensemble, The Boston Village Gamelan, Kiniwe African Percussion Ensemble, Donald "the junkman" Knaack (ex-John Cage), The Calypso Invaders, The Valhalla Kittens, Emily Grogan, Ted Drozdowski's The Scissormen, The Trojan Ponies, Ken Lovelett, John Amaral, Tim Mungenast, Bill T. Miller and others. He played the New Year's Countdown in Copley Square for Boston, MA for a number of years. He has done soundtrack work for the Troma Films release "Terror Firmer." Michael has had extensive studies in Arabic hand drumming and classical Egyptian tambourine, as well as having studied tabla and North Indian classical music with Ali Akbar Khan and Swapan Chaudhuri. He studied drum set with Gene Piccolo (ex-Jack McDuff, ex-Woody Herman, ex-Glenn Miller Band and Piccolo was a long time student of Ed Thigpen (Oscar Peterson Trio, more...) and Shelly Manne (Stan Kenton, more...)). He is currently playing percussion with Dahlman & Nugent in the band Auddity and is playing washboard and old timey percussion with banjo/fiddle player Nicholas Bogosian, as well as other projects."

-Touhey Gallery (

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Track Listing:

1. Jade Mirror of the Four Unknowns 1:10:05

Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
Boston Area Improvisers
Electro-Acoustic Improv
Large Ensembles
Cultural Musics from Around the World
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New in Improvised Music
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