The Convergence Quartet
Slow and Steady
Recorded live at the Vortex Jazz Club, Sunday November 13th 2011 as part of the London Jazz Festival by Alex Bonney. Taylor Ho Bynum (Thobulous Music), Harris Eisenstadt (Socan/Heresy Music), Alexander Hawkins (Big Life/In All Seriousness Music Ltd.) and Dominic Lash (PRS). Harris Eisenstadt plays Istanbul Agop cymbals. Photos by by Peter Gannushkin / DOWNTOWNMUSIC.NET, except photo of Alexander Hawkins by Edu Hawkins. Mixed by Alex Bonney and Alexander Hawkins. Mastered by Arūnas Zujus at MAMAstudios. Design by Oskaras Anosovas. Produced by Convergence Quartet and Danas Mikailionis. Co-producer – Valerij Anosov
Developed at Space with support from The Dartington Hall Trust. With thanks to Jazz Services UK and Arts Council England.
Tracklist: 1. assemble / melancholy (Alexander Hawkins) 2. Third Convergence (Harris Eisenstadt) 3. Remember Raoul (Taylor Ho Bynum) / Piano Part Two (Dominic Lash) 4. equals / understand (totem) (Alexander Hawkins) Download 5. Oat Roe + Three by Three (Dominic Lash) 6. The Taff End (Dominic Lash) Download 7. Slow and Steady (Harris Eisenstadt)
Is the convergence of the Convergence Quartet
its starting point or its goal? Did we begin by converging -and if so from where? Or is converging what we have been doing during our infrequent – but regular – musical encounters the last six years?
Geographically we certainly started out disparate: two of us had to fly across the Atlantic for our first tour, which began with a rehearsal at Radley College outside Oxford, in the south of England. I’m no fan of the English public school system but for a group I’m in to have begun its life playing at the school attended by England’s greatest comedian of the 20th century- Peter Cook- and its best cricket captain in recent years – Andrew Strauss – does, I admit, give me pleasure. Or am I just underlining our divergence with such remarks, emphasising just those aspects of English language and culture (“public school”, “cricket”) that make Americans and Canadians look over the water at us and shrug helplessly?
But perhaps I’m getting distracted by trivialities. Of course geographical convergence is not what we’re talking about – we mean musical convergence, surely. And yes, when we began this project Alex and I certainly hoped that convergence would be the result – although Taylor and Harris are only a few years older than us, they had such a wealth of musical experience under their belts playing with their own groups and with many of our greatest musical heroes (Anthony Braxton, Sam Rivers, Wadada Leo Smith, Cecil Taylor) that before the Convergence Quartet started we could only look back across the pond and daydream wistfully.
If we have been converging musically during the playing we have done, though, where are we going? You can’t converge without heading towards a point, and once you reach that point then all difference is erased, convergence has been achieved, divergence is the only possibility remaining. But what good is that musically? We don’t want to eradicate difference; as improvisers and composers we want to celebrate difference, to make creative use of difference. Friction is productive.
In mathematics, a convergent series is one in which the difference between the successive terms tends to zero. If we start with a half, then add half of a half, then half of a half of a half-and so on for ever-we get 1/2 + 1/4+1/8 + 1/16 +…where the nth term is something so minute that it’s basically not there. Hence the sum of the sequence tends towards 1 as n tends to infinity: it converges on 1. Yet it can’t get there, the sum is always slightly less than 1 (for any finite n).
Merely splitting finer and finer hairs doesn’t seem like a very enticing vision for the future of our quartet. I was, therefore, delighted to discover that not all sequences where the difference between the terms tends to zero necessarily converge. In fact, there is something called – intriguingly for a musican – a “harmonic sequence”, which looks a bit like this:
1 + 1/2 + 1/3 + 1/4 + 1/5 …
Clearly the difference between the terms tends to zero (the difference between one divided by three billion and one divided by three-billion-and-one is very small indeed), and yet the series does not itself converge, it just keeps getting bigger and bigger! Take any finite quantity you like, however big, and eventually – slowly and steadily-the sum of the series will exceed it.
So perhaps the Convergence Quartet is in a sense misnamed – perhaps what the group is really about is coming together ever more closely to produce something that is always expanding. If that were true – and I, for one, think it might be – it would make me very happy indeed. The test of this will of course will be what happens in the future. For now, our third album is evidence of where we’ve got to in the series so far, and we very much hope that you enjoy it. — Dominic Lash
Quattro forti personalità
Harris Eisenstadt e Taylor Ho Bynum di chiara fama, Dominic Lash e Alexander Hawkins in grande ascesa – quattro musicisti titolari di importanti progetti a proprio nome, quattro improvvisatori e compositori eccellenti, si riuniscono con il nome di The Convergence Quartet e licenziano, per la sempre benemerita etichetta lituana No Business, un disco che lascia il segno.
Convergenza come punto di partenza o come obiettivo finale si chiede il bassista Dominic Lash nelle interessanti note di copertina? Differenze di origini geografiche, di linguaggio, di cultura che si assottigliano lentamente nel corso del tempo annullandosi definitivamente nel momento dell’incontro/registrazione, o convergenza come impulso iniziale indispensabile per la valorizzazione delle differenze e quindi del processo creativo?
Senza addentraci nei riferimenti matematici che il bassista dispensa a mo’ di spiegazione, quello che appare evidente all’ascolto di Slow and Steady è la grande dimestichezza dei quattro con lo sfaccettato panorama compositivo del disco – ogni membro contribuisce almeno un brano -, è l’interplay feroce nella capacità di cogliere e sviluppare impulsi molteplici e non sempre percepibili di primo acchito, è la sopraffina arte nel modellare materiale sonoro con senso dell’avventura alla ricerca di nuovi sviluppi e nuove direzioni.
Ogni brano è una sorta di scatola cinese che sorprende continuamente per la varietà di situazioni, per gli accostamenti arditi nei quali malinconiche sequenze sfociano in materiche improvvisazioni, intricate figurazioni ritmiche si sciolgono in ipotesi di ballad sfuggenti, macchie sonore morbide e avvolgenti si sublimano in geometriche astrazioni. Sempre, comunque con una tensione/convergenza, a volte palpabile altre sotterranea, verso una sottile ma definita percezione melodica. — Vincenco Roggero
Free music is no simple matter.
It can work marvelously when the chemistry between players is right. Or it can earnestly go along but never quite reach a collective point of convergence. Happily, the group named after such occurrences, the Convergence Quartet, achieves such a state consistently and rewardingly on their album Slow and Steady (No Business NBCD 53).
The band has excellent chemistry. Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet), Alexander Hawkins (piano), Dominic Lash (double bass) and Harris Eisenstadt (drums) each has a hand in the compositions presented (live at the Vortex in England as part of the London Jazz Festival). They are substantial. And each contributes excellent improvisations within a first-tier group dynamic.
I have not explored the music of Alexander Hawkins much at all but he shows himself stylistically well-suited to this outfit, with both a free/new music and a harmonic sensibility as needed. Like the others in this band he is not readily pigeonholed as a follower of x, y, or z, but rather has his own voice.
It’s a beautifully hewn set! No one dominates; everyone dominates. There is tender introspection and hard-edged dynamics side-by-side here. It will make you think. It will let you feel. It will inspire you to a far away musical mindset that energizes and causes reflection. Very much an album to hear. — Grego Applegate Edwards
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