Giving the drummer some" is an established tradition in jazz, but allowing the drummer to take center stage as a bandleader in his own right? Well, that's quite a rarity.

Giving the drummer some” is an established tradition in jazz, but allowing the drummer to take center stage as a bandleader in his own right? Well, that’s quite a rarity.

But William Hooker, an inveterate fixture on New York’s downtown scene, long ago proved that his name belongs on the short list of skinsmen with the authority to command a group — large or small — from a perch behind the kit.

Hooker, who has played alongside artists as varied as David Murray and Elliott Sharp, has been experimenting liberally with new settings in recent months: Sunday evening was no exception, as the drummer seized the opportunity to stretch out in two set-long duets.

For the first set, Hooker teamed with guitarist Rudolph Grey, a pioneering figure on Gotham’s avant-rock scene (and a strong influence on players such as Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore). The pair quickly established a potent rapport, as Hooker punctuated Grey’s wailing sine wave emissions with crisp, economical patterns reminiscent of Rashied Ali, who provided the foundation for John Coltrane’s more experimental works.

Even when his playing reached its most thunderous crescendos, Hooker appeared coolly impassive, his minimal movements suggesting a Buddha-like serenity at the core of the sonic storm raging around him. Using the most minimal of kits, the unassuming, shaven-headed drummer called up Art Blakey-esque thunder and Chico Hamilton-styled polish with equal ease.

The momentum waned when Hooker left the stage to allow for a brief duet between Grey and cutting-edge turntablist DJ Olive, and it really never picked up for the evening’s second set. Olive’s intricate, atmospheric sound design, which owes more to John Cage than it does to Puff Daddy, was a bit too ethereal to providethe footing needed for Hooker to launch his percussive salvos.

Still, the notion of integrating electronic elements into free jazz is an intriguing one, and one that bears watching, should Hooker venture further into the realm.

William Hooker

(Knitting Factory, New York; $ 10 top)

Production

Presented inhouse. reviewed March 22, 1998.

With

Band: William Hooker, Rudolph Grey, DJ Olive,
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