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William Hooker Ensemble
The Firmament Fury

Cat. No.: SHCD123

Personnel:
William Hooker  drums
Claude Lawrence  alto saxophone
Charles Compo  tenor & soprano saxophone
Masahiko Kono  trombone
Donald Miller  electric guitar

Track Listing:
1. For the Spirit of Earth / Cosmic (William Hooker) 10:13
2. Prayala (William Hooker) 13:58
3. Lustre (William Hooker) 13:16
4. The Coming One / Evolve, Part One (William Hooker) 8:19
5. Radiance (William Hooker) 11:05
6. Evolve, Part Two (William Hooker) 2:42

Total time: 59:49
 
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"Hooker's music is good, unabash ed free-jazz improvising. He and Lawrence make an effective duet: Hooker's rolling bed of drumming avoids direct comment on Lawrence's strong, Lyons-inflected alto. Of the trio and quartet tracks on the album, Pralaya and Radiance are probably the strongest. The horn players get their solo moments and do well with them, but the music is framed to emphasize the group, and that's where a listener's ears are drawn. There's good group improvising to be heard here."
Dale Smoak, Cadence, February 1993
 
 
Liner Notes

1. Crises
"At first I was afraid; this familiar music had demanded action, the kind of which I was incapable, and yet had I lingered there beneath the surface I might have attempted to act. Nevertheless, I know now that few really listen to this music."
Ralph Ellison
The Invisible Man

It's my firm belief that the task of the musician in playing improvised music is to anchor a higher level of existence on the material plane. This doesn't mean to say that this happens, or that this view is shared by other composers, players and colleagues. There are, of course, more superficial views which address themselves to money, fame, prestige, women/men, and power. These views should not be dismissed, for these people also play music, write compositions, do interviews, make records, and (indeed) cause the direction of improvised music to go a certain way. But my alternative view still stands. I feel that when one is making music, it is the task of the musician to create what flows on a higher level of life-thought and idea. I believe this abstraction is acknowledged by most musicians who see each other, and ultimately respect each other, just because we are musicians. This is probably an unwritten code of thought in the creative field. It is one which seems to be realized wherever I go, amongst friends and enemies alike. We are neither promoters nor entrepreneurs first, we are artists with that unique talent to improvise and create music on the spot. This unites us. The other territorial boundaries separate us. But the first goal is in the bringing down from some higher place, an energy, a music, which exists on a realm outside of the ordinary everyday drudgery of life, and it is the realization of this that produces the crises. In coming down the music is used, abused, transferred and transformed, not always toward higher levels. And this music is (mostly) not heard by the human beings meant to receive its message.

2. Resolution
The fact of 'identification' with the music one makes is also a situation that can produce a desperate individual, with a life and creative juices that are even more desperate. I speak of the need to affirm self-identity for the artist. What is real (surely) is not only in the music's imaginative vista, but one begins to question the aspects of life and death which every individual questions, after a while.
This is the scenario: the musician is creating and no one is listening, no one is affirming higher art, no one is crediting the individual with products of higher life (or beauty) – yielding bad vibes all around.
At this point the artist asks, "Now am I just going to let these people destroy me and my own self-worth? Am I going to let them use me as their pawn in the scheme of technological know-how and materialism to place credence in their perverted vision of what art is, what my improvised music is, and what the direction of my improvised music is?"
This is an affront to my ability to say what my work is and my ability to be truthful in explaining it; thus making it impossible for me to teach it to others. At this point we stop asking what is correct for them, for I have (mistakenly) placed all of my self-worth in being an artist. For these people to tell me that my work is valid (or invalid) is to have the outside world confront my existence, my playing, and my outlook on life on this earth. I am and should be, the judge of this situation; yet it is important for me to have the final word on how I do my work, my improvisation, my life. Perhaps if the world weren't so specialized I would not have to deal with this. Perhaps, if money weren't the only yardstick for measuring the worth of things I wouldn't have to acknowledge this ignorance.
Nonetheless, we decide that we (the artists) make the music. We have played varied styles in many cities/countries, and when we play with others we know that it is ourselves calling for the instantaneous response to our musical framework. Therefore, within (the 'order' comes from ourselves and whatever the societal context) we know whether our music is true or not. We know how we felt on the day and night of the gig. We know what club owner messed with us, and who we had to be hassled by about the tapes, the pay, the working conditions, etc. Finally, in response to the higher order of things, we know we will die when it's time for us to die, and this no one else can do. It is the musician himself who can legitimize himself; but this is a given, for when he plays he says – I AM. This is the ultimate legitimation. Our notes are our being. I am my music. I initiated the action, and the people involved.
Who can question me? I say to the arrogant mind-set I am confronting, "Do you think you have the right?"

3. Plateau
"All growth is committed to a foundation; time is growth – We are extensions of what always was – and so the TREE grows."
It grows in its own fashion and in its own environment, and those that care will elaborate on it. This keeps the 'heart' of the matter in the correct place. The music is not merely a process of mix and match, of technological wizardry. There is a spiritual bond (if you will). The acknowledgement that another, be it the musician, the mentor or the teacher; is concerned, and would contribute. This encourages the individual to go to the next step of trying to get money from the business interests who must be persuaded to fund and support our work, so they can perhaps assuage their need to be respected as 'civil citizens' who have culture in mind. This may (or may not) be correct. But when we see the motivation of the true artist, we know that our journey is beyond the color of the participants; the race of the average audience; the environment of the presentation. We only know that we are to play and deliver in a strong and spontaneous fashion. Again, this challenge should be differentiated from the supporters. What is this? Talk, conferences, seminars, vocal meanderings... Sure we need the money, but this does not make our committment. We try to measure up to what our observers cite. This can be positive. Yet there is a paradox. My value triples in Asia. The dollar is on a different scale in Europe. And the white Anglo-Saxon ethic can make me be reproduced on a level that is so cold that everyone will be listening on this scale. This is part of my struggle. My music is Afro-American classical music and I reproduce it myself. No one should tell me how 'hot' I should be, or who I should play with; and I must push to eliminate these problems.
I have realized that the offering I'm making is to a higher place. This doesn't make me an idealist, or impractical, because the vision is always tempered by the world's lack of creativity and fire, and interest in improvisation. This is to be expected, it is the way of the world. But when we take on the rules and values and speculative schemes of others to make our own creative efforts legitimate, we, as artists, are doomed. The music ceases to flow, and hence there is nothing in this environment in any way creative, or giving, to the spontaneous impulse or the music. I try to keep this thought in mind, but not for too long because thought, in itself is also a trap, where the naturalness stops and yields to the master plan of the mind, not the sentences of the music.

4. Crisis – "Once said"
Another crisis is arrived at, for the cycle repeats itself. After creating and going through the stages we have already mentioned, you will find yourself in another cloud. The SUN stops shining, and the western sense of culture stops the mood of the soul's impulse. A cold, closed environ. I will remember the past; I will live to try to stay fresh. My committment to improvised music is in my practice of the art. My necessity to protect its legitimation can only go so far, for the mind only goes so far. It's up to others to realize the process and to listen, openly. I only hope you, the reader, will realize that truth after the natural course of listening is submitted to.

William Hooker
 
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