top of page

Through the Darkness Lightly: William Hooker Trio in Greenfield

Drummer William Hooker certainly has more energy than your average 75-year old. Hooker made the trip from New York City to Greenfield, Massachusetts and back again in a single day. In between, he and his Trio pinned back the ears of 55 listeners with a recital of high intensity music that lasted for over an hour.


The December 10th concert at Hawks & Reed, which served as an unveiling of Hooker’s new release, Big Moon, was the 9th Pioneer Valley Jazz Shares production since September. There are 8 more concerts are on tap through June. The wall of sound produced by Hans Tammens on guitar, Adam Lane on bass and Hooker, might have unnerved some, but this listener was able to get inside the eye of the maelstrom to revel in the undulating cacophony.


The evening began with the musicians making their way on stage as Hooker produced a spiritualized hum. Soon enough, the trio was firing on all cylinders, fortissimo and then some. After about 15 minutes with no let up, Hooker and Lane left the stage. Tammens unleashed a 10-minute solo that started with some warped, Fahey-inspired folk sounds, but soon picked up energy. Lane followed with his unaccompanied tour de force that included some advanced bow techniques. Hooker took the last solo turn, starting his portion playing sticks on stairs and intoning a poem before ascending to his drum throne. The band returned en masse for the final section, picking up the ferocity where they left off. It was an exhausting and exhilarating evening of music.


Fred, the sound and lighting technician at Hawks & Reed was also feeling the music and took creative license with the visuals. Hooker’s solo, for instance, began with the entire stage in the dark. The effect gave the music a heightened sense of drama. Elsewhere during the show, the lights would dim, then return and move, highlighting the large, red abstract paintings behind the musicians. I felt like I was at a rock show. Hooker told me afterwards he dug the effort.


Lane was making a return engagement to western Mass, having anchored the Avram Fefer Trio at the Shea Theater a month ago. On Friday, Lane went full bore, running his fingers up and down the fingerboard in a successful attempt to match the power and volume of his bandmates. The speed with which he churned out notes was felt, if not precisely heard. But the exercise had the desired effect: creating a palpable energy that was visceral and spontaneous.


Tammens has spent a lifetime developing his richly processed, specially prepared instrument he calls Endangered Guitar, and indeed I have never heard anything quite like it. His rapid strumming and his doctored instrument produced shards of melody in a torrent of sound. I felt inundated, but it had a paradoxically calming effect, like the cascading tumult of a waterfall. Tammens was a late replacement for violinist Charlie Burnham. It is hard to imagine how the concert would have unfolded with different instrumentation, but I’m glad to have had the opportunity to hear an original voice on guitar.


William Hooker has played with a number of creative guitarists, including Nels Cline, Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo, so I’m sure he was happy to have Tammens in the band. Hooker plays with force and spirit, and his thwacks on the kit brought me to attention. Hooker loves to play alongside silent films and has lots of experience in multi-media settings, so he has a natural affinity for narrative structure. His trio performance in Greenfield unfolded as a story of untamed impulses, full of catharsis and new possibility. That’s no mean feat for a musician of any age, let alone one with lots of laurels to rest on.

Marty Ehrlich, extraordinary reed player, music scholar, storyteller and friend, returned to the Connecticut River Valley on December 16 to perform with his trio at the Blue Room in Easthampton, MA. T

bottom of page