New York Times ran an interesting piece yesterday about the Peter Evans-led jazz quintet, which utilizes a laptop as part of their performance. Computers and avant-garde classical+jazz are certainly not strangers, but the integration of these bedrock genres with contemporary digital sorcery is still novel enough to warrant critic Ben Ratliff to situate the move in a context of innovation:
...a jazz quintet, fully paid up in jazz’s mainstream small-group language, except it’s got a computer instead of a second frontline instrument.Even better than if Sam Pluta (the man behind the keypad) had been using the computer as "an instrument," it seems, from the Times's description of the performance, that the laptop was utilized more as a portable studio. Rather than mimic preexisting organic sounds, Pluta endowed the music with effects that none of the instruments present could produce:
He built on the musicians’ lines by delaying them for a second (a canonlike effect) or a hair’s breadth (a kind of close-echo rockabilly reverb effect). He isolated and digitally looped clarion phrases from the pianist Carlos Homs and the bassist Chris Tordini, and he took the hectic parts of the music — the pops and sizzles in swing rhythm made by the drummer Kassa Overall or Mr. Evans’s upward scale rips and tremolos — and ran them through a sound blender. He made the loud parts juddering and the soft parts misty.His contribution was not a sound meant to interact with others, but an overall manipulation of the composite sonic fabric. At moments it seems like the more traditional members of the ensemble were being remixed in real time and then challenged to interact with mutated reverberations of their own recent maneuvers:
...here Mr. Pluta took up the slack of the repo job, feeding tart, thin playbacks of the players’ solos back to them through the club’s speakers, giving them something to parry and cut through.Sounds cool. Next stop: opera, chopped-n-screwed.