Free Jazz Dazzles at UNT on the Square

On August 2, 2018, UNT on the Square showcased two very unique improvisation acts. There are many things to admire about UNT On the Square, from the welcoming employees to the beautiful local art displayed on the walls. The acoustics cater to the acts very well while the performances are taking place. 

Goalie, a local Denton, free jazz/improv quintet, performed first shortly after 7 p.m. This group is comprised of Joey Kukura on guitar, Tony Metraux on guitar, Ian Griffith on upright and electric bass, Walter Trapp on trumpet and flugelhorn, and Ethan Hope (subbing in for Conner Church) on percussion and Hulusi flute.

The most intriguing piece was the second tune Goalie performed. This composition was reminiscent of John Zorn, due to it being a controlled improvisational game piece. In the game piece, the goalie directs the piece as team 1 and team 2 face off musically by playing ascending and descending lines, as well as dissonant and consonant ideas. Hand gestures are also incorporated in this piece by both the players and the goalie. At the end of the piece, a new goalie is crowned the winner, while the rest of the band members applaud the victor, thus concluding the piece.

The third composition also piqued my interest. Four of the five members subbed out their instruments for pots and a miscellaneous array of kitchen utensils. The fifth member of the band subbed out his drums for a Chinese instrument called a Hulusi flute. It seemed as though a postmodern performance art piece was unfolding before my eyes. The members poured water in and out of the pots, as the others clanged utensils against the lids and the pots themselves, while the Hulusi player played a simple melody over the cacophony of clanging pots and pans.

The second group to perform was the duo of Houston-based improv musician Rebecca Novak and Denton improv artist Daniel Ryan. The musicality of this duo was very experimental and free, to say the least. This duo was the essence of experimental music combined with performance art. They played piano, cornet, electronics, and a miscellaneous array of objects.

My favorite piece of the five they performed was the third composition. Rebecca Novak began the piece by stroking the same note on the piano repetitively, while Ryan emits a high frequency from his laptop/electronics set up. I felt as though I was watching a soundtrack being composed for a silent film before my eyes. Then Ryan played a low overtone from his electronics, which crescendoed into a high frequency followed by a brief period of silence.

Afterward, Novak played a chaotic melody on the piano as Ryan accompanied her with a low overtone and high-pitched frequencies. The piece reaches its climactic point as Novak plays a sporadic melody that sounds very disoriented. She takes a step back from the piano and plays static through a small talk radio. Ryan continues the piece by clanging a screwdriver on a steel pot; Novak accompanies him with a chaotic, cacophonous piano melody to finish off the piece.

Header image by Mateo Granados