American master drummer-percussionist Hamid Drake needs no introduction. He is one of the greatest and busiest musicians on this planet and incorporates into his free-improvised playing elements of funk, reggae, Afro-Cuban, Indian and African influences. Austrian experimental pianist-composer-educator Ingrid Schmoliner is known for her striking piano preparations and feels at home equally in minimal music and in improvised jazz. This duo played in several festivals together, and its debut double album«Awon Ona» documents two performances – at Artacts in Tyrol festival in Austria in March 2020, and at Jazz Cerkno Festival in Slovenia in September 2020. Both performances highlight the creative ways that Drake and Schmoliner weave organically elements of free jazz, free improvisation, traditional percussive schools with contemporary music and especially minimalist music.
The first performance at Artacts in Tyrol festival begins with «Keke», a powerful and urgent, polyrhythmic introduction of Drake, that triggers a like-minded response by Schmoliner. But patiently she disciplines this duet as a multilayered texture that deconstructs its rhythmic elements and accumulates them anew in complex, resonant combinations while keeping its energetic essence. The metallic, repetitive percussive patterns of Schmoliner’s prepared piano, and later her minimalist gestures on the extended pieces «Igbi» and «Afefe» tempt Drake to embrace these patterns with fast-shifting rhythmic storms, and adds on the latter piece a moving, devotional chanting. The short, lyrical «Eeru» deepens the minimalist vein, with Schmoliner singing an emotional song, ornamented gently by Drake’s percussion. The last, short piece «San» solidifies the intense conversational interplay of Drake and Schmoliner.
The performance at Jazz Cerkno Festival opens with Schmoliner introducing a minimalist rhythmic pattern on the prepared piano «Ina» and Drake develops it. «Emi» suggests a variation on this dynamic and here Schmoliner creates a hypnotic whirlwind of minimalist patterns, cleverly anchored by Drake’s drumming. «Aago» continues this experimental course and here Schmoliner offers meditative, vibrating noises and other sounds out of her prepared piano with wordless humming and reciting the emotional song she sang on «Eeru» while Drake contributes soft Middle-Eastern percussive touches. Drake intensifies this percussive course on «E Dupe», sings beautifully an African song and a Muslim prayer, and now Schmoliner ornaments his playing with ringing sounds of her prepared piano. This performance, like the one at Artacts in Tyrol festival, concludes with a powerful and cathartic «Gbogbo Ibi», that stresses, again, the unique affinity of these exceptional improvisers.
Ingrid Schmoliner (p, v), Hamid Drake (dr, perc, v)