Roger Turner, Thomas Lehn and Tim Hodgkinson (from left) performing at Bread & Salt.
A dedicated group of listeners gathered at Bread & Salt on Oct. 20, taking in the latest installment of Bonnie Wright's Fresh Sound concert series, an enthralling evening of free-improvising that traveled the wide arc from pin-drop quiet to heavy combustion.
All of this came from the remarkable European trio Konk Pack, whose members hail from England and Germany. Veteran drum dynamo Roger Turner served as navigator, beginning the first improvisation with manic energy, employing knitting needles racing along the drum kit while Thomas Lehn sent sputtering bass tones into the mix from a 1960s vintage analog synthesizer.
Although Tim Hodgkinson ostensibly plays the lap-steel, most of his contributions came in the form of creative sound generation, scraping and striking the instrument with metal rods and a plastic comb, even playing it like a typewriter at one point.
The degree of listening between the three led into a lock-tight dynamic, regardless of the degree of sonic hallucination -- the input of each member changed the ebb and flow into a three-way conversation that defied predictable contours. At times, the synthesizer gained ascendance, sounding like a video game having an epileptic seizure; other times it was Turner at the forefront, including one bit of tom-tom kinetics that reminded me of Gene Krupa looping the riff from "Sing, Sing Sing."
Suddenly, Hodgkinson began assaulting his instrument with karate chops, Turner exploded with percussive volleys and Lehn's knob-turning combined for a caterwaul that took on the nature of a mothership convulsing in turbulence. Just as quickly, the squall subsided into the resonance of near silence until only the stillness prevailed.
Robert Bush is a freelance jazz writer who has been exploring the San Diego improvised music scene for more than 30 years.