Jeff Kaiser's Sound Alchemy

Trumpet, electronics and video converge at USD

Maverick trumpet/electronics musician Jeff Kaiser played a rare hometown gig on Feb. 19, appearing with video artist Jason Ponce in a wild-ride melange of free jazz with a heavy emphasis on the electro-acoustic influence in perhaps the least likely setting: the French Parlor Room at the University of San Diego’s Founders Hall.

Surrounded by rococo furniture and ornate woodwork, Kaiser began the single-improvisation-length concert mewing dulcet tones from his muted trumpet, looping them to create an ethereal horn choir as a microphone captured those sounds and distributed them into five banks of programmable algorithmic software that allowed him to record, distort, repeat and spatialize into an ongoing dialog between trumpet and computer that sent unworldly sounds spinning around the room

Describing what followed represents a distinct challenge. Kaiser’s music does not rely on the traditional concepts of harmony and meter -- even melody is abstracted beyond most conventional parameters -- yet there was a remarkable flow inherent in his aesthetic.

As Kaiser manipulated the extended techniques for trumpet and spit them into a bitches brew of electronic caterwaul (he managed all of this by constant foot activity on four different floor pedals and a hardware controller that looked like a Technicolor Scrabble board), Ponce kept a fascinating swirl of totally incongruous images flashing on a large screen behind them. Footage of industrial gears meshing morphed into a 1950s Air Force officer setting up a projection screen. which then dissolved into turn-of-the-century girlie films, a European mad-scientist movie, ultimately returning to industrial sprockets and gears.

All the while, Kaiser raised the level of cacophony to a degree that made Bill Dixon sound like Chuck Mangione; the demonically pulsating electronica shifted from impressions of a bobcat trapped in a clothes dryer to a Freon-enema smog test conducted on the Starship Enterprise. Or something like that.

At any rate, Kaiser exhibited a superb sense of pacing in his kaleidoscopic set, and the 55 minutes of mayhem was over in a flash. Undefinable and exhilarating: big thumbs-up.

 Robert Bush is a freelance jazz writer who has been exploring the San Diego improvised music scene for more than 30 years.

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