Joshua White and Jeff Kaiser at Dizzy's

Piano plus electronics in Pacific Beach.

San Diego musician Joshua White’s monthly concert residency at Dizzy’s in Pacific Beach continued on May 21 with a special duet consisting of White on piano and digital music maverick Jeff Kaiser on laptop and electronics in an evening of glorious give and take that demanded and rewarded close attention from the large crowd.

White actually demonstrated his own personal distillation of the “prepared-piano” concept, in which various objects (in this case, bells, magnets and gaffers tape) are placed inside the instrument to alter the timbre.

The concert began with soft distorted clangs in a manner suggesting Balinese Gamelan as White teased around the edges of muted vs. unmuted areas of the instrument creating an intoxicating blend of the two as Kaiser began sampling chunks of White’s output and feeding discrete portions of that output back into the mix courtesy of five large loudspeakers placed strategically around the room. Kaiser used a Macintosh laptop running MAX software and a 64-button Ableton Push 2 keypad in addition to two volume/expression pedals to process those sounds into a variety of white and pink noise and sputtering, distorted mayhem.

White cranked up the intensity with booming, rumbling left-hand strikes while Kaiser pressed on the two volume pedals like accelerators -- occasionally pecking at the keypad like a stenographer with A.D.D. -- weaving in and out of the acoustic atmosphere with phasing, distortion and needle-scratching effects.

There were moments of exhilarating quietude and micro-gesturing dialog that toggled against raging, atonal squalls yielding again to pastoral, Keith Jarrett-like rolling arpeggios. One final surge of kinetic energy found Kaiser doubling down on the spatial distortions with wicked violence rocketing from speaker to speaker as White gently pressed against the keyboard, fading incrementally into the cool night air.

Exhilarating and completely out of the box, this concert revealed new facets of White’s improvisational acumen as well as serving as an appropriate send-off to the wildly creative Kaiser, who leaves San Diego this month to take a position as Assistant Professor at the University of Central Missouri Center for Music Technology. Bon voyage, Dr. Kaiser. You will be missed.  

 Robert Bush is a freelance jazz writer who has been exploring the San Diego improvised music scene for more than 30 years. Follow him on Twitter @robertbushjazz. Visit The World According to Rob.

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