Kronomorfic, the dynamic improvising ensemble co-led by L.A. drummer Paul Pellegrin and UCSD professor and saxophonist David Borgo, blew the roof off of the normally staid Jazz Live program on Tuesday at the Saville Theatre at a recent performance featuring Andy Zacharias on bass, Kjell Nordeson on vibes, Michael Dessen on trombone and Nate Jarrell on guitar.
This group is all about creating complex metric structures where different time signatures coexist in the same linear dimension. Pellegrin demonstrated this to me backstage right before the show by tapping out a rhythm in "four" with his foot while layering a five-beat pattern on one thigh and a seven-beat sequence on the other.
Moments later, he was onstage coursing through the Latin-flavored multiplicity of "Deprong Mori," where the time shifts like the shapes in a kaleidoscope, while Borgo and Dessen sent gruff, grainy declaratives around the room.
Kjell Nordeson’s manic vibraphone intro into "Cellar Door," notable for its audacity, lured Zacharias into a staggered bass vamp and drew some multiphonic testimony from Borgo, while Dessen tended toward wicked dips from the gutbucket. Centering it all was Pellegrin’s relaxed rimshot soliloquy -- somehow both constant and irregular.
Jarrell went for a flamenco-like intro on "Rhizone," layering waves of delayed echoes until the full band exploited tension through loping repetition -- this was one of those times when the multiple layering reached a glorious nexus of art and fractal geometry, and Jarrell’s guitar left burn marks around the tune's slinky contours, which reminded me of Mingus directing a Gamelan orchestra.
Zacharias’ slow, deliberative essay to begin "With and Against" was full of pure sound out of the Haden/Garrison school, and the bluesy groove was further deepened by Borgo’s sandblasted larynx on soprano and Dessen's mocking plunger-mute caterwaul.
"Gnomon" exploded with a free exchange of textural messaging before settling into orchestral layering over the malleted toms of Pellegrin (which took on a supermelodic role) as the distinction between drums and everything else become less defined. A blistering Jarrell solo ratcheted up the excitement factor only to achieve escape velocity with Nordeson's synthesis of Gary Burton and Timothy Leary. Finally, Pellegrin brought it all home with a solo that sang and danced like a drum choir at a joyous wedding.
Even though the crowd was much smaller than usual for a Jazz Live concert, those who were there got to experience a fascinating version of where the music needs to go to honor its own integrity of exploring the new and offending the comfortable.
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.