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(Moonjune MJR116, 2021, CD / DL)

PAKT — Live in Pawling
(Moonjune no#, 2021, DL)

by Peter Thelen, Published 2021-10-19

PAKT Cover artLive in Pawling Cover art

It was August 15th in 2020, the year of the plague, when four world class musicians and improvisers got together at the Shapeshifter Lab in Brooklyn, NYC. The project that night was called PAKT, named for bassist Percy Jones (of Brand X and Tunnels fame), guitarist Alex Skolnick (of Testament, Attention Defecit, the Alex Skolnick Trio, and numerous other endeavors), drummer Kenny Grohowski (John Zorn, Lonnie Plaxico, Rez Abbasi’s Junction, and others), and Tim Motzer on guitars and electronics (Markus Reuters group, David Sylvian, and many others). The two sets, approximately one hour each, hardly seem like live events, though even in the year of the pandemic during the lockdown there was a small audience in attendance as the musicians improvised while masked and distanced. Both sets proceed very cautiously, with all four putting forth an equal amount of energy without any really standing out or dominating the proceedings, and the result, while surely exceptional if one listens closely, seems a bit like aimless noodling that rarely gets very far off the ground. I’m not sure at that point how many times the four had played together as PAKT, though I know Motzer and Grohowski have played together in several of Markus Reuter’s configurations. What starts out as a very interesting and curious sonic tapestry by four great musicians improvising is, by midway through the second set, just making me sleepy.

Fast forward nearly one year later, to July 22, 2021, live at Daryl’s House in Pawling NY, and the same four musicians that stretched out so cautiously a year earlier are truly delivering the goods in a groundbreaking way, each player responding to all others in real time, in a way that keeps the set airborne for its entirety, the magic between the players is definitely in the telepathic realm. No sleepy this time, we are firing on all cylinders, the opening 17-minute “Inception” is just a beginning, starting softly, growing steadily until they all hit a fever pitch by the fourteen minute mark. The remaining six tracks of this 84-minute set are equally engaging, always moving and shifting, sometimes quietly and brooding, other times full of power and magnificence, the listener is perpetually kept on the edge of their seat while this cauldron of sonic creation proceeds on its way. As I write this I notice that the group’s performance from the following night at the Rooftop open air venue, Kennett Square, PA has also been released, and one can make a safe bet that they are on fire again, just like the night before. Select tracks from all three can be sampled on PAKT’s Bandcamp site.

Filed under: New releases, 2021 releases

Related artist(s): Percy Jones, Tim Motzer, Kenny Grohowski, Alex Skolnick, PAKT

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