Improvising with Stockhausen's legacy

Special to The Times

Sizing up an artist based on lineage or a celebrated family may be a dangerous and even unfair practice. But when said family name is as legendary as Stockhausen -- as in famed iconoclastic German composer Karlheinz -- some cross-referencing to the family connection is natural. The composer's son, trumpeter Markus Stockhausen, is a unique and commanding player, able to leap across genre lines of classical, jazz and free improvisation. His own sense of iconoclasm is much subtler than his father's, folded into a conception in which lyrical, searching beauty trumps experimental instincts, though not completely.

Stockhausen the Younger turns another corner with his surprisingly engaging and powerful duo called Moving Sounds, in notably empathetic collaboration with clarinetist Tara Bouman. The operative verb "moving" has to do with motion-based and spatial aspect than any pretense to self-advertised emotional qualities, but the end result was, in fact, quite moving. As heard onstage -- and around the theater -- at REDCAT on Wednesday, the duo moved through a set of abstract improvisations and lovely compositions by Stockhausen, neatly dodging any simple description or category affiliation.

Roles shift in the duo, and sometimes Bouman fell into a bassist part on bass clarinet, but generally they embrace the space in their setting and avoid conventional guidelines. For "Zephir," Stockhausen -- though usually playing flugelhorn, trumpet and piccolo trumpet -- laid out pensive, jazz-colored chords on piano, and later he played into the open piano, coaxing ghostly echoes from the strings.

They also worked the room in poetic, spatially conscious ways. Opening their set, the pair entered slowly from the wings with long tones, and to close, they engaged in a dialogue from far corners of the room -- she in the upper left behind the seats and he from deep on stage. Moving gradually closer, they finally came together, in more than one way. They have a beautiful, intelligent, fresh musical thing.

After intermission, the duo interwove into a sextet with fine, improvisation-fluent Los Angeles-based players with links to CalArts: pianist David Rosenboom, multi-instrumental reed player Vinny Golia, percussionist Amy Knoles and trumpeter Daniel Rosenboom.

Here was a solid, artful example of genre-free group improvisation, blessed with tastefully ebbing and flowing densities and dynamic heat levels, and minimal dead zones. It helped that Stockhausen was elected team leader, cueing shifts and points of focus between players, and perhaps mildly tapping into his father's famously directorial tendencies.

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