Ken Aldcroft's Convergence Ensemble, Our Hospitality
Bryon Hayes, Exclaim-online November 2009
The primary vehicle for his musical expression, Ken Aldcroft's Convergence Ensemble have been active in the Toronto, ON jazz scene for some time now. Employing a relatively conventional set of instruments, as far as small jazz combos go, this sextet are by no means ordinary. The skill with which the players wield their sonic weapons achieves extraordinary results, demonstrating a unique synergy. Aldcroft clearly makes it known in the liner notes that the music is a result of minimal direction from him; the players, both individually and collectively, flesh out and rework his compositions. The music serves as his proof. Our Hospitality is a robust blend of group improvisation and pre-written work. The Convergence Ensemble often switch between these two extremes effortlessly mid-song, such as on the two versions of the title track. It's these sudden shifts in direction that showcase the close musical bond that ties the players together. This tight knit group read each others' minds, knowing when to join the fray, when to sit on the sidelines, when to ratchet up the intensity and when to cool the proceedings down. Our Hospitality is a delightful showcase of open-eared collaborators at work.
You chose to officially release Our Hospitality at this year's X Avant Festival, at which the theme was Collaboration and Convergence. How important is collaboration to you, both in terms of performance and throughout the recording process?
Collaboration is vital to me because I feel it is always more interesting and rewarding when my ideas are realized in such a way that the musicians participating have some say or input into the resulting music. I think this is why I gravitated towards free-improvisation as a musician and artist. The essence of free-improvisation is based on spontaneous collaboration, in that all participants have an equal opportunity in which to participate and shape a performance. The personality of each performer and the situation in which the performance is taking place will dictate to what degree each performer will actually participate. The Convergence Ensemble are rooted in the idea that we are an improvising ensemble first, with the realization of the composed material decided by the members of the ensemble in the moment with little or no direction. Each member of the ensemble has the opportunity to shape the resulting music in a performance. In my experience, there is not much difference between the process of performing and recording except for the fact that in the recording process there is now another person involved ? the recording engineer ? who can help shape the realization of the music. (Trio)