for two pianos is rare in any genre, but I've often wondered why
it wasn't explored more in improvised music. I can think of only
a few other examples and these are all one time encounters. Pianists
Mark Hennen and Toby Kasavan have been working together for years
and have reached a high level of interaction and expression. The
work lakes full advantage of the expansive territory first opened
by Cecil Taylor, but retains a control that allows for the inclusion
of many different styles and gives precedence to thematic development
over freedom of expression. Included arc 12 compositions,
each a unique and thoughtful exploration. This is exciting and
innovative work. Recommended.The work takes full advantage of
the expansive territory first opened by Cecil Taylor, but retains
a control that allows for the inclusion of many different styles
and gives precedence to thematic development over freedom of expression.
Included are 12 compositions, each a unique and thoughtful exploration.
This is exciting and innovative work. Recommended."
Jeremy Graham, Jazz Now
piano's theoretical capability of sounding 88 notes at once renders
it’s use in the egalitarian world of free-improvisation
a bit problematic. It can harmonically overwhelm any single line
instrument that dares cross its path, hence, the piano-less ensembles
common to the post-Ornette avant-garde. Pianists Hennen and Kasavan
meet this problem of relative density head on, by doubling the
instrument's capacity and embracing its potential for complexity.
Theory of Everything is what it's title implies, a thorough examination
of the piano's orchestral possibilities, twice multiplied. Most
of the album's tunes adhere to some structure, retaining remnants
of a thematic source, which might as easily be rhythmic or textural
as melodic or harmonic. Mood predominates here; from the funky
lyricism of "Shadow Matter" and the manic counterpoint
of "Invisible Cities," to the spastic polytonality of
"Befunko" or the free-jazz gospel of "Twice Mine,"
the original compositions rely heavily on approach and atmosphere.
Both men are highly responsive to each other's lines, placing
intricacy and sophistication in service to authentic emotion and
strongly held ideals. Theory of Everything is a kinder, gentler
avant-garde——free-music for people who don't think
they like free-music."
first love is music, is the piano, the 88, the king of keyboards;
then listen to Theory of Everything featuring Mark Hennen
and Toby Kasavan. These two New York downtown stars improvise funk,
blues and other explorations in expression, all their own, all reminiscent
of Cecil Taylor."
high time for another batch of pianists. This month's crop is
heavy on notes — that is, they have an affinity for dense,
thick textures Toby Kasavan and Mark Hennen, playing together,
draw from the Romantic sturm und drang tradition. And boogie-woogie,
And barrelhouse blues, and ragtime, and jazz. Then the duo feeds
these jumbled roots a diet of postmodern music steroids, heavy
on the angst and peppers it all with plenty of speed. Notes rip
from the keys in cascades. Melodies blow in powerful gusts and
and Hennen have been working together since the '70s, when Kasavan
moved into a New York loft after leaving L.A. For all the whirling
and frenetic energy of their music, Kasavan considers the logistics
of performance a greater problem than accessibility. "There's
something about the sound of the piano that makes what we do listenable.”
Titus Levi, Discoveries / Keyboard Magazine
I think that New York's biggest problem might not be out-of-control
crime or rampant drug abuse, but rather an overpopulation of Jazz
musicians. Of course that's ridiculous but nevertheless, it does
sometimes seem as if the city lacks an audience of the size necessary
to support the untold numbers of artists trying to make it here.
The scene is so dense with activity that a staggering number of
brilliant musicians go unrecognized. Fortunately, like Jazz musicians
everywhere, those here tend to be resilient and prone to laugh
ironically and carry on stubbornly in the face of rejection. The
music's continued existence and good health are evidence enough
"Pianists Mark Hennen and Toby Kasavan are two of those lesser
known, yet prodigiously talented musicians whose skill far exceed
their relatively low profiles. Their duo concert at Manhattan's
Saint Peter's Church in early May was as fine an example of free
Jazz piano, as one is likely to hear in New York or anywhere else."
"The nonliteral nature of musical communication allows an
understanding deeper than thought between these two artists. Each
speaks with his own voice within the language of sound, accommodating
but distinct from the other. One of the virtues of free improvisation
is that it allows the individual to transcend the limitations
of a preexisting vocabulary. Hennen and Kasavan seize upon that
freedom to create a disciplined and coherent yet wildly spontaneous
and inventive music. The pair's original compositions were
skeletal, as free Jazz tunes lend to be, with the emphasis on
general moods and textures rather than specific notes and rhythms
The duo's split-second reactions to each other's statements are
evidence of an aspect of music that can't be taught, namely the
ability to assimilate information quickly and respond instantaneously.
Both players had this quality in abundance, as they proved continually
throughout the evening. For instance, in their opening number,
the aptly tilled "Shadow Matter," the improvisation
of one was a virtual mirror of the other. The line between the
composed and the improvised was most often blurred beyond distinction
because the roughly hewn tunes served as springboards for the
two men's considerable imaginations."
is possibly more tonally grounded and chordal in execution, and
Hennen is a bit freer harmonically and has a more linear style
in both hands. Both players changed and evolved within the music,
taking the initiative and laying back when appropriate."
to tradition, the pair dismembered "Body and Soul" in
a deliciously subversive reading of the old Jazz warhorse. Their
version of the hymn "I Don't Feel No-Ways Tired" brought
the pianists' modem sensibilities to bear on a gospel music classic.
The duo's dense harmonies, laid the song's ecclesiastical rhythms,
added layers of meaning to what is already an intrinsically spiritual
music. It's unfortunate that musicians of this quality are not
known to a wider audience. Artists like Hennen and Kasavan are
doing their thing in New York right under the very noses of just
about every record label exec in the Western world, yet they remain
virtually unrecorded by anyone except themselves. It's to their
credit that they persevere in the face of such adversity. For
now, originality is greatly undervalued in our culture. It will
take an extraordinary effort on the part of us all if that is
to change any time soon. Until then, people like Hennen and Kasavan
will continue to put out great art. It's there for the taking;
all we have to do is listen."
Chris Kelsey, Jazz Now