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Monday night's performance of the massive Nathan Hubbard Passengers group at Space 4 Art in the East Village was wildly ambitious and very creative. Passengers represents Hubbard's work in the field of minimalism, (think Steve Reich, Phillip Glass, etc), as a percussionist and composer.

Sixteen musicians gathered on stage to perform Parameters I, II, & III to a packed, and attentive audience. There were five guitarists, one violinist, five keyboard players, three bassists and two drummers joining Hubbard, who played vibraphone the first set (Parameters I & III), and glockenspiel the second, (Parameters II).

A short motif cycled through the room as different sub-groups entered and repeated the idea--each with their own individual length of interpretation, eventually leading to a wall of phased repetition of impressive density. When Hubbard began layering a new section over the dizzying labyrinth of echoed gestures--one only could have wished his instrument had been amplified--because it was almost inaudible amongst the din of keyboards, guitars and drums. The violin suffered in this respect as well, even though he was playing through an amp. That being said, this first piece offered a fascinating insight into Hubbard's creative use of odd-meters and cycling repetition --where slowly mutating ideas seemed to crash into each other like waves against the shore. Hubbard soloed, as did drummer Jesse Charnow and guitarist Nick Tocco, all adding welcome color to the proceedings.

Over a kind of rock-beat, the second piece began as a 3 or 4 note idea bounced around the room with a feel that brought to mind Reich meeting Frank Zappa, perhaps. Hubbard concentrated on conducting for the most part. After a long stretch where one line morphed into the next, Hubbard joined the ensemble with more vibraphone textures.

The second set featured the composer on glockenspiel, and it was an immediate improvement sonically.This instrument, due to its pitch, really cut though the instrumental morass. I started to feel locked into the hypnotic intricacies of the piece as melodies emerged, dominated and receded, with each section synchronizing in a tight orbit around each other.

I do have to say, though, that minimalism always rides a fine line between trance and tedium, because, for me at least, at a certain point, repetition ceases to be hypnotic and begins to be, well, repetitious. For my ears, all three pieces would have benefited greatly from some trimming. I think each piece had the potential to achieve the ecstatic, if the overall form, had been reduced from 15 cycles through a 75 bar sequence to say 10. Something like that.

Thoroughly enjoyable evening, nonetheless.

Nathan Hubbard's Passengers: Nathan Hubbard: vibraphone, glockenspiel. Guitars: Randy Chiurazzi; George Pritzker; Mike Slayen; Nick Tocco; Louis Valenzuela. Keyboards: Chris Adler; Chris Fulford-Brown; Danny Green; Ed Kornhauser; Jay Jay Lim Violin: Kris Apple Basses: Harley Magsino; Antar Martin; Henry Wessman. Drums: Jesse Charnow; Evan Backer

photo by Derek Jeppson

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