Thursday, December 13
Ponga is a new Wayne Horvitz project whose name comes from a type of New Zealand greenery. Wayne (keyboards/electronics), is best known in these parts for Zony Mash, and in some respects doesn’t wander far from that vibe in Ponga. Joining him were Skerik from Critters Buggin’ on sax/electronics, Dave Palmer (keyboards/electronics), and Bobby Previte (drums).
It was refreshing to see a couple of 30-somethings and a couple of 40-somethings entertain a room of mostly 20-somethings. No surprise, then, that early-70’s Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock came to mind at first listen. What was amazing was how “organic” (hate that descriptor, but no better one comes to mind!) a sound resulted with so many electronics and a sax player who often threw his own samples into the mix. Given the avant-jazz pedigree of the individual members, I was also pleasantly surprised to hear a very accessible music from the collective.
Ponga’s strength lies in its tension/release dynamic and ability to create a swirling web of sound that is effective on several levels. Jazz eggheads can listen intently and be intellectually gratified, while the electronic/ambient lovers and the roots/jam crowd can get into a groove and chill, dance, or whatever. More chillin’ than dancin’, apparently, although Skerik did jump down to the dance floor and offer an interpretive solo number at the beginning of the second set. I hadn’t been to the ANZA in awhile and had forgotten what a cool venue it can be. Crisp new sound system in there, too. With several downtown venues either dead or on deathwatch, it’d be good to see more promoters step up and do more shows here. All in all, a night of many pleasant surprises!