January 22nd 2013

23rd Jan 2013

The year of the Dragon finishes next month: a whole year of my sun-sign! As ever, I am terrible with website updates, and over the last few months I have been especially busy and had no time to sit down to write any concise overview of the events that have taken place. I looked back to a draft I’d written around Halloween, a few days after (if not the day of) the hurricane, and promptly deleted it because it was verifiably out-dated and I couldn’t even use any material from it to write this one.

Today seems like an appropriate time to write a website update. I’m in my warm, cosy 8×8 room in Astoria as the temperatures outside plummet to -4 degrees C, still morning time, up for a few hours due to the spacey bubble jet-lag has left me in after a month in Japan. Seems like the best time to get my website updated… at least where the news is concerned!

My band, Human Equivalent, finally recorded our follow-up material earlier this month, seven tracks brimming with color and energy that we managed to lay down in audio during a day at Bushwick Studio. I think what sealed the deal with this session and experience was working with the owner and engineer Josh Kessler: I instantly clicked with this man’s approach and personality. (Note to self: always work with people with a wonderful sense of humor.) We are looking to get the remaining mixing and mastering work completed next month, in February! I have the album name already at the back of my mind, so it shouldn’t be too long before the record is ready to roll! Otherwise, I’m looking forward to getting back in action with this band in 2013!

I’ve also had the pleasure of performing with Allegra Levy and her project again, through November and December, at various locations in Brooklyn and Manhattan, as well as Emily Wolf in the Lower East Side area, and have been recording some of Rodrigo Bonelli’s music (when we’re all able to get together on the same day) at an audio recording school in the Manhattan area. Another project is slowly coming together with pianist Sean McCluskey, that will include original material in a Jazz-Celtic crossover vein. Rehearsals are to start very soon!

Work, writing and producing music with The Wig, has been steady, and yielding amazing results, and as time goes on I’m finding new techniques and approaches to using the software to help take our music to the “next level” (or some-such phrase). Ultimately, I thoroughly enjoy the whole process and get a great kick out of working in the electronic genre. Having the balance between electronic and acoustic feels natural for me right now. We are laying down the last foundations for Usessions Records, who are signing three of our Emotional House tracks for our upcoming EP ‘Viisions’ (UR019). This is an exciting step for us, as we’ve been working hard together on developing our material for the past ten months, with more paths emerging as we go.

Twice-weekly performances with Noah MacNeil at La Flor Bakery & Restaurant in Queens have been a continued success and, as always, the best opportunity to perform with a great friend and keep the jazz chops in shape.

2012 was mostly a year of “ups” but November, with its relatively quite spells gig-wise, brought a more devastating event in the form of Hurricane Sandy. The area in which I live, Astoria in Queens, was unscathed for the most part, save for the odd tree or two that had tumbled or uprooted into the streets and onto people’s cars. Because most of us were O.K. in the northern area of the city, it took us a few days to realize that elsewhere in the city, there was major chaos. Personally, from my own standpoint, I felt it was hard to get a sense of what had happened because much of the public transportation system was a jumble, severing us from Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan. I know that when I lived in Williamsburg and the ‘L’ was out for a weekend, we all took it for granted that we wouldn’t be going anywhere, so stayed inside. It wasn’t until I saw updates from people that I know generally to be self-sufficient and “strong”, calling out on FB from wifi they had managed to snag from elsewhere, that I realized there was something wrong. I don’t watch the news in the US, and BBC online is obviously selective with its material, but with events as quick as this and a city in hysteria it’s hard to gauge how far the damage extends. I live almost on the other side of town from where a friend and her community needed a hand in the clear-up, but everything is close by in our modern world, so I went down to help. If there are questions being raised in our modern world about “helping” people out as too risky, or as an unwanted expense to your time and (jeeze, I will even go there) ego, then, of course, this isn’t news for us human beings. But I hope for most people it does become old news soon…

Okay, so that’s one of my end-of-2012 two cents’ worth but, ultimately, November spent in New York was both an experience of people at their best and at their worst, going to areas in Brooklyn and Rockaway Beach to help with the clean-up. Ultimately, you can’t give up: you have to do what needs to be done. I haven’t much more to talk about on the events, I just went to help.

The beginning of December was intensely busy and by the 18th, I was flying to Japan. The main purpose for the trip was to perform with fellow Berklee-Alum and one of my best friends, pianist Alan Benzie, under a duo project called BG-C Duo (I know, not the most creative name, but it was something we had to whip up on the spur of the moment…!). My first week there was spent at the Naeba Prince Hotel, in the Niigata prefecture of Japan: lots of mountains, fresh air, snow and sports. We played each day there, a few sets per day over the Xmas season at the hotel’s lounge area. It was restful and a wonderful way to spend the Christmas Day: playing music and sharing it with good friends. I want to thank our director for the opportunity, Yasuko Sato, for the event and look forward to (hopefully!) working with her again in the future.

On the 26th, we Shinkansen’d off to Tokyo, where I spent the next 3 weeks. There I reconnected with a childhood friend, Zach Thomas, and was invited to sit in with his band The Deadlines for a couple of sessions. Made up entirely of Bloomberg employees at the Tokyo Office, they put together the group to hone their creative energies outside of work (which, in Tokyo, is a luxury amidst the workaholic lifestyle there) and, to tell the truth, they play some mean music. I had a blast with them!

Another highlight in Tokyo was the BG-C Duo’s performance at the city’s Somethin’ Jazz Club. The club’s name is familiar: it is the partner venue to the SJC in New York and is an equally great hub for live music and various artists from all across the nation (and globe!). We had a great turn-out, playing on Saturday 5th January and it reminded the Alan and I that we will play again and retain that musical connection, despite living in different countries and continents for the time-being.

Otherwise, I actually spent the majority of my time in Tokyo completely by myself, without a useable phone and with no internet connection, save for Starbucks Coffee a few blocks away. I can barely speak any Japanese and I only began reading the most basic of Hiragana whilst being there. For days at a time, walking the streets of Tokyo, speaking only “thank-you’s” now again, I don’t think I have ever placed myself in such a solitary position. I had no street map (I hadn’t thought to buy one before heading East), my only connection to contacts I had was through pay phones at stations (that you sometimes spent 10 minutes trying to find) and I had little knowledge of what the society and customs of Tokyo entailed. But, I walked every length of central Tokyo with the help of a basic subway map, explored many back-alleys, parks and museums, and probably visited close to every temple and shrine in Tokyo. I also took the train south to Kamakura for a couple of days, to explore the hiking trails of the old Capital, one of the most intensely spiritual areas I’ve been to.

The experience I had in Tokyo taught me a lot about a society and culture I knew bits and pieces about, through pop culture, movies and second-hand knowledge. Having little connection with the outside world, it was what I had hoped for. One passion of mine is to observe and experience things first hand. It helps a tremendous amount to have someone to translate and show you around (which I did have, sporadically), but you see very different sides and perspectives of the coin when you’re completely alone. I learnt a lot from being there, related a lot to the society and culture they hold there and came away with personal treasures and images that have added another page to my life’s book, little pieces as a tourist but most of it without any icing or pretty bow on top. The raw thing. And I would do the whole experience all over again in a heartbeat: I’m already planning on it.

So, here’s to 2013. It is going to be an eventful one and I hope to keep things up to date here more often. I already know I am heading to Berlin, Germany, for a week in April, to work on internet music software being developed by James Ingram, a former assistant to the late Karlheinz Stockhausen. We will be using my Electronic Wind Instrument to test out and experiment with this program James is working on for the World Wide Web. Then, in July, I will be working with a UK sextet, LOCUS, on more original material of mine for a short UK tour. More information to come very soon on that!

CD Review ‘Future Pop’ – The List, March 2010

04th Apr 2010

Leah Gough-Cooper’s Human Equivalent – Future Pop

Dumfries-born, Boston-based saxophonist Leah Gough-Cooper’s debut album shares three musicians with drummer Patrick Kunka’s album (reviewed a couple of issues back), and merits equally high praise. While certainly accessible, Gough-Cooper’s intelligently crafted music is way too intense to be a credible future pop, nice though that notion is, but open-minded rock/pop/funk/dance fans may well connect with what is going on here.

The saxophonist’s fluent and inventive work on alto and soprano is supported by responsive and focused ensemble playing and strong soloing from the band, featuring Kunka and pianist Alan Benzie (prominent on Fender Rhodes and electric keyboards as well as piano) alongside guitarist Serghio Jansen and bassist Martin Nessi. George Garzone, a leading figure in the Berklee College faculty, is a special guest on tenor saxophone on ‘Night Surf’.

Kenny Mathieson – The List, 29 March 2010.

CD Review ‘Future Pop’ – Pipeline Magazine, Spring 2010

06th Mar 2010

Young Scottish saxophonist Leah Gough-Cooper has come a long way since she won an international scholarship to Berklee College of Music aged just 16. Still only 20, 2009 found her releasing her second album and playing at the London Jazz Festival. Supported in Human Equivalent by guitar, bass, keys and drums, Future Pop was recorded in Brooklyn, New York. On such a self-composed set it’s good to hear the other members of such an obviously talented band featuring significantly, although of course the main feature is Leah’s athletic technique on sax. Beware, it’s so dynamic it might scramble your brain if modern jazz is not your cup of tea. – Alan Taylor.

CD Review ‘The Edge’ – Jazzwise Magazine, Issue 139, March 2010

01st Mar 2010

Patrick Kunka, ‘The Edge’, ShredAhead SA001 (three stars)
Patrick Kunka (d), Leah Gough-Cooper (as), Alan Benzie (p) and Dylan Coleman (b). Rec. Feb 2009.

It’s a bit early to be selecting a new-star album of the year, but this may well turn out to be it. Kunka, who hails from that ultra-hip jazz Mecca of Aberdeen, is a drummer and composer of outstanding promise. He and his similarly youthful Scots posse have amassed honours at Berklee and the New England Conservatory and appeared at jazz festivals in France, Switzerland and Panama in recent months. And yet they’re almost unknown here. Prophets without honour in their own homeland, one might say. Though broadly of the Tony Williams school of drumming, Kunka can also contribute to a ballad performance with taste and sensitivity, as on ‘4am’, Coleman’s bass feature here. Equally impressive is the title track, one of those spare up-tempo themes that sound hip yet are easy to play and beg for a strong solo to suit. Altoist Gough-Cooper is the winner here, a stirring discovery of Kenny Garret-like intensity and creativity. Pianist Benzie has the ethos of Hancock and Corea under his fingers and builds a sophisticated solo. Indeed there are no weak links in this astonishing young band. Read Kunka’s webpage, track down a copy of his debut album on jazzcds.co.uk and enjoy. It might be a while before they play a club near you. – Jack Massarik.


CD Review ‘The Edge’ – The List Magazine, Feb. 2010

27th Feb 2010

Patrick Kunka Quartet – The Edge (4 stars)

This debut album from Aberdeen-born drummer Patrick Kunka was originally issued last summer, but was rather overlooked at the time. Some positive recent response has encouraged him to re-promote it, and it more than justifies that decision. Kunka is currently based in Boston after studying at Berklee College, and is joined here by American bassist Dylan Coleman and two more of Scotland’s bright young talents (also with Berklee connections), pianist Alan Benzie and saxophonist Leah Gough-Cooper.
They play a bright and exciting brand of contemporary jazz. All nine compositions are the drummer’s own, drawing on American models, but with an edgy, energised feel. They are attractive in themselves, and also provide fine vehicles for the improvisational talents of each of the players to shine through, with Gough-Cooper’s saxophone work – not for the first time – making a particularly strong impression. – Kenny Mathieson


CD Review ‘Future Pop’ – Jazzwise Magazine, Issue 138, Feb 2010

27th Jan 2010

Leah Gough-Cooper’s Human Equivalent ‘Future Pop’ (three stars)
Leah Gough-Cooper (as,ss), Serghio Jansen (g), Alan Benzie (p, Rhodes, kys), Martin Nessi (b) and Patrick Kunka (dr)

A Scottish band made up of former Berklee students and young award winning Scottish jazz musicians is fronted by a saxophonist-composer barely out of her teens. This makes the level of musicianship on this CD all the more astonishing. Style-wise it’s largely jazz-rock fusion given a vigorous makeover. Because it’s a sub-genre of jazz in which a very high level of notes and musicianship is essential it’s no surprise it has its devotees in the rehearsal corridors of Berklee – for evidence listen to Hiromi’s band. Yet, Gough-Cooper’s lyrical alto sax seems also to have absorbed M-Base-type odd metered cryptic patterns and some of the impressive drummer’s bustling grooves certainly demonstrate a line through to drum and bass and hip hop. Nevertheless Future Pop – not sure what that’s meant to say about it – inherits more directly from the world of Return to Forever, the keyboard impressionism of Weather Report, with some 1980s Marcus Miller-style funk thrown in. It’s hardly the most original of causes, but the band manages to attain a high quality of musicianship without sacrificing any of their youthful high spirits. Selwyn Harris


Human Equivalent:EAST at the Chiayi International Band Festival, Taiwan

05th Jan 2010

This New Year was a very special one for myself and some of my band members. During the summer, I had been approached by a Taiwanese arts promotion company by the name of CSR-Taiwan at a gig I was playing in at the Edinburgh Festival. They expressed their interest in having some of us over to Taiwan to play at some point in the future. Keeping in contact with them over the next few months thereafter, I was astonished when they asked if it would be possible to bring a band over to Taiwan for the New Year Celebration and the Music Festival they have in the city of Chiayi. <http://www.chiayicity2009.com.tw/en/02/page01.html> I have never been to Asia, and for the longest time it has been a destination I have always wanted to travel to, so I took up the offer and set about getting a group together that would fit their needs.
Human Equivalent is usually a quintet, but because CSR-Taiwan had a quota to stick to, and the festival is basically a wind band festival, I had to bring in a few more musicians in order for them to be able fund the trip. So, after much brainstorming and re-arranging of my music and compositions, I put a prime Berklee/NEC supergroup together:
Serghio Jansen, Guitar (Berklee ’10), Martin Nessi, Bass (Berklee ’10), Massimo Buonanno, Drums (Berklee ’10), Chad ‘Aaron Notes’ Selph, Keyboard and Piano (Berklee ’11), Arturo Pena, Percussion (Berklee ’10), Vivek Patel, Trumpet (NEC ’08) and special guest Kunter Chang, Tenor Saxophone (Berklee ’01).
After intensive rehearsing in Boston MA, we all headed home for Christmas and then from each of our countries (Scotland, Dominican Republic, Aruba, Columbia, Switzerland & USA), we set off on the long journey to Taiwan on the 28th & 29th December 2009.
None of us really knew what to expect on arrival in Taiwan (none of us had visited Asia before, let alone Taiwan), so there were a few nerves here and there, but – oh boy! – was it ever better than anything we could have expected.

The hospitality of the Taiwanese was beyond amazing, the gigs were massive and the culture was magical. The first night, we played the Chiayi Civil Stadium filled with a crowd of Chiayi’s youth and festival goers; the second night, again in the open air, we played to a huge enthusiastic crowd under a half-dome in Zhong-Cheng Park, one of the city’s bigger parks; and the third night we played in a concert hall, the Culture Division Music Hall.
Every audience was an honor to play to, and CSR-Taiwan and the Chiayi Executive Mayor, Cultural Minister and Mayor were all a pleasure to work with and meet (this includes Felice, Arielle, Chung and two new friends of ours, Vicky and Elly).
On behalf of Human Equivalent:EAST, I would like to thank them all for the wonderful experience we all had, and look forward hopefully to bringing our music to Taiwan and the Far East again in the near future. A full report of the visit will be online soon.

PKQ Play Nancy Jazz Pulsations Festival, France.

30th Oct 2009

Well, it’s been a while since my last swathe of news updates but, boy, I have a lot to report. From October 4th-13th, Berklee sent the Patrick Kunka Quartet to the Lorraine area of France, to the Nancy Jazz Pulsations Music Festival. We partook in giving workshops, playing gigs almost every night and traveling around the area non-stop for the time we were there. Busy is a bit of an under-rated word for the week, but it was a lot of fun and a good laugh. You can check out more of our goings-on on Berklee’s Tour Blog: http://www.berkleeontour.com/category/france

Leah Gough-Cooper’s Human Equivalent U.S.

19th May 2009

l. to r. Patrick Kunka, Leah Gough-Cooper, Martin Nessi, Alan Benzie, Serghio Jansen. (photo: Erin Hubay)

Leah Gough-Cooper’s Human Equivalent

19th May 2009

l. to r. Serghio Jansen, Martin Nessi, Alan Benzie, Patrick Kunka, Leah Gough-Cooper. (photo: Erin Hubay)

The new album ‘Future Pop’ now available from CD Baby, and as a download from iTunes and Amazon.

  1. MP3: Future Pop ('Future Pop')
    play open in popup
  2. MP3: Leaf Blower ('Future Pop')
    play open in popup
  3. MP3: On the Other Side
    play open in popup
  4. MP3: From the Ash (live at Bar East)
    play open in popup
View More