field report no.110916

SUBJECT: Zeena Parkins

Jazz harpists are rare. Avant-minded, free-improv ones are scarcer yet. Being all of the above, Zeena Parkins has made herself veritable fixture of the downtown NYC improv scene for decades—appearing on hundreds of records and a player titans like John Zorn, Fred Frith and Elliott Sharp frequently trust. The number of sides she's led is a (relatively) small clutch of those, but a few of those records have grown into touchstone documents for me—Nightmare AlleyThe Adorables and virtually anything by Phantom Orchard.

Disappointingly, I've only managed to see her live a handful of times since I came to NYC. Luckily though, this night was two sets. First up was a solo set. Even though she wasn't playing her trademark electric harp, the performance was by no means traditional: she filtered her classical harp through delays, and filters to expand and distort its presence. The second set was a new group she'd assembled, Green Dome, featuring a percussionist and a pianist / electrician. The joys of each set were unique. There's a certain austerity and poise to her solo sets, while In group settings, she swings (albeit, unconventionally) and is granted more space to make a much broader, gestural performance.

NOTES: Zeena Parkins solo; Green Dome: ZP, Ryan Ross Smith, Ryan Sawyer