Drummer’s free-form beats layer jazz works
Whether Lukas Ligeti is playing free-form jazz drums, composing for concert ensembles or doing a film score, he insists his concerns are quite the same.
“I am dealing with polymetrics,” he says, talking of his way of creating music with a variety of rhythmic layers. “So, conceptually, the forms of music are not different. They are similar, but in a different setting.”
But those settings can create huge differences between the trio jazz he will be playing Tuesday in the South Side and the compositions he creates for variously shaped ensembles.
It might seem apropos that Ligeti would show such a broad approach to music: He is the son of Gyorgi Ligeti, 81, the avant-garde symphonic composer who fled the Communists in his native Hungary. He lives in Vienna, where son Lukas was born.
But the drummer-composer, who now lives in New York City, says he got into music fairly late and never really had the benefit of growing up with such an accomplished father.
“I think the biggest influence he had on me was to teach me to look at life in an uncompromising manner and do what I had to do,” he says about his father.
Ligeti, who has lived in this country for six and a half years, says he didn’t get involved in music until he was graduating from high school and was “hearing music all the time in my head.”
He says that led him to believe a musical education was calling, but there was one problem — he never had studied an instrument.
“I looked around and thought drums would be an easy instrument, which, of course, was wrong,” he says. But he was able to enter the Vienna Music Academy through a program aimed at shaping the work of less-accomplished students who show some talent.
Ligeti says he soon saw, however, “being an orchestra member was not a good fit for me and left classical percussion forever.”
He stays busy as a jazz drummer. He is on a 12-night, 12-concert tour in the trio that recorded his “Williamsburg Sonatas” album and works in a number of other settings.
He performs frequently in a duo with Finnish guitarist Raoul Bjorkenheim and recently played at saxophonist John Zorn’s new club, The Stone, in New York City.
Ligeti says his polymetric approach shapes the kind of jazz his group performs. He adds he has a great deal of respect for mainstream jazz, but says the construction of that form doesn’t match his thinking.
He accepts the way mainstream musicians are “freely conversant in a stylistically formalized setting,” but doesn’t want to deal with music of that nature.
Even though he moved into jazz drumming as his performance style, his compositions have explored many other areas. He has written works for a range of ensembles, including the Kronos Quartet, the Austrian Radio Symphony and the Vienna Saxophone Quartet.
He also has done workshops and seminars at colleges, and for several years was a visiting scholar in the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics at California’s Stanford University.
He currently is working on a film score for a European TV horror film, “The Route of Fear.”
As a free-lance composer, he says, “you’re always just hoping the next commission will come up.”
Lukas Ligeti Trio
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday, the trio plays at 10 p.m.
Where: The Brewhouse, South Side
Details: (412) 362-8669