Actual Music Now is the first recording in eighteen years by Dave Pavkovic and Tatsu Aoki. Their partnership is rooted in the myriad possibilities of a particular time and place, but there’s nothing rehashed about it. Between 1994 and 2004, they often worked together in Chicago’s jazz, post-rock, and theater scenes. The grave vibes, considered interplay, and elemental rhythms conjured here are spontaneous expressions of an encounter lived fully in the moment.
While both men are capable multi-instrumentalists, Aoki and Pavkovic confine themselves to drum kit and double bass throughout Actual Music Now. With these essential tools, they synthesize sui generis music from timbre, groove, and melody. As important as the instrumentation is their rapport, which allows them not only to complement each other’s moves, but to go their own way in the course of an improvisation, trusting the other to have their back. On “Fifteen Years,” you can hear each man advance an exploratory gambit, and then join in formation as spontaneously as two birds on a migratory journey. Aoki sets the beat and Pavkovic manipulates pure, metallic sound on “Directly.” And the aptly entitled “Emptiness” finds both musicians using sounds to give shape to rhythmically placed silences.
The uncannily deft and prescient improvisations here show the impact of Aoki’s work with Art Ensemble of Chicago legends like Famoudou Don Moye and Roscoe Mitchell, while resourceful kit work from Pavkovic calls to mind limber mixers of thorn and swing like William Hooker and Hamid Drake. At no time is this duo characterized by a sense of incompleteness or skeletal sketching; it answers all questions with sound and space. Actual Music Now isn’t the work of some rhythm section showing its stuff; it’s a set of complete, cohesive statements that is as immediate as your next breath.