Top Visual Artists Became Improv Music Group
On a chilly early fall 2021 evening, at the only true West Side Backyard Gallery opening the Franklin has held all year, a crowd gathered to listen to music improvised. Of the handful of live music events I’ve attended since the pandemic began, this was by far the most magical. The mood was relaxed and informal, with musicians and instruments moving in and out of songs, and the audience abuzz with the rare opportunity to socialize.
The show ended with a set by the newly formed duo Kouri Hall, comprised of painter Andy Hall and multidisciplinary artist Chad Kouri. Hall played mostly drums and Kouri mostly saxophone (the duo’s other instruments include synthesizers, samplers, guitar, and bass), and their jazzy, meditative ensemble was inspired by 1970s collaborations between the composer and organist Terry Riley and trumpeter Don Cherry. Their repeating patterns gave listeners space to focus or let their minds wander.
Kouri and Hall have been playing together for years – the two share an art studio – but only recently have they focused more on live performance and recording. “We both realized that playing music brings us more joy than most other things,” Kouri wrote in an email. “And, during a pandemic, prioritizing joy is very important.” For now, the duo have music available on their Bandcamp page and a handful of shows under their belt – and they’re exploring the possibility of partnering with a label to release a recording of their Franklin set in a physical edition.
At the time of publication, it was the only music on Kouri Hall’s Bandcamp, but the duo plans to upload more soon.
Music fuels the visual art of both players, encouraging new ways of thinking and providing a more collaborative creative environment. As Hall said, “A practice always adjacent to my visual art, thinking musically unlocks something good in my brain.”