Flying Pooka!: The Ecstasy Of Becoming

Saxophone-voice and piano duo take the reflective, exploratory route, manifest in tiptoeing, rubato, now consonant, now dissonant lines


A shape-changing creature inhabits this landscape. It can take terrifying or pleasing forms. It may bring good or bad fortune, or choose to help or hinder. Often, the Pooka invites humans to take a wild ride on its furry back. Dani Oore and Florian Hoefner surrender to this creature from Celtic folklore on their 100% improvised debut album as a duo. Buckle up, listeners.

Oore is a Canadian musician, dancer, actor, teacher and scholar. He contributes soprano saxophone to The Ecstasy Of Becoming, as well as glossolalic singing – which involves vocalisations without root in language. Hoefner is a German jazz pianist. Together, they climb aboard the mythical band-beast Flying Pooka! and soar across seven tracks created without composed material.

The album makes an eerie start with Primordial Puddle. Sparse chords from piano meet sharp-bladed saxophone patterns, Oore’s sound fizzing at the edges. For all the talk of mean monsters and wild journeys, there are pretty passages of sensitive interplay. Oore quickly switches from saxophone to shrieked vocals and back again, often singing a high-note pattern and catching it on his horn. Boundaries between his two instruments are particularly hard to spot on this track.

There are no vocals on Sweet Love and Broke Memory, and very little piano. The title is a neat fit for its blend of sweet segments and broken, birdsong-like bits. Death Dances is the shortest track and features the heaviest use of extended techniques. Fluttery sounds suggest hands inside the piano. There’s a frightening fragment. There’s a dancey denouement.

The Ecstasy Of Becoming is an in-the-moment album characterised by responsive playing. The duo has a shared willingness to take real-time risks. The results are sometimes pleasing, sometimes terrifying. It’s a wild ride. And the Pooka has already recorded its next flight…

Primordial Puddle; Little Awakenings; Water To Land; Chasing Loss; Sweet Love And Broke Memory; Death Dances; Soul Surfaces (63.51)
Dani Oore (ss, v); Florian Hoefner (p). St. John’s, Canada 2023.
Alma Records ACD10632