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Ocker Music In West L.a.

May 14, 1987|DANIEL CARIAGA | Times Music Writer

Framed by pieces involving group improvisation, eight works by David Ocker made up the program titled "Too Young for a Retrospective," Tuesday night at West Los Angeles College in Culver City.

That title is ironic, of course. At 35, Ocker is quite ready, if not overripe, for a survey of the compositions he has created since 1973. As heard in performances by Ocker himself on clarinet and by pianist Gloria Cheng, vibraphonist David Johnson and contrabassist David Young, the good news of these eight works is that they can intrigue, fascinate and entertain even the jaded listener.

Eclectic in the most positive sense, Ocker reveals his influences--Brahms, Ives, Copland and jazz--sometimes eloquently, always without self-consciousness.

The focal point of this recital became Ocker as clarinetist, playing the first pieces he will acknowledge, the duo "Unity and Variety"; two works for trio from the mid-1970s; a recent Brahms recomposition, and his newest opus, an untitled duo for clarinet and piano.

Whether in a conservative jazz idiom, in a pungent tonal style reminiscent of 1950s modernism, or in post-serial atonality, Ocker writes communicative music of attractive surfaces and clear articulation. It can be funny, but it avoids the obvious; when it grows serious, it remains contained.

Cheng excelled in, among other places, Ocker's rewriting of Bach's First Prelude and Fugue (from W.T.C., Book I), at once ear-opening and hilarious. Young made the complexities of the solo piece, "Birth of the Nonsense Master," seem both easy and inevitable. The remaining performances emerged strong and nuanced.

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