A story told in dance and uproariously energetic music.
New York — Happy is the choreographer who finds just the right people to collaborate with. Arnie Zane and Bill T. Jones must be very happy indeed. Several years ago they found each other. Then they found Peter Gordon, saxophone wizard and leader of the Love of Life Orchestra, a ''new music/rock fusion big band'' also known as LOLO.
Put them all together and you have something for audiences to be happy about, too. It's a new work called ''Secret Pastures,'' performed by Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane & Company to some of the most uproariously energetic music I've heard in a long while - music that's so strong it nearly eclipses the dancing when Jones and Zane give it a chance.
''Secret Pastures'' is a narrative dance with plot and characters. There's a professor who used to be a vaudevillian, and he likes to explore out-of-the-way places. A new continent has just popped up in the South Atlantic, and he's off like a flash, accompanied by a Tall Handsome Reporter, a Female Grad Student, and a Young Socialite, among others. Also on board is a Fabricated Man - an ''artificial intelligence'' with a childlike, impulsive nature and ''very poor posture,'' to quote the libretto.
What happens to this crew defies description. That's partly because the story is vague to begin with, and also because the dancing veers off in its own directions, leaving dramatic logic far behind. And that's all right, given the vitality of the movement (jointly choreographed by Jones and Zane) and the ingenuity of LOLO in the orchestra pit. The show does have weak points, when the dancers bog down in trivial or overextended scenes. But the music thunders more powerfully than ever, saving the day for all of us. And when the dancers and musicians reach moments of shared inspiration, as in the climax of the piece, the results appeal equally to eye and ear.
Other contributors include Keith Haring, whose carefully stylized sets only vaguely suggest the ''graffiti art'' for which he's known, and Willi Smith, whose costumes include the year's most hilarious haircut for Zane's professor character. Members of LOLO include such new-music pillars as guitarists Ned Sublette and Rhys Chatham, keyboard player ''Blue'' Gene Tyranny, percussionist David Van Tieghem - a founder of the group - and saxophone virtuoso Richard Landry, whose work with composer Gordon cleared the cobwebs out of every ear in the auditorium.
''Secret Pastures'' premiered this month in the ''Next Wave'' series at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where Jones and Zane presented their equally lively but more abstract ''Intuitive Momentum'' two years ago. They and their company can be seen Jan. 6 in Albuquerque, N.M.; Jan. 7-8 in Santa Fe, N.M.; Jan. 10-12 in Los Angeles; Jan. 13 in San Diego; Jan. 24-27 in Minneapolis; Jan. 28-29 in Greensboro, N.C.; Jan. 30-31 at Raleigh, N.C.; Feb. 2 in Salt Lake City; Feb. 24 -March 1 in Munich, West Germany; and next April and May in Italy and London.
Another exciting event in the ''Next Wave'' recently was a solo evening by LOLO member Richard Landry, a saxophone virtuoso like no other. He has employed the same technique in more than 300 recitals over a dozen years: Playing his instrument into a quadraphonic tape-delay system, he becomes a one-man quintet, weaving live riffs and instant echoes into complex tapestries of sound.
Though other musicians have used similar means, Landry puts them at the service of a jazz-based musical vocabulary that's more accessible than, say, Terry Riley's embellishments of India-inspired themes. Even when the sonic threads of ''Brooklyn Solo 1984'' became too strung out to sustain their ideas, Landry's canny use of melodic ''hooks'' anchored the piece in a sheer beauty that overrode everything else within hearing. Also impressive was his fluid technique, rooted as much in the runs of John Coltrane and the flurries of Charlie Parker as in the repetitive style of Philip Glass, whose ensemble Landry used to play with.
The program's second portion, called ''In the Middle Of,'' teamed Landry with saxophonist Richard Peck and two female singers, as well as two very different drummers, Tony Williams and David Van Tieghem - the former a jazz-rocker once associated with Miles Davis, the latter a LOLO experimenter with a vivid sense of whimsy. Their ''conversations'' were the high points of the set, Williams pounding out rhythms while Van Tieghem caressed an amplified beachball and tapped his sticks on every object he could reach. It was fun.
Strong but less lyrical examples of Landry's music can be heard on the record ''Fifteen Saxophones,'' issued by the Wergo label (SM 1019) under the name Dickie Landry. If not available elsewhere, it can be ordered from the New Music Distribution Service at 500 Broadway, New York, N.Y. 10012. An earlier incarnation of LOLO (sans Landry) can be sampled on ''Geneva,'' released on the Infidelity label (JMB-233).