Friday, September 29, 2006

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Scale of the Day: C Locrian diminished 4


The C Locrian diminished 4 Scale as one would find it on any conventionally tuned, equal tempered instrument.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Scale of the Day: C Whole-tone


The C Whole-tone Scale as one would find it on any conventionally tuned, equal tempered instrument.

Some Favorite "Album" Covers

Earlier this week I was raving about the cover art for Another Shade of Blue by Lee Konitz. In the often neglected category of cover art here are some examples that impress both the ears and the eyes. The sonic content is often deeply compelling while the visual material is a striking fit:

DaveDouglas/Tiny Bell Trio: The Tiny Bell Trio

Elliott Sharp/Orchestra Carbon: Abstract Repressionism: 1990-1999

Eric Dolphy: Out To Lunch

Array Music: Chroma

The Bill Frisell Band: Where In The World?
Charlie Haden/Liberation Music Orchestra: Liberation Music Orchestra

Monday, September 25, 2006

E 5, 3, Cube-root-of-2, Construct No. 1 - Lydian Mode - in Square-root-of-2-space


The E 5, 3, Cube-root-of-2, Construct No. 1 - Lydian mode - in Square-root-of-2-space Scale.

Suspicious Activity?/Another Shade of Blue

Suspicious Activity? by The Bad Plus (2005). My approach to the music of The Bad Plus is about as roundabout as they come. During their most recent stint at the Village Vanguard I read a deeply unflattering writeup that made them sound like something I wouldn't be in to. At some point I started following the band's blog: Do the Math and became impressed with just how smart they are. When Ethan Iverson posted his list of great jazz recordings from 1973-1990 in response to Dave Douglas musings about post-Vietnam era music I knew I had to check this group out. They have taste and great influences. So with Suspicious Activity? added to my collection I couldn't be happier with the sound.

This is smart and exciting piano trio music. There's a fresh, deeply satisfying physical pull toward a rockin' groove that drives this sound. "Anthem for the Earnest" is particularly addictive. And there are all these interesting harmonic twists and inventive arrangements at work as well. I hope this group continues to play and evolve together. I want to hear it.
Another Shade of Blue by Lee Konitz (1997). In the liner notes to Another Shade of Blue Lee Konitz speaks simply about the joy of playing the melodies he hears. And this is exactly what makes Konitz so engaging to listen to. He is such a consistent conduit for amazing melodic ideas that thrive and startle the attentive ear with inventiveness and spirited verve. His lyrical playing has recently has recently become a fixture in the HurdAudio rotation and Another Shade of Blue is just exquisite.

Recorded live at The Jazz Bakery in Culver City, Konitz teams up with Brad Mehldau on piano and Charlie Haden on bass for a blues, a standard and three ballads. This is beautiful, melodically driven music played with big, responsive ears.

And for the eye, there's the wonderful painting by Kenneth Noland on the cover reminiscent of the great album covers Blue Note used to have back in their prime.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Scale of the Day: E Flat Octotonic-1 (2-1) mapped to the Triative


The E Flat Octotonic-1 (2-1) mapped to the Triative Scale.


Today found the HurdAudio ear hooked on this great Lee Konitz recording from March 1969: Peacemeal. Konitz has been such a consistent (and not nearly heralded enough) force on the alto and tenor saxophones and this session is nearly a perfect balance of ideas, groove, form and tight arrangements.

Sonically, the primary attraction are the short quintet arrangements of three pieces from the Bela Bartok Mikrokosmos.

Opening with "Thumb Under" (Mikrokosmos No. 90) the shifting melodic line gives way to a groove that bends slightly to the contours of the linear line and the improvisations that flow from this unusual "head." The rhythm section of Jack DeJohnette on drums with Eddie Gomez on bass provides a perfect foundation for the electric piano of Dick Katz.

"Village Joke" (Mikrokosmos No. 130) is the melodic line, and sound, that sticks with me from this set. The arrangement feels thin, artfully sequenced (if not forced) and I can't get enough of it. After stating the melodic material the ensemble vanishes to expose a sequence of unaccompanied solos by each member of the quintet. Each turns a brief exploration of the angular qualities of the source melody. There's something beautifully Bartok-ian about having the texture collapse into a single instrument or tone and it sounds even more peculiar to hear these cats swing it.

"Peasant Dance" (Mikrokosmos No. 128) is the most satisfying of the Bartok tunes. Here ideas are sequenced without transitions. There's no attempt to soften the sharp edges between ideas as the arrangement moves effortlessly between irregular patterns and straight grooves. There's a delicious clarity to the spare, unaccompanied canon between trombone and saxophone along with the thinness of the arrangement of the head. The steady groove that laid down by Gomez and DeJohnette provides the perfect foil for the Bartok-ian, angular improvisations that wash over the top.

Peacemeal also features some more traditional standards (the alternate take on "Body and Soul" is particularly good) and some originals by Lee Konitz and Dick Katz. And these do show off just how good this group was. The interplay between all five of these players along with the seemingly endless flow of great improvisations by Konitz make this listening experience rewarding from start to finish. But it's those arrangements of the Bartok tunes that expose an incredible sound from this instrumentation that seems rich with potential that remains largely unexplored.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Scale of the Day: E Flat Octotonic-2 mapped to the Square-root-of-2


The intervallic content of the E Flat Octotonic-2 mapped to the Square-root-of-2 Scale.


Keystone has been in heavy rotation at HurdAudio for some time now. Dave Douglas autographed my copy along with simple instructions: "Enjoy." That hasn't been a problem.

I only recently put on the "second disc" - the DVD pairing the music with the Fatty Arbuckle films that inspired this score. The juxtaposition of such a polished sound with these nearly century-old, scratchy silent film images is unsettling. Individually, each part of this "collaboration" is incredibly successful. But the joining of sound and image highlights the rift that exists between music and film.

The music of Keystone is simply outstanding. Anyone who has been paying attention realizes that Dave Douglas has been releasing an incredible body of work that features great perfomers and spans an astonishing range of styles and aesthetic approaches. With Keystone Douglas mines the electronic textures that marked Freak In and Witness. The narrative form of Arbuckle's silent films reins in much of the frenetic energy found in these early releases and steers the arrangements toward a more restrained harmonic territory. The resulting sound is addictive.

For all the adventurous strains within Dave Douglas's music he remains deeply grounded - and passionate about - the traditions and history of jazz. Fatty Arbuckle's work as an actor and film maker of the silent era is a subject Douglas is uniquely qualified to take on given his track record for paying homage to so many figures that have been such a rich source of inspiration. And the result is a vibrant, living accompaniment for these early cinematic achievements.

And yet I can't help but feel much closer to the music than the moving images. Not just chronologically -- or technologically. As a medium, film is still in its infancy at just over a century of existence compared to thousands of years of music history. The pairing of jazz with early film - two expressions that have developed roughly in parallel over the past 100 years - is a natural fit. I remain estranged from film as the lesser experience. I'm simply not aware of any cinematic equivalent to the evocative experience of Miles Davis' Kind of Blue or the Bela Bartok string quartets. With Keystone, film has been the source of musical inspiration. And this music will endure. Much as these silent films will endure. But they are far from inseparable. And right now it's hard for these ears to get enough of this funky, beautiful sound.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Friday, September 08, 2006

Scale of the Day: C Sharp Pythagorean Octotonic-2 - Lydian Mode


The C Sharp Pythagorean Octotonic-2 - Lydian Mode - Scale. All those otonal intervals force the double-sharp spellings on this particular scale. Normally I prefer a darker shade of octotonic. But the "brightness" of the Lydian Mode creates an interesting contrast with the ambiguity of the diminished scale.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Scale of the Day: D Chromatic


The intervallic content of the D Chromatic Scale.

Hall of Heroes: Frederic Rzewski

Labour Day at HurdAudio means a healthy dose of The People United Will Never Be Defeated over morning coffee. With ears thirsty for epic solo piano composition such as this, this work in particular stands out as a towering achievement within this medium over the past century. Even with all the high regard I have for this work it still astounds me with renewed transcendence each time I hear it. The quality of this composition alone is reason enough to induct Frederic Rzewski into the HurdAudio Hall of Heroes. But there is also a substantial body of works and a lifetime of compositions that embody the same aesthetic plane as this outstanding work.

This morning I chose the Stephen Drury interpretation from 1994 (recorded in 1992) on New Albion. The presentation opens nicely with an excerpt of a 1975 live performance of the Chilean anthem for social change played by Sergio Ortega and Quilapayun that forms the melodic basis for the sprawling set of variations that follow. Rzewski has both an ear for melody and an unwavering feel for humanity and social justice. Efforts to label him as a "socialist composer" serve only to belittle the powerful humanity that underscores the subjects and meaning in his creative output.

Over the span of an hour the melodic line of "The People United Will Never Be Defeated" is refracted through 36 variations. It is an infectious, hooky melody that appears from many angles. At times obscured or left spare. It's an intense and loving study of a beautiful subject on a large canvas using only the heart and hands of a single performer.

And this work is only one of an astonishing body of solo piano works well represented by the wonderful box set Rzewski Plays Rzewski - Piano Works 1975 - 1999. In many ways, I find De Profudis to be an achievement that equals or surpasses the aesthetic high water mark of "The People United Will Never Be Defeated." Taken as a body of works for piano (especially "Mayn Yingele" and "North American Ballads 4 Piano") this is a music that appeals directly to the intellect while still maintaining a deeply rooted sense of humanity and emotional warmth.

Even after taking in the solo piano music of Frederic Rzewski there are also the ensemble and electronic works to consider. I am somewhat less familiar with these. But eager to hear more. I've heard Coming Together/Attica performed live many times. I suspect there are many more sonic treasures waiting for these ears.

Frederic Rzewski has come to represent a rare balance of idea and subject. It would be easy for the compositional material to become overwhelmed by the social and political qualities of his subject matter and vice versa. What emerges is a body of work that consistently challenges the listener, and the aspiring composer, to remain true to both craft and conscience.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Interval of the Day: Equal Tempered Minor Seventh


The minor seventh as one would find it on any conventionally tuned, equal tempered instrument. It's the "$10.00 interval" at exactly 1,000 cents wide.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Scale of the Day: G Flat Lydian no 5


The G Flat Lydian no 5 Scale as one would find it on any conventionally tuned, equal tempered instrument.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Scale of the Day: E Flat Ionian no 5 mapped to the Triative


The E Flat Ionian no 5 mapped to the Triative Scale.

Blogday 2006

It's Blogday 2006! As per the custom, here are links to 5 blogs from around the world focusing on subject matter not normally discussed at HurdAudio:

1) Topological Geometrodynamics Journal. From Hanko, Finland.

2) Chicano Art and Literature. From San Diego, CA, USA.

3) Okansas. Daily thoughts on orienteering from Kansas City, MO, USA.

4) Serve It Forth. From Los Angeles, CA, USA.

5) Gone Gaming. Hard core board game fans from points unknown.

Happy Blogday!


On a blog related note. I've decided to split out my baseball content onto a second blog: Leather, Runs & Repeat.