Saturday, June 30, 2007

Halfway Between Capetown and Woodstock

Marilyn Crispell & Louis Moholo-Moholo @ An Die Musik, Baltimore, MD
Saturday, June 30, 2007

Marilyn Crispell: piano
Louis Moholo-Moholo: drums

Marilyn Crispell and Luis Moholo-Moholo understand free improvisation. And they both understand what freedom means for one's soul. When these two master musicians play together they positively soar.

As a member of the legendary Soul Notes, drummer Moholo-Moholo lived - and played - in exile from his homeland of Capetown, South Africa from 1964 - 1993. During that span he toured with many great jazz players the world over.

While studying classical piano at the New England Conservatory, Marilyn Crispell discovered the spirituality of the music of John Coltrane and turned to improvisation to find her own voice. Her intense creativity took root as a member of the iconic Anthony Braxton Quartet and Crispell's music has since become widely influential - and she is deeply revered in the hallowed HurdAudio Hall of Heroes.

Their two sets at An Die Musik this evening was an expression of freedom as an exhilarating art and practice - not theory. These players have so much technique and expressive range that they could only begin to explore their potential interactions over the span of a single evening. Crispell would often take a percussive approach to the piano - sometimes working inside the instrument with open palms on the piano strings or slapped on the body of the instrument - as she would drum along with Moholo-Moholo. The flowing, ever-changing stream of rhythm would form into a sweeping wave that seemed to grow larger over time. And just as one expected this wave to crest, Crispell would start playing some achingly beautiful, lyrical melodic lines in parallel harmonies over shifting pedal points to reveal new musical vistas. It was a sound I had not heard from her before. Thankfully, this performance was being recorded for a future release so I'll get a chance to hear that sound again.

HurdAudio Rotation: Lapse and Guitars

Andrew Drury: A Momentary Lapse. 2003. Innova: 581.

Andrew Drury: composer, drums
Eyvind Kang: violin
Briggan Krauss: alto saxophone, clarbone
Chris Speed: tenor saxophone, clarinet
Myra Melford: piano
Mark Dresser: bass

Here is an all-star lineup that includes so many of my favorite improvisers. Andrew Drury wisely gives generous space for each within these tight compositions. The result is a disc that has been sticking to my ears over the past four years that still reveals intoxicating details with each listening. This time through I'm struck by the textural range. "The Schwartzes" opens things up with a groove-heavy sound with the inspired combination of Krauss's wailing alto saxophone over the top of Melford's driving improvisation on the piano. Then "Salal" follows with its open, delicate sound in a relatively pulse-free space. Seven other tracks follow that trace a wide path through many traditions and this lineup hits the target at each destination along the way.

Bill Frisell/Dave Holland/Elvin Jones: Bill Frisell with Dave Holland and Elvin Jones. 2001. Nonesuch: 79624-2.

Bill Frisell: electric guitar, acoustic guitar, loops
Dave Holland: bass
Elvin jones: drums

One is tempted to envy Frisell for his chops and the great players he's teamed up with over the years. And this is one great trio that puts a solid spin on the Bill Frisell songbook (plus a great read on Henry Mancini's "Moon River" and "Hard Times" by Stephen Foster). For anyone familiar with earlier (or later) takes on these pieces this disc is a genuine pleasure and one that gets a regular spin in the HurdAudio rotation.

Derek Bailey/Cyro Baptista: Derek. 2006. Amulet Records: AMT 023.

Derek Bailey: guitar
Cyro Baptista: percussion, voice

This is free improvisation of the "compare and contrast" variety as the focus of creative energy between these players highlights the differences and commonalities found between them. Baptista's voice, percussion and digital delay give him a vast timbral arsenal that he forms into an impressively cohesive and responsive sound. The "vastness" of Bailey's material emerges less from the timbral range and more from the unpredictable sequence of ideas that makes up his own sonic fingerprint. Between these two players is an oscillation of reinforcement and subversion of the sonic texture from moment to moment. One of the things that makes this listening experience so engaging is even handed treatment of steady states and jagged transitions.

Scale of the Day: E Flat Chromatic mapped to the 3/2


The E Flat Chromatic mapped to the 3/2 Scale. The 3/2 just perfect fifth divided into twelve equal parts.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Interval of the Day: Unisons and Triatives

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Unisons and Triatives. Combined here to suggest a harmonic space where these intervals are regarded as harmonically equivalent to each other in the same manner that unisons and octaves are treated as equivalent to the point of sharing identical pitch-class denotation. The triative - an interval with a frequency ratio of 3/1 - is possibly the next most compelling consonance after the 2/1 octave.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: One by Trio, Two by Quartet

Ellery Eskelin/Andrea Parkins/Jim Black: Five Other Pieces (+2). 1998. Hat Hut: hatOLOGY 533.

Ellery Eskelin: tenor saxophone
Andrea Parkins: accordion, sampler
Jim Black: percussion

The five "other" pieces are interpretations of works by other composers from this idiosyncratic trio that has become an important vehicle for Ellery Eskelin's original compositions over the years.

The 5 "others" -
"The Dance of Maya" by John McLaughlin
"April" by Lennie Tristano
"India" by John Coltrane
"Song for Che" by Charlie Haden
"Prelude II" by George Gershwin

The liner notes - written by Eskelin himself - touch briefly upon the "Klangfarbenmelodie" of textures idea that marks Eskelin's creative approach (which explains how he develops such fantastic sonic textures) and how he applied this approach to selecting five pieces for interpretation. Eskelin writes every bit as well as he plays and just reading his words is almost as stimulating as hearing the music contained on this disc. Hearing how he prods and respectfully re-forms these familiar compositions reveals a great deal about how his sensibilities shape his original pieces. And with the "+2" of two Eskelin originals at the end of this set one can hear these same creative impulses and intensity directed at a blank canvas.

Elliott Sharp: Dispersion of Seeds. Performed by the Sirius String Quartet. 2003. zOaR Music: ZPO-03.

Elliott Sharp: composer, computer
Sirius String Quartet:
Meg Okura: violin
Gregor Huebner: violin
Ron Lawrence: viola
David Eggar: cello

Dispersion of Seeds is a 16-minute work for string quartet that is presented as an acoustic work followed by two versions run through various electronic processing techniques. As a 3-movement experience one can hear the "seeds" take root as the string sounds transform into something formally consistent, yet transformed into new timbres of increasing density. One parameter that goes untouched is time. I wonder if the metaphor of "growth" could have been strengthened conceptually with more variable durations between movements. As these are modular works - composed as stand alone works or as as a single 3-movement work - this does not detract from the sonic beauty and rich textures of this piece. The processing never loses sight of the quality of bowed strings as rich layers of resonance are applied in thick slabs of sound. Sharp's string writing continues to be a peculiar obsession for my ears.

Terry Riley/Kronos Quartet: Cadenza On The Night Plain. 1984. Gramavision: RS 79444.

Terry Riley: composer
David Harrington: violin
John Sherba: violin
Hank Dutt: viola
Joan Jeanrenaud: cello

This one is a staple in the HurdAudio Rotation. The title work is the centerpiece of this collection. And it's a fantastic piece of program music spun with rich story-telling instincts. But it's the three early works that precede it that grow on me more and more. I'm swept up by "Sunrise of the Planetary Dream Collector" every time. The arrangement of "G Song," clearly an adaptation of Riley's piano music, soars in this medium. And "Mythic Birds Waltz" is like a vivid still life with great contrast painted with deft rhythmic strokes.

Scale of the Day: E Flat Pythagorean Chromatic - Lydian Mode - mapped to the Square-root-of-2


The E Flat Pythagorean Chromatic - Lydian Mode - mapped to the Square-root-of-2 Scale. The all-otonal version of the Pythagorean Chromatic scale with all the cent values cut in half to fit all twelve tones within a 600-cent "tritone." This presents a Pythagorean fine-tuning on the more coarse quarter-tone scale - except that the tritone is a harmonic equivalent.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Scale of the Day: E Flat Pythagorean Chromatic - Ionian Mode


The E Flat Pythagorean Chromatic - Ionian Mode - Scale. The 4/3 perfect fourth - the only utonal member pitch in the entire scale - is what makes this tuning "Ionian mode."

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Scale of the Day: F Octave Divided Into 2 Equal Parts - reflected into the first pool


The F Octave Divided Into 2 Equal Parts - reflected into the first pool - Scale as one would find it on any conventionally tuned, equal tempered instrument. The process of dividing and reflecting results in a diminished triad over the F.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Scale of the Day: E Lydian no 5 1% wide


The E Lydian no 5 1% wide Scale. This one is a standard subtractive Lydian with stretched octaves. Which probably disqualifies it from being called "standard." This is the final subtractive scale of the current cycle.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Scale of the Day: E Lydian no 5 mapped to the Triative


The E Lydian no 5 mapped to the Triative Scale. The wider expanse of the triative and the larger intervals contained within obscures the subtractive, missing fifth degree of this scale.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

In Praise of Decoration Day

National Orchestra Institute Chamber Orchestra @ Elise & Marvin Dekelboum Concert Hall, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, University of Maryland, College Park, MD - Saturday, June 16, 2007

James Ross, conductor
Jon Spelman, narrator

Symphony No. 4, op. 60, B-flat major by Ludwig Van Beethoven
Decoration Day (from New England Holidays) by Charles Ives
Eine Alpensinfonie, op. 64 by Richard Strauss

I've always imagined the first movement of Beethoven's Symphony No. 4 as being a bit of a music box composition. One can wind it up and it moves under its own momentum. Under the baton of James Ross I can now appreciate just how much effort it takes to keep the dynamics under control as those familiar themes churn. He did a great job with a well thought out program of music. The juxtaposition of Beethoven and Ives in the first half made for an exceptional presentation of two giants separated by just a single century. And with performances like these one can expect more opportunities to hear their music in concert halls in the years ahead.

Decoration Day was moving in ways I hadn't anticipated, even for an Ives' work. Jon Spelman's narrative contribution to this performance was well within the spirit of the piece and added a contemporary dimension to the overall substance and subject of this work. Before the music started, Spelman read Ives' original postface to the score, which is a colorful description of the childhood Decoration Day observances of Danbury, Connecticut that Ives reproduces in sound. Ives depicts parades and respectful memorials to the sacrifices made by fallen Civil War soldiers not yet forgotten. After allowing the music to set the tone, Spelman then worked in spoken descriptions by soldiers fighting in modern day Mesopotamia and the anguished accounts of loss written by their loved ones.

Decoration Day - the holiday - has since become Memorial Day. A paid holiday without even an echo of the observations Ives described in words and music. The tradition of proud service and self sacrifice is starkly different to what it was at the time of Charles Ives' childhood. And yet so many who practiced a tradition of avoidance have since ordered others to serve. Even as these lame duck chicken hawks stand at hollow photo ops every Memorial Day, the substance of real loss and real sacrifice is the same as it was a hundred years ago. In the foolishness of invading another country under false pretenses and thoughtlessly asking others to make the sacrifices they were unwilling to make in their own day the need for the substance of a true Decoration Day grows.

The post-intermission half of the evening belonged to Strauss' epic tone poem, Eine Alpensinfonie. I'm rarely a fan of late-romatic program music. But this one works. The sweeping depictions of the Swiss Alps rendered in orchestral colors is convincing and succeeds because of the quality of the orchestration. The addition of the organ through the "storm" sequence was a particularly nice touch. I'd like to hear this one again.

HurdAudio Rotation: Improvisations and Delusions

Leroy Jenkins: Themes & Improvisations on the Blues. 1994. CRI: CD 663.

Leroy Jenkins: compositions -
"Themes & Improvisations on the Blues"
performed by The Soldier String Quartet
Laura Seaton: violin
David Soldier: violin
Ron Lawrence: viola
Mary Wooton: cello

"Panorama 1"
Leroy Jenkins: violin
Henry Threadgill: flute
Don Byron: clarinet
Marty Ehrlich: bass clarinet
Vincent Chancey: french horn

"Off Duty Dryad"
The Soldier String Quartet
Lindsey Horner: bass

"Monkey on the Dragon"
Leroy Jenkins: solo violin
Henfry Threadgill: flute
Don Byron: clarinet
Marty Ehrlich: bass clarinet
Janet Grice: bassoon
Vincent Chancey: french horn
Frank Gordon: trumpet
Jeff Hoyer: trombone
Thurman Barker: traps
Myra Melford: piano
David Soldier: violin
Jane Henry: violin
Ron Lawrence: violin
Mary Wooten: cello
Lindsay Horner: bass
Tania Leon: conductor

These four compositions are merely a teaser for the works of Leroy Jenkins that remain to be discovered. The liner notes make reference to an operatic work: The Mother of Three Sons, that deserves a new staging if we are to understand the depth of Jenkins' musical ideas. The four pieces presented in this collection are chamber works that incorporate improvisation to varying degrees. These compositions draw from a range of genres and ideas that aren't normally associated with one another without sounding contrived. If not for this recording, I wouldn't have realized that this kind of austere beauty was part of the Jenkins canon. Each new Leroy Jenkins listening experience leaves me curious to hear more.

Harry Partch: Delusion of the Fury - A Ritual of Dream and Delusion. Conducted by Danlee Mitchell. 1970. Re-released in 1999. Sony/Innova: 406.

This piece is one of the great American masterpieces of the previous century and it stands up well on its own merits. The fact that this is such a great composition gets lost in all the baggage of the elaborate intonation and custom built instruments - not to mention the larger-than-life personae of the composer. If you strip away all of that and just drink in the sound of this music you can begin to appreciate that the mere fact that this recording exists is a gift to be relished and an accomplishment equal to - if not greater than - any operatic work in the standard canon. That Partch put so much work into recreating a musical vocabulary and context to bring to light what is missing - and what has been lost - in contemporary culture is nothing short of astonishing. In Delusion of the Fury there is mysticism, Bacchanalian ritual, harmony and vocal writing that suggests fertile alternatives to everything one takes for granted.

Albert Ayler: Holy Ghost [box set] - disc 4. 2004. Revenant Records: 213.

Albert Ayler Quintet, Recorded April 17, 1966 at La Cave, Cleveland, Ohio.
Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone
Don Ayler: trumpet
Frank Wright: tenor saxophone
Michel Samson: violin
Mutawef Shaheed: bass
Ronald Shannon Jackson: drums

Disc 4 picks up with a second set from where disc 3 left off. And in a lot of ways these two discs comprise the heart of this collection. The production quality for this live show is good and this quintet was really "on" for these dates. At the edges of this sound there is the driving kinetic rhythm section of Ronald Shannon Jackson and Mutawef Shaheed complimented by the sustained energy coming from Samson's violin. Within that frame there is the exhilarating free blowing from the trumpet and two tenor saxophones. Ayler spins a good color on this abstract sonic canvas.

Scale of the Day: E Flat Lydian no 5 mapped to the Square-root-of-2


The intervallic content of the E Flat Lydian no 5 mapped to the Square-root-of-2 Scale. Here is a scale "reduced" two different ways - the fifth degree is removed and all the intervals are cut in half to fit within the new harmonic equivalent of the "tritone."

Friday, June 15, 2007

Scale of the Day: E Lydian minor 2 no 5 mapped to the Square-root-of-2

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The E Lydian minor 2 no 5 mapped to the Square-root-of-2 Scale. The unusual gaps of this scale carry over to the smaller confines of the equal tempered "tritone" - which serves as the harmonic equivalent. The member pitches that are just 50-cents away from the tonic have strong tonal gravity toward that resolving tone.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Scale of the Day: E Flat Lydian minor 2 no 5


The intervallic content of the E Flat Lydian minor 2 no 5 Scale. The standard, equal tempered Lydian is altered significantly with the two augmented seconds/minor third intervals introduced through the flat second degree and the missing fifth. The minor second suggests a darker hue to my ears.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Scale of the Day: E Pythagorean Lydian no 5


The E Pythagorean Lydian no 5 Scale. As the Pythagorean Lydian scale is normally made up exclusively of a tonic and all utonal member pitches, the loss of the 3/2 perfect fifth has little effect on the overall "brightness" of this harmonic shade. But it does take away a key tonal gravitational center - particularly for the 729/512 augmented fourth as it will now drift toward resolving to the 81/64 major third.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: Not In Our Name/Baggerboot/Heaven

Charlie Haden/Liberation Music Orchestra: Not In Our Name. 2004. Verve: B0004949-02.

Charlie Haden: bass
Carla Bley: piano/conductor/arrangements
Michael Rodriguez: trumpet
Seneca Black: trumpet
Curtis Fowlkes: trombone
Ahnee Sharon Freeman: french horn
Joe Daley: tuba
Miguel Zenon: alto saxophone
Chris Creek: tenor saxophone
Tony Malaby: tenor saxophone
Steve Cardenas: guitar
Matt Wilson: drums

Born out of the frustration of the 2004 general election: "We were hoping sanity and justice would prevail. They lost out to greed, cruelty and injustice. The machine won the election again by hook and by crook; the way it was won in 2000." Charlie Haden and Carla Bley reconstitute the Liberation Music Orchestra for a new collection of big band protest music. The need for such protest having only grown since their first release in 1968. An ensemble that has figured prominently on my radar since being smitten by 1991's Dream Keeper - a disc that only grows more beautiful with each listening.

Not In Our Name is an extraordinary recording rising out of the bleakness of the current national political and cultural climate. An act of heart breaking defiance in the face of deafening indifference toward art and jazz. From the passionate bass solo on "Amazing Grace" to the big band arrangement of Samuel Barber's "Adagio" to the new take on Pat Metheny/Lyle Mays/David Bowie's "This Is Not America" to the fantastic orchestration of Bill Frisell's "Throughout," this a music of sadness and passionate honesty. And yet it still carries that same "We Shall Overcome" vibe that marked the Liberation Orchestra's first outing almost 40 years ago.

Gunda Gottschalk/Peter Jacquemyn/Ute Volker: Baggerboot. 2005. Henceforth Records: 102.

Gunda Gottschalk: violin, viola
Peter Jacquemyn: bass
Ute Volker: accordion

The reedy quality of the accordion blends well with the bowed strings in this free improvisation as these big ear collaborators fashion sound masses thick with sonic detail. The occasional focal point or cadenza does emerge from time to time, but for the most part this is a self-less effort as each performer adds to the prevailing sound. And in many ways this sounds like an extension of Gottschalk's beautiful solo improvisations with the addition of new range and timbre to these well-formed explorations.

Ron Miles: Heaven. 2002. Sterling Circle Records: SC5151.

Ron Miles: trumpet
Bill Frisell: guitar

These long time collaborators have a similar (and profound) sense of melody. With sparse lines like a slight drizzle of rain, the barest outline of a familiar song will emerge. This is the case with Hank Williams' "Your Cheatin' Heart," as the slow tempo and spare textures coax the tenor of this piece from a mere whisper. This same simpatico also allows these two to lock into a steady groove, which they do with abandon on Jelly Roll Morton's "King Porter Stomp" and the infectious opening track "Just Married" - a Ron Miles composition. Added to this impressive display of melody and rhythm is the generous give and take of their improvisations. Heaven is a welcome spin in the rotation anytime.

Scale of the Day: G Ionian no 5 mapped to the Square-root-of-2

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The G Ionian no 5 mapped to the Square-root-of-2 Scale. The 200-cent "hole" that lies between the 250-cent and 450-cent member pitches gives this scale its character. That, along with the close proximity of the 550-cent pitch relative to the 600-cent "tonic" keeps this one from sounding like a de-tuned chromatic scale. That 550-cent member pitch also has incredible gravity toward resolving to the tonic.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Scale of the Day: F Ionian no 5


The intervallic content of the F Ionian no 5 Scale. As with most subtractive scales - and subtractive Ionian (a.k.a. "Major") scales in particular - the harmonic focus becomes the wide intervals that open up in the absence of the member pitch subtracted. Removing the fifth degree from the standard, equal tempered major scale has surprisingly little impact on the overall tonal gravity of this scale - other than taking away the root of the dominant V. Even so, the half-diminished harmonies of the seventh degree fill in nicely as a substitute.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: The Cruel Test of Time

Albert Ayler: Holy Ghost [box set] disc 2. 2002. Revenant Records: RVN 213.

June 14, 1964 set at the Cellar Cafe, New York City
Albert Ayler Trio:
Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone
Gary Peacock: bass
Sunny Murray: drums

September 3, 1964 set at the Cafe Montmartre, Copenhagen, Denmark
Albert Ayler Quartet:
Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone
Don Cherry: trumpet
Gary Peacock: bass
Sunny Murray: drums

February, 1966 set at Slugs', New York City
Burton Greene Quintet:
Burton Greene: piano
Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone
Frank Smith: tenor saxophone
Steve Tintweiss: bass
Rashied Ali: drums

The rhythm section of Gary Peacock and Sunny Murray provides Ayler with an almost tamboura-like drone texture for his soaring sermons on the tenor. And on this Sunday morning I'm hearing this with the ears of a believer. Ayler brings an undiluted - at times unfiltered - expression of the human condition with an unflinching improvisational range. With the addition of Don Cherry on the September, 1964 set there is the addition of a kindred soul to the pulpit.

Brian Auger: Planet Earth Calling. 1981 (re-released in 1987). Garland: GRZ 010.

Studio recording with various combinations of the following:
Brian Auger: hammond organ, yamaha CP 70B, electric grand piano, prophet 5 synthesizer, rhodes electric piano, acoustic piano, miniMoog, cabasa, gogo bells, freeman string dymphoniser, tambourine, vocals, cowbell
Ho Young Kim: guitar
George Doering: guitar
Dave McDaniels: electric bass
Dave Crigger: drums
Steve Evans: electric bass
Tom Donlinger: drums
Terry Baker: drums
Michael Barsimanto: drums
Alex Ligertwood: vocals

The actual cover art for this release is apparently impossible to "unearth" online. Which is a pity, the Grace Jones-like model shrouded in smoke with the late 1970s "computer" font over the front defies any reasonable description - much like the music found on this disc. At times it's a horrific amalgam of progressive rock, disco and smooth jazz archetypes. This music offers a cautionary example of electronic sounds and commercial genres that have not aged well - even when supported by reasonable arrangements and performances. Every so often there are glimpses of the Brian Auger solos I had hoped to find when I picked up this used CD. But this seems to be the wrong vintage for my taste.

Ornette Coleman: The Empty Foxhole. 1966. Blue Note: CDP 7243 8 28982 2 1.

Ornette Coleman: alto saxophone, trumpet, violin
Charlie Haden: bass
Denardo Coleman: drums

If you look at any press whatsoever for this recording there is always the prominent mention of Denardo's age at the time of this recording. Like the abstract painting on the cover - a painting by Ornette himself - there's the irrational anxiety that free jazz is something a mere child could perform. And bringing a 10-year-old drummer to the Van Gelder Studios in the role once performed by Billy Higgins certainly stirs up such anxieties in an unusually direct manner. But like the painting, such distractions say little about the substance of the end expression. "Faithful" features some of Ornette's most lyrical improvisation. Charlie Haden is incredible throughout this recording. The rough edges of Denardo's drumming is well suited to the rawness of father Ornette's violin and trumpet work.
In the 40+ years that have elapsed since this material was recorded this music has aged better than most.

Audrey and the Donkey Duo

Donkey Duo & Audrey Chen @ The Red Room, Baltimore
Saturday, May 9, 2007

Hans Fjellestad: analog synth and effects
Damon Holzborn: electronics

Audrey Chen: cello, voice

This was my second chance to hear Audrey Chen perform, and I'm even more convinced that she has developed a rich sonic vocabulary that is uniquely her own. She also possesses an amazing ability to improvise and adapt to any collaborative environment.

Her solo performance at the start of the evening left my ears hungry for more. Her vocalizations are a human cry emerging from the rich droning sound of her cello. And when she began using words and language she was so quiet that one's ears were drawn in even deeper into the sound to find the meaning only to be confronted by the passion and beautiful rage lurking behind the brief episode of poetry.

Donkey Duo then followed with a long electronic improvisation. Analog synthesis leaves plenty of opportunity for tactile fiddling with knobs and connections and Hans Fjellestad took full opportunity to explore that aspect of his sonic sculpting. Damon Holzborn confined his movements to the drawing pad and a small panel of knobs connected to his laptop via firewire port. There were occasional periods of pulse within the meandering cloud of sound and they did explore a nice dynamic range. But like a lot of electronic, signal-oriented improvisation, it tended to veer into the self-indulgent as traces of conceptually promising territories would emerge briefly, only to be passed by. Leaving only an imbalance of interesting sounds without form or development.

The final performance of the evening was a collaborative trio between Donkey Duo and Audrey Chen. The amplified resonant chamber of the cello along with the screeching voice integrated into the electronic haze and added a rich vitality to the sound.

Scale of the Day: G Ionian minor 2, no 5


The G Ionian minor 2, no 5 Scale as one would find it on any conventionally tuned, equal tempered instrument. For ears more accustomed to the familiar major/minor seconds of "church modes," this scale adds a twist with the augmented third between the minor second and major third, and major third between the perfect fourth and major sixth. The missing fifth degree makes resolutions to the tonic triad an interesting proposition.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: The Good Plus, Live from Birdland and Variations on a Russian Theme

Wayne Horvitz/The Four Plus One Ensemble: From a Window. 2001. Avant (Japan): Avan 080.

Wayne Horvitz: piano, prepared piano, hammond B-3, pump organ, synthesizers, toy piano
Eyvind Kang: violin, viola
Tucker Martine: live electronic processing, live drum machine
Julian Priester: trombone
Reggie Watts: keyboards, vocals, live drum machine, piano
+ Special Guest - Skerik: baritone saxophone

Tucker Martine is the Plus One of Four Plus One as he transparently applies a final sheen to the overall sound of this group with his live electronic processing. This music shimmers through his creative filtering. Yet every gesture, melodic line and arrangement clearly originates from Wayne Horvitz as the sometimes thick textures on this disc are woven from some of the most frail threads of fragmented melodies and hypnotic ostinatos.

Andrew Hill: A Beautiful Day. 2002. Palmetto Records: PM 2085.

Andrew Hill: piano
Scott Colley: bass
Nasheet Waits: drums
Aaron Stewart: tenor saxophone
John Savage: alto saxophone, flute
Marty Ehrlich: alto saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet, flute
Greg Tardy: tenor saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet
J.D. Parron: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet
Ron Horton: trumpet
Dave Ballou: trumpet
Laurie Frinck: trumpet
Bruce Staalens: trumpet
Charlie Gordon: trombone
Joe Fiedler: trombone
Mike Fahn: trombone
Jose D'Avila: tuba

The variation in densities with this ensemble is a source of dynamic beauty. With the luxury of thick textures given the size of this group combined with the arranging prowess of Andrew Hill it seems like an added bonus to have moments of clarity where individuals step into the foreground with some outstanding solos. This is a live recording from New York's Birdland and it must have been a series of monster sets. I'm more impressed with this material each time I hear it.

Ludwig van Beethoven: The Complete Quartets - Volume III. Recorded in 1994. Performed by the Orford String Quartet. Delos: DE 3033.

Andrew Dawes: violin
Kenneth Perkins: violin
Terence Helmer: viola
Denis Brott: cello

String Quartet in F Major, op. 59 no. 1 "Razumaovsky Quartet"
String Quartet in A Major, op. 18 no. 5

Of all the Beethoven I've indulged in recently it is this first Razumaovsky Quartet that has impressed me the most. It initially whetted my appetite for the late-Beethoven works that lie ahead for these ears when the thematic development began to reveal itself as something profoundly inspired. It may be these middle-period Beethoven works that reveal significant details in the transition from Classical to Romantic aesthetics. The melodic lines in the cello part through the third movement were particularly startling as they seemed to propel things along some unfamiliar paths - unfamiliar in the "classical" sense. At 42+ minutes this chamber piece seems to swell the 4-movement classical form right to the bursting point - but this duration is clearly necessary to contain the scope of the ideas found in this composition.

Scale of the Day: C Mixolydian no 4


The C Mixolydian no 4 Scale as one would find it on any conventionally tuned, equal tempered instrument. Cognitively, the ear perceives the perfect fourth as utonal. Removing it tends to brighten the overall harmonic hue just a touch. This effect is less clear with equal temperament. But the perfect fourths and fifths are pretty close to their just counterparts in 12-tone equal tempered systems, allowing the human auditory system to perceive the "brightness" of a perfect fifth without it's counter-balancing inversion.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Scale of the Day: E Flat Dorian no 4 1% wide


The E Flat Dorian no 4 1% wide Scale. Here is the stretched-octave version of this subtractive scale. Adding "width" seems to counteract the "minor" quality of this particular example.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Scale of the Day: E Flat Dorian no 4 mapped to the Triative

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The E Flat Dorian no 4 mapped to the Triative Scale. The uneven, asymmetrical, and sometimes wide gaps that make up this scale give it an interesting flavor. The triative as "harmonic equivalent" gives it an other worldly quality.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Scale of the Day: E Flat Dorian no 4 diminished 5 mapped to the Square-root-of-2


The E Flat Dorian no 4 diminished 5 mapped to the Square-root-of-2 Scale. This scale has a curious symmetry as the pattern of 100-cents, 50-cents, 150-cents leading into the equal tempered minor third is followed by the reverse pattern of 150-cents, 50-cents, 100-cents toward the "harmonic equivalent" equal-tempered tritone.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: If you've not been fed, be bread

Brian Sacawa: American Voices. 2007. Innova: 675.

Brian Sacawa: saxophones
DJ Dubble8 (Erik Spangler): turntables
Wenli Zhou: piano

"Piece in the Shape of a Square" by Philip Glass
"Pre-Amnesia" by Lee Hyla
"pastlife laptops and attic instruments" by Erik Spangler
"Netherland" by Chris Theofanidis
"Bacchanalia Skiapodorum" by Derek Hurst
"Voice Within Voice" by Keeril Makan
"The Low Quartet" by Michael Gordon

These all-saxophone arrangements of "Piece in the Shape of a Square" and "The Low Quartet" bring a new texture to these familiar works. And they reveal some new dimensions to pieces I thought I knew well. The smooth tone Sacawa brings to these pulsating, looping compositions brings out sonic character that Glass and Gordon may not have realized was lurking within their ideas. This same tone is subjected to an extreme focus in "Bacchanalia Skiapodorum" as the accompanying electronic part tugs and pulls at a universe of saxophonic timbres. "Voice Within Voice" mines a territory beyond tone as a focused study of breath and vocalizations that draw the ear toward the peculiar physics of the vibrating column that makes up the baritone saxophone. The quiet intensity of that work is staggering and beautiful as the ear is drawn into the micro-sounds of both human and instrument.

Myra Melford/Be Bread: The Image of Your Body. 2006. Cryptogramophone: CG131.

Myra Melford: piano, harmonium
Brandon Ross: electric guitar, banjo, voice
Cuong Vu: trumpet, electronics
Stomu Takeishi: electric bass, acoustic bass, electronics
Elliot Humberto Kavee: drums

The inspired combination of Myra Melford on piano with Stomu Takeishi on bass takes another spin in this Be Bread ensemble with Elliott Humberto Kavee filling out the rhythm section on drums. Cuong Vu and Brandon Ross trade roles as the fourth member of the two quartets and there's an odd continuity between the silky smooth unison melody lines between piano and trumpet, and piano and guitar that runs through this disc. Vu's use of electronics with trumpet adds a sweeping, atmospheric quality that is compatible with Melford's melodic sensibility. There are several poetic additions to the Myra Melford songbook on this disc as well as great arrangements of "Equal Grace" and "Yellow Are Crowds of Flowers, ii."

Ornette Coleman: Sound Grammar. 2006. Sound Grammar: SG 11593.

Ornette Coleman: saxophone, violin, trumpet
Denardo Coleman: drums, percussion
Gregory Cohen: bass
Tony Falanga: bass

Recorded live in Ludwigshafen, Germany - October 14, 2005.

I don't need a committee to recognize this disc as a stellar live outing for this outstanding quartet. As far as I'm concerned, the lifetime achievement Grammy and Pulitzer Prize are all just stepping stones toward the international holiday that will find us all humming "Song X," "Lonely Woman" and "Una Muy Bonita" in harmolodic tranquility every March 9th.

All the melodic qualities and improvisational intensity of Ornette Coleman are there and then some in this snapshot of the master playing live. The two-bass rhythm section, with one plucked while the other is bowed, sets a perfect grounding for Ornette's vibrant creativity. And this one really has much of the same spark that set the jazz world on fire in 1959 with The Shape of Jazz to Come.

Scale of the Day: E Flat Pythagorean Dorian no 4


The E Flat Pythagorean Dorian no 4 Scale. The Pythagorean Dorian Scale is normally a balanced scale, with each interval's inversion contained within the root scale sequence and featuring equal parts otonal and utonal member pitches. This results in a neutral color for the Dorian harmonic sound. With the subtractive Dorian pictured above this color shades just slightly toward something brighter with the absent utonal 4/3 perfect fourth.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Scale of the Day: G Sharp Aeolian no 4 mapped to the Square-root-of-2

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The G Sharp Aeolian no 4 mapped to the Square-root-of-2 Scale. This one is an almost-chromatic sequence through the tritone with a gaping 200-cent gap between the only two quarter-tones in this scale. One could focus on this "chromatic ambiguity," but there's also the challenge of treating the 600-cent tritones as harmonic equivalents. These remapped subtractive scales create some interesting harmonic challenges.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

The FAB 3

The FAB Trio @ An Die Musik, Baltimore - June 2, 2007

Joe Fonda: bass
Barry Altschul: drums
Billy Bang: violin

I caught the first set of the FAB Trio tonight. There's some nice chemistry between these players as they direct their impressive creative improvisation pedigrees toward a collaborative sound.

There were clear focal points as each player would spin out impressive solos. And when not taking solos they would be directing the same intensity toward a constantly shifting and evolving sonic canvas. This is a relatively traditional approach toward free improvisation, but one that works well for this trio given the limitless inventiveness each one has when in the spotlight. And there was something deeply satisfying about the funk maintained by this rhythm section as Barry Altschul would work a steady pulse - at times turning the beat around or prodding at its elasticity - while Fonda and Bang would weave in some deceptive ostinatos that were constantly changing in subtle ways. This was a sound that came out greater than the sum of its considerable parts.

HurdAudio Rotation: Music from 3 Eras

Ludwig van Beethoven: The Complete String Quartets. - disc 1. 1989. Performed by The Orford String Quartet. Delos International: D/CD 3031.

String Quartet in F Major op. 18 no. 1
String Quartet in E-Flat Major op. 127

Andrew Dawes: violin
Kenneth Perkins: violin
Terence Helmer: viola
Denis Brott: cello

By straddling the late Classical and early Romantic eras Beethoven's music has opened my ears to the two musical periods that have, at times, felt most distant to my own sensibilities. The Romantic Era in particular had seemed remote as many works from composers following Beethoven veer into an opaque chromaticism motivated by an emotional energy long since lost over time. The late Beethoven works (which the opus 127 is one) is a long way from the heavy-handed music of Wagner that would be composed later in the peak excesses of the Romantic Era. But in the juxtaposition of the early and late, which this CD does with opus 18 and 127, it is abundantly clear how Beethoven helped transition away from the clinical neatness of classical forms - something he was already starting to stretch the boundaries of in his early works - and usher in a new creative direction.

Don Byron: Do the Boomerang: The Music of Junior Walker. 2006. Blue Note: 41094.

Don Byron: tenor saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet
David Gilmore: guitar
George Colligan: Hammond B-3 organ
Brad Jones: bass
Rodney Holmes: drums, tambourine
Curtis Fowlkes: trombone
Chris Thomas King: vocals, guitar
Dean Bowman: vocals

Anyone who follows the "downtown" scene of New York City will recognize that personnel lineup as one smokin' band. Add to that the versatility of reeds man Don Byron and a soul tribute to Junior Walker on the Blue Note label one can only have high expectations for this listening experience. So I was a little surprised that it wasn't until "What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)" - the second to last track on this disc - that I was finally won over. Like Beethoven's Classical/Romantic genre, the 1960s R&B/Motown sound is a musical sensibility that feels remote to my ears and it takes a push from the likes of Don Byron for me to focus my attention on unfamiliar territory such as this. I'm curious how this one will affect me when I revisit it later.

Available Jelly: Monuments. 1993. Ramboy: 07.

Eric Boeren: tumpet, alto horn
Jimmy Sernesky: trumpet
Michael Moore: alto saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet
Tobias Delius: tenor saxophone
Gregg Moore: trombone, tuba, mandolin, electric bass
Alexei Levin: piano, accordion, organ
Eric Calmes: bass, bass guitar
Michael Vatcher: percussion

Now here's a sound and an era I feel an immediate affinity for. This is the second time I've applied ears to this disc and this time I'm hearing new layers to the excellent arrangements for this 8-piece ensemble. The final track, "Dorthy," in particular is one composition I might have to transcribe and work up for solo piano one of these days. Overall, there's an animated charm to the music on Monuments.