Saturday, June 16, 2007

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.

No comments: