Thursday, July 19, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: Beethoven, Ayler and Bang

Ludwig van Beethoven: The Complete Quartets, Vol. II. Performed by the Orford String Quartet in 1989. Delos: CD 3032.

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

String Quartet in G Major op. 18 no. 2
String Quartet in B-Flat Major op. 130

An early quartet juxtaposed with a late quartet. This chamber medium was a tremendous vehicle for Beethoven's creativity through all phases of his aesthetic evolution. Both pieces work through some incredible developments of a fixed set of themes. Yet the late work (op.130) takes more surprising turns as Beethoven broke the formal classical mold in favor of deeper, more personal expression. The four-square movements are gone as op.130 sprawls out along six movements - including a brief "Presto" that lasts just a couple of minutes as a self-contained aside - a tangential thought - as the second movement. Op.18 is a well-crafted gem of chamber music while op.130 spins out a yarn like a master story teller.

Albert Ayler: Holy Ghost [box set] - disc 1. 2004. Revenant Records: RVN 213.

June 19, 1962 in Helsinki, Finland
Herbert Katz Quartet
Herbert Katz: guitar
Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone
Teuvo Suojarvi: piano
Heikki Annala: bass
Martti Aijanen: drums

November 16, 1962 in Copenhagen, Denmark
Cecil Taylor Quartet
Cecil Taylor: piano
Jimmy Lyons: alto saxophone
Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone
Sunny Murray: drums

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

This first disc in the Holy Ghost box set tells a story of creative birth as the curiosity of Ayler playing sleepy standards gives way to the aggressive freedom of playing with Cecil Taylor, Jimmy Lyons and S
unny Murray just a few months later before finally settling into a great recording of Ayler's own trio in New York two years later with his full creative voice. The 1962 vintage Taylor is a serious aural treat while the trio recording delivers the uncompromising honest improvisational vision one seeks when putting on an Ayler disc. The presentation from gentle-to-severe is a bit like easing into cold waters on a hot day. But the free dissonance is refreshing after the tepid take on "On Green Dolphin Street." When Ayler, Peacock and Murray cut into "Saints" they do so as equals in the forging of an overall sound - stripped away from the polite roles of soloist and backing rhythm section chained to the organized, predictable order of subdominant, dominant and tonic harmonies. Even the social implications of the language of "dominant" and "subdominant" are cast aside for the sonic beauty of individual and collective freedom.

Billy Bang: Vietnam: the Aftermath. 2001. Justin Time: Just 165-2.

Billy Bang (Sgt. E5 William Walker): violin, compositions
Ted Daniel (Spec. 4th Class): trumpet
Frank Lowe (Spec. 4th Class): tenor saxophone
Sonny Fortune: flute
John Hicks: piano
Curtis Lundy: bass
Ron Brown (Spec. 4th Class Ronald E. Brown): percussion
Michael Carvin (Spec. 4th Class): drums
Butch Morris (Spec. 5th Class Lawrence D. Morris): conductor

More than 30 years after the Viet Nam war Specialist 5th Class Lawrence D. Morris conducted the "TET Offensive." Leading a rag-tag team of Viet Nam war veterans, and a couple of civilians on piano and bass, Butch Morris applied his conduction expertise to Billy Bang's "TET Offensive," a composition at the center of a disc-long reflection upon his experiences as a soldier in south Asia. Drawing upon the scales and melodies Bang heard as Sargent William Walker along with a mix of jazz and funk Vietnam: the Aftermath is an intensely moving collection of expressive compositions. Added to the focus, energy and expressive substance of this music is the deeply creative and stunning solos scattered throughout this disc. Billy Bang, in particular, seems to dig deep within himself to make this honest and unflinching artistic offering.

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