Sunday, July 29, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: Going Postal and Other Modes

Joe Henderson: Mode for Joe. 1966. Re-released in 1988. Blue Note Records: CDP 7-84227-2.

Joe Henderson: tenor saxophone
Lee Morgan: trumpet
Curtis Fuller: trombone
Bobby Hutcherson: vibes
Cedar Walton: piano
Ron Carter: bass
Joe Chambers: drums

Here's a perfect example of what made Blue Note such a consistent label in the '60s. There's the immediacy of the sound of Mode for Joe, the compositions and the rich ideas pouring through so many of the improvisations. Joe Henderson, in particular, is in top form for this session and Cedar Walton's composition: "Mode for Joe" is tailor made to bring out the best of Henderson's blowing. This disc is a significant point of reference for so many reasons.

James Tenney: Postal Pieces. 2004. New World Records: 80612-2.

James Tenney: compositions
"Maximusic" (1965) - Tatiana Koleva, percussion
"Swell Piece" (1967) - The Barton Workshop
"A Rose Is a Rose Is a Round" (1970) - The Barton Workshop
"Beast" (1971) - Jos Tieman, contrabass
"Swell Piece #2" (1971) - The Barton Workshop
"Having Never Written a Note for Percussion" (1971) - Tobias Liebezeit, percussion
"Koan" (1971) - Elisabeth Smalt, viola
"For Percussion Perhaps, Or... (night)" (1971) - James Fulkerson, trombone and live electronics
"Swell Piece #3" (1971) - The Barton Workshop
"Cellogram" (1971) - Nina Hitz, cello
"August Harp" (1971) - Ulrike von Meier, harp

Unified by formal conceptions simple and focused enough to be conveyed by full scores no larger than postcards, Postal Pieces are austere, transcendent compositions that draw the ears into clear, physical manifestations of sound in near suspended animation. Time appears to stand still as "August Harp" unfolds spare intervals like sunlight caught in a chandelier. "Having Never Written a Note for Percussion" gently pulls one's attention into the rich detail of enharmonic partials and "Koan" buoys the listener in the wake of see-sawing intervals of ever changing proportions. Musically, and sonically, these are psycho-acoustic phenomena as focal points - stripped clean of drama or expressive intent. And in their simplicity they retain a richness in detail that stretches the ears of the attentive listener and stimulates the compositionally inclined.

Ludwig van Beethoven: The Complete Quartets, Volume IV. Recorded in 1994. Performed by the Orford String Quartet. Delos International: DE 3034.

String Quartet in E Minor, Op. 59 No. 2 ("Razumovsky")
String Quartet in F Minor, Op. 95 ("Serioso")

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

Beethoven's Op. 59 could easily become an obsession in the HurdAudio rotation and a clear candidate for following a score on the next go around with that piece. Both of these quartets are "middle period" works as Beethoven was making his aesthetic transition into the early Romantic Era. And it's these middle works that I'm finding most surprising because of the stitching of familiar classical technique with an emerging personal sensibility.

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