Saturday, July 28, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: From Empyrean Isles to the Country of Blinds

Herbie Hancock: Empyrean Isles. 1964 (Re-issued in 1999). Blue Note: 7243-4-98796-2-1.

Herbie Hancock: piano
Freddie Hubbard: trumpet
Ron Carter: bass
Tony Williams: drums

1964 was a great year for Blue Note Records and this is an all time great quartet in their prime. Ron Carter's arco solo in "The Egg" may be one of the greatest recorded bass improvisations in jazz history. It's records like this that give Herbie Hancock a significant legacy as a pianist and composer.

Michael Moore Trio: Chicoutimi. 1993. Ramboy: 06.

Michael Moore: clarinet
Fred Hersch: piano
Mark Helias: bass

The 5/8 patterns of "L'Opera" is just one example of the conceptual and lyrical beauty that ripples throughout this disc. In 16 tracks, this trio of outstanding musicians quietly unfolds an astonishing variety of ideas that makes Chicoutimi a tangible pleasure within the HurdAudio rotation. Something so rich in substance while completely without flash and dazzle often gets overlooked, and this release - now 14 years after its recording date - doesn't get nearly the praise heaped upon it that it deserves.

Skeleton Crew: Learn to Talk/The Country of Blinds. 1982/1986 - re-released in 2005. Fred Records/Anthill Music: ReR/FRO 8/9.

Tom Cora: cello, bass, accordion, drums, contraptions, singing
Fred Frith: guitar, 6-string bass, violin, home-mades, drums, singing
Zeena Parkins: organ, electric harp, accordion, drums, singing

The re-release of these two brilliant Skeleton Crew records from the '80s will give more ears a chance to revel in and puzzle over the frenetic sonic energy of Cora, Frith and Parkins. The chance to hear Tom Cora's beautiful and deeply original cello playing is a major draw to these recording. The heaping helpings of detached irony and political commentary is like an added bonus as the biting critique of the puritanical impulse that took hold during that era (and still plagues American politics in the current decade) gives the aesthetic pleasures of Learn to Talk and The Country of Blinds an added punch.

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