Myra Melford/Be Bread: The Image of Your Body. 2006. Cryptogramophone: CG131.
Myra Melford: composer, piano, harmonium
Brandon Ross: electric guitar, banjo, voice
Cuong Vu: trumpet, electronics
Stomu Takeishi: electric bass, acoustic bass, electronics
Elliott Humberto Kavee: drums
Any Myra Melford led ensemble that includes Stomu Takeishi on bass is welcome within these ears. There hasn't been enough recorded documentation of Melford's ensemble projects over the years, but what is there plots an evolving set of compositions (and an expansive approach toward individual and group improvisation) that have taken root and grown in some remarkably organic ways. This particular take on "Equal Grace" with Cuong Vu's fluid trumpet work is outstanding. The increasing influence of Melford's studies in India manifests in pleasantly surprising ways that tap into a deep well of spiritual expression.
Mazen Kerbaj: Brt Vrt Zrt Krt. 2005. Al Maslakh Recordings: 01.
Mazen Kerbaj: trumpet
Beirut free improviser Mazen Kerbaj plays trumpet, draws comics and blogs. And every one of these endeavors is unique, startling and profoundly shaped by the sad reality of living through the ongoing violence and unrest in Lebanon. (Check out this link to a "duet" between Kerbaj - trumpet and the Israeli Air Force - bombs). Brt Vrt Zrt Krt is all live solo trumpet without cuts, overdubs or electronics. And at times it's hard to believe that this raw pallet of sound is somehow emanating from that instrument. With close listening one can indeed make out the familiar plumbing of the trumpet as the resonating chamber for this incredible sound design. With titles like "Vrrrt," "Ffffss" and "Tagadagadaga" that allude to the oral contortions involved in shaping these sounds Kerbaj demonstrates an intense focus on the minute details of these sculpted sonic excursions.
Charles Ives: The Symphonies / Orchestral Sets 1 & 2. 1973, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1995. Decca Music Group: 289 466 745-2.
Symphony No. 1 - performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Zubin Mehta
Symphony No. 4 - performed by the Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Christoph Von Dohnanyi
Orchestral Set No. 1 - performed by the Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Christoph Von Dohnanyi
Symphony No. 2 - performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Zubin Mehta
Symphony No. 3 - performed by the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, conducted by Neville Marriner
Three Places in New England (Orchestral Set No. 1) - performed by the Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Christoph Von Dohnanyi
I believe this is the first time I've listened to all of the Charles Ives Symphonies and Orchestral Sets in one sitting. This is music that gets more astonishing with each exposure. It used to be the orchestration and the juxtaposition that pulled at my attention and established Ives' greatness within my mind. But there are so many more layers at work than just those details. The quoting of hymn tunes and the off-kilter mixing of tempos and simultaneous parts is no gimmick. These are vivid images in sound of an entire world of Ives' experience that is lost to the passage of time. Even the Symphony No. 1, a "student composition" started while Ives was completing his undergraduate studies at Yale in 1898, quotes more hymn tunes than I had remembered as it careens through several European influences in a manner that only hints at what Ives would later do for Americana. Symphony No. 4 is a grand scale work with its reaching toward "the diverse answers in which existence replies [to] the searching [spiritual] questions of What? and Why?".