Sunday, August 12, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: Encumbrance Essence

Marty Ehrlich: The Long View. 2002. Enja Records: ENJ-9452 2.

Marty Ehrlich: composer, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute, bass clarinet
Sam Furnace: alto saxophone, flute
Ned Rothenberg: alto saxophone, bass clarinet
Robert DeBellis: tenor saxophone, clarinet, soprano saxophone
JD Parran: tenor saxophone, contrabass clarinet
Andy Laster: baritone saxophone, clarinet
Eddie Allen: trumpet
James Zollar: trumpet
John Clark: french horn
Clark Gayton: trombone
Marcus Rojas: tuba
Mark Dresser: bass
Michael Sarin: drums
Mark Helias: conductor, bass
Mark Feldman: violin
Ralph Farris: viola
Erik Friedlander: cello
Eddie Bobe: bongos, cowbell
Bobby Previte: drums, bass drum, tambourine
Wayne Horvitz: piano
Ray Anderson: trombone
Pheeroan AkLaff: drums

Each name on that long personnel list raises expectations for this ambitious project several notches. Consistent as always, Marty Ehrlich finds a way to exceed even impossible expectations with the composition and performances found in The Long View. Conceived as a collaboration with painter Oliver Jackson, the allusions to great abstract painting are rendered in sound as Ehrlich deftly uses the wide timbral range of these performers to explore many shades and colors with phrases that feel like well placed brush strokes along a breath-taking canvas. The understated piano lines performed by Wayne Horvitz at the start and finish of the fourth movement never cease to suspend whatever thought or action I'm engaged in once I hear them. And you'd be hard pressed to find a more rockin' tuba solo than what Marcus Rojas delivers at the onset of the sixth movement. As a high achievement in jazz composition equal to the great works of Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn or Gil Evans, The Long View works from a perspective steeped in jazz history with optimistic vision for the future of the genre. This is a work much celebrated at HurdAudio.

Dave Douglas Quintet: Live at the Bimhuis. October 24, 2002. Greenleaf Music: GRE-P-011/012.

Dave Douglas: trumpet
Rick Margitza: tenor saxophone
Uri Caine: fender rhodes
James Genus: bass
Clarence Penn: drums

The Dave Douglas Quintet has been one of the eclectic band leader and record label mogul's more fruitful endeavors. While one would be hard pressed to cite a collaboration or band Dave Douglas has recorded over the past couple of decades that didn't live up to a high standard, this quintet has become a particular fascination at HurdAudio. And this live double-CD captures the Rick Margitza incarnation (the saxophone slot has had some turnover over the years) at a pre- Meaning and Mystery and Strange Liberation point of their existence. This live performance in particular allows for interesting creative stretches that would be improbable as a studio recording. The seamless transition between the cover of Bjork's "Unison" into Beck's "Ramshackle" allows for long stretches of improvised bass as the Beck piece is completely transformed. (I am unfamiliar with the Bjork version of "Unison" and wonder if my continued ignorance of her music will begin to look unflattering as so many people I admire increasingly site her as a significant point of reference). "The Frisell Dream" stretches slightly longer than the frustratingly short version found on Strange Liberation. And there are excellent 20+ minute soakings of "Penelope" and "Deluge" that bookend this collection and offer rich substance. And the unbelievable sound that Uri Caine conjures from the fender rhodes is a big part of the sonic addiction to this music.

Briggan Krauss: Descending to End. 1999. Knitting Factory Records: KFW-251.

Briggan Krauss: composer, reeds, electronics

Dark, stark and refreshingly noisy. I'm still a little stunned that free improvisation saxophonist Briggan Krauss has made a full-length electronic recording. But I'm not surprised that it reveals so many rich details with focused listening. With a malleable rhythmic sensibility and a crafted sonic soundscape built upon processed, echo heavy saxophone, drums (with plenty of reversed percussion sounds) and turntables Krauss coaxes a rich world from the recesses and crevasses of his musical intuition. He has a rare ability to get loud without abusing that end of the dynamic spectrum. This allows for coarse anger to flow through this music without short-circuiting introspection. "Encumbrance Essence" is a particularly good example of this. Composed with the sensibility of an improvising instrumentalist, this effort avoids the pitfalls of musique concrete and emerges as a musically satisfying work by remaining true to such compelling sensibilities.

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