Wednesday, August 15, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: Jazz is a Four Letter Word

Anthony Braxton: Piano Quartet, Yoshi's 1994 - disc 2. 1996. Music & Arts: CD 849.

Anthony Braxton: piano(!)
Marty Ehrlich: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, clarinet
Joe Fonda: bass
Arthur Fuller: percussion

The use of standards serve as a jumping off point for some creative improvisation that often pushes well beyond all established practice for approaching the revered "standards" book. At times there are glimpses of what this quartet might have been if left completely unhinged from the grounding force of these familiar tunes. Joe Fonda and Marty Ehrlich are flat out outstanding. Sometimes that gets lost under the thunderous pounding that Braxton applies to the piano. This set from the group's week-long stint at Yoshi's in Oakland, California can be a thick tonic and my ears aren't always up to the task of sorting it out. There's good moments buried in this disc. But I expect more from Braxton's genius and the combination of jazz standards and his dynamically course pianism place some high barriers to hearing this one out at times. On this outing I'm not defeated, but left with some nagging disappointment.

Anthony Braxton 12+1tet: 9 Compositions (Iridium) 2006 - disc 1. Firehouse 12 Records: FH12-04-03-001.

Recorded live: March 16, 2006 at Iridium Jazz Club, New York City.

The Anthony Braxton 12+1tet
Anthony Braxton: composer, alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, sopranino saxophone, clarinet and Eb contalto clarinet
Taylor Ho Bynum: cornet, flugelhorn, trumpbone, piccolo trumpet, bass trumpet, shell
Andrew Raffo Dewar: soprano saxophone, c-melody saxophone, clarinet
James Fei: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet
Mary Halvorson: electric guitar
Stephen H. Lehman: alto saxophone, sopranino saxophone
Nicole Mitchell: flute, alto flute, bass flute, piccolo, voice
Jessica Pavone: viola, violin
Reut Regev: trombone, flugelbone
Jay Rozen: tuba, euphonium
Sara Schoenbeck: bassoon, suona
Aaron Siegel: percussion, vibraphone
Carl Testa: acoustic bass, bass clarinet

Disc 1 = Composition 350 - dedicated to the artist Emilio Cruz
This work of Ghost Trance Music is like a massive cubist painting as the multi-timbral possibilities of this large ensemble are unfolded from multiple perspectives over the course of an hour in thick gobs of pulse and sound. This is the media, and the aesthetic approach toward multiple parameters, that brings out the overwhelming genius and beauty of Anthony Braxton's deeply intricate compositional universe. There is a strong sonic similarity to Butch Morris's brilliant Conduction technique as large, group improvised swatches of sound sweep through this ensemble with some unseen direction (the linear notes speak of hand gestures used by Braxton and other members of this ensemble - another allusion to Conduction). This is a music that begs multiple hearings and complete submersion into this other-worldly force.

Eric Dolphy with Booker Little: Far Cry. 1960. Re-released in 1989. New Jazz Records: OJCCD-400-2.

Eric Dolphy: alto saxophone, bass clarinet, flute
Booker Little: trumpet
Jaki Byard: piano

Ron Carter: bass
Roy Haynes: drums

The recent discussion of Ron Carter at Do The Math had me longing to hear this one again. One of the great documents of what jazz was, is and could be. It kicks off with the full reedy sound of Dolphy on bass clarinet and Booker Little doubling in melodic unison on trumpet before splitting out into some jagged solos of intervallic leaps and bounds. The unaccompanied alto saxophone solo for "Tenderly" is even more stunning than I'd remembered. And I don't know why Jaki Byard isn't more of an obsession for me. I must seek out more of his recordings. The pairing of the lost far too young artists that get the top billing remains a big attraction to this sound. On repeated spins this disc reveals the depth of Dolphy's artistry with his original compositions "Far Cry," "Miss Ann" and "Serene." And there's Ron Carter, early in his long (happily long) recording career. I cannot fathom what jazz would sound like without his presence on recordings like this - just one of his reportedly 2,000 records.

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