Saturday, August 18, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: Three More Angles on Improvisation

Nels Cline: New Monastery: A view into the music of Andrew Hill. 2006. Cryptogramophone: CG130.

Nels Cline: guitar, effects
Bobby Bradford: cornet
Ben Goldberg: clarinets
Andrea Parkins: accordion, effects
Devin Hoff: contrabass
Scott Amendola: drumset, percussion
Alex Cline: percussion

One striking thing about the sound of these Andrew Hill compositions (plus a couple of Nels Cline originals in the mold of Andrew Hill's compositional sensibility) is the absence of piano. Hill's music takes so many interesting twists and turns in its arrangements and it isn't difficult to separate his ideas from the instrument he played. But with accordion as the only keyboard instrument in the mix - and Ben Goldberg's bass clarinet work having remarkable similarity to one-time Hill collaborator Eric Dolphy - this ensemble takes the music of Andrew Hill into a slightly different timbral direction and celebrates it with vigor. The effects employed by Nels Cline and Andrea Parkins never overwhelm the overall sound, but actually blend in a manner consistent with the aesthetic freedom and arranging pathos that makes this "view into" such a compelling listen.

The Bad Plus: Suspicious Activity? 2005. Columbia: CK 94740.

Reid Anderson: bass
Ethan Iverson: piano
David King: drums

Suspicious? With an emphasis on activity this piano trio has no fear of drilling into a deep rhythmic vein while allowing for surprising twists within these arrangements that leave a groove that's anything but mindless. While "Anthem for the Earnest" still has the most immediate appeal of anything I've heard over the past few years I'm starting to find interesting details that deliver considerable pleasure in "Prehensile Dream" and "Lost of Love."

Michael Zerang: Cedarhead. 2006. Al Maslakh: 06.

Michael Zerang: drums
performing duets with:
Sharif Sehnaoui: electric guitar
Mazen Kerbaj: trumpet
Raed Yassin: tapes & electronics
Christine Sehnaoui: alto saxophone
Charbel Haber: electric guitar
Jassem Hindi: electronics
Bechir Saade: nay (flute)

That the creativity of the Beirut improvised music scene should have to toil within an environment of destabilizing violence and the crushing interference and indifference of competing world powers is just one of the massive cultural tragedies that continues to unfold in this part of the world. That such a vital subculture can thrive - as evidenced by the astonishing beauty found on the Al Maslakh label - is a profound testament of the perseverance and raw survival instincts of art. Chicago-based drummer Michael Zerang writes movingly about editing these master recordings from his second trip to Beirut to play with these intense and talented players as the "July War" of 2006 was unfolding. With a personal connection he had developed to a community now again under fire the documentation of Cedarhead takes on an urgency and stark sonic beauty that reverberates throughout these seven improvisations. The religious and political differences that spark such unrest seems petty compared to the artistic expression that it imperils. With generous use of extended techniques each performance finds the timbral range of drums, electric guitar, trumpet, electronics, saxophone and flute pulled closer together for an astonishing intimacy of sound between these players. The brief improvisation between Zerang and guitarist Charbel Haber mines a particularly fascinating zone of interaction and sound.

3 comments:

Mwanji Ezana said...

Small typo: it's Goldberg on clarinet, not Bradford.

"The religious and political differences that spark such unrest seems petty compared to the artistic expression that it imperils."

I love how that sentence reverses the usual hierarchy.

Devin Hurd said...

Thanks for the kind words. And nice catch on the typo. Keep up the good torque at be.jazz.

matt field said...

just a note-on cline's hill cd they are all hill tunes-no cline tunes.

great blog!

matt