Thursday, September 27, 2007

Scale of the Day: E Lydian augmented 5 1% narrow


The E Lydian augmented 5 1% narrow Scale. The standard equal tempered Lydian Augmented scale compressed into a narrow octave.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Scale of the Day: E Flat Lydian 2% wide


The intervallic content of the E Flat Lydian 2% wide Scale. While the specific numerical values change with the width-stretching procedure, the proportions remain intact, retaining many of the qualities of the equal tempered original. Which is hardly surprising given that, technically, this is also an "equal tempered" scale as well. It's just one that divides the 1224-cent stretched-octave rather than the familiar 2/1 1200-cent octave.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: Down on Earth

Brian Auger: Planet Earth Calling. 1981. Garland: GRZ010.

Studio recording with various combinations of the following:
Brian Auger: hammond organ, yamaha CP 70B, electric grand piano, prophet 5 synthesizer, rhodes electric piano, acoustic piano, miniMoog, cabasa, gogo bells, freeman string dymphoniser, tambourine, vocals, cowbell
Ho Young Kim: guitar
George Doering: guitar
Dave McDaniels: electric bass
Dave Crigger: drums
Steve Evans: electric bass
Tom Donlinger: drums
Terry Baker: drums
Michael Barsimanto: drums
Alex Ligertwood: vocals

It was difficult to contain my disappointment last time this one came up in the rotation. And it hasn't grown on me with a repeated spin. Which "augers" a fair question: why keep this one in the rotation at all? Sometimes one learns more from music that lets one down than from keeping too narrow a focus on things that one finds appealing.

So what is it about Planet Earth Calling that so consistently rubs me the wrong way? The musicianship is generally high on this recording. The arrangements are skillfully done, the solos are well executed and the production value is at a professional caliber. All the "failings" (which is entirely my opinion) fall within the compositional decisions made. Much of which are fueled by the horrifying mash-up of commercially bland genres. It doesn't "rock" and it's a bit too clean to pass for jazz (even though it was languishing in the "jazz" bin when I found it). By deliberately bending toward entertainment it ceases to be entertaining some 26 years after its recording date. Being familiar with Brian Auger's much more compelling records prior to this release compounds my disappointment.

Clusone Trio: An Hour With... 2000. HatHut: Hatology 554.

Recorded live at Kilen, Kulturhuset, Stockholm, Sweden on March 21, 1998.

Michael Moore
: alto saxophone, clarinet, melodica
Ernst Reijseger: cello
Han Bennink: drums

A single hour is only a taste of the range and improvisational sensibilities of this outstanding trio. With quiet, introspective moments woven around irreverent outbursts the minutes slip past along an engaging sequence of ideas and varied interpretations of familiar and unfamiliar tunes. The "bird" theme of including "The Peacocks" by Jimmy Rowles, "Duck" by Steve Lacy, "Duck" by Michael Moore, "Turkey in the Straw," "My Bird of Paradise" by Irving Berlin and "Baltimore Oriole" by Hoagy Carmichael weaves in a thread of unifying humor while flashing Moore's deep grasp of jazz history.

Martial Solal/Dave Douglas: Rue de Seine. 2006. CamJazz: CAM 5013.

Martial Solal: piano
Dave Douglas: trumpet

In all my Dave Douglas obsessing - from live shows to an insatiable appetite to scarf up every recording as leader and side man - this is the first time I've heard him play "Body and Soul" and "All the Things You Are." As a duo collaboration between two great creative souls separated by generations and continents one expects the standards to get a spin as a point of reference for such disparate talents. But the Rogers and Hart action comes late in this set. Only the final four tracks are standards. By the time the ears reach that side of the song book the air has already taken on a sheen from the generous interpretations of Solal and Douglas originals.

It's the trumpet and piano arrangements of the familiar Dave Douglas Quintet pieces that have the most immediate appeal for me. "For Suzannah" is done as a short piano solo. And it's the most amazing three minutes on this disc. Beyond that is the intriguing introduction to Solal's music (at least it's new to me). Even "Body and Soul" takes on a fresh, open quality as the collaborative energy carries over to the jazz war horses.

Scale of the Day: E Lydian augmented 5 2% wide


The E Lydian augmented 5 2% wide. Now with wider octaves. A whole 24-cents wider for a dissonant bite right at the interval of harmonic equivalence.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Scale of the Day: E Flat Lydian augmented 5 1% wide


The intervallic content of the E Flat Lydian augmented 5 1% wide Scale. This scale doubles-up on two different kind of expansion procedures as the augmented fifth degree turns the root triad into an augmented harmony while the added 1% width tugs all the intervals outward.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Variously Indeterminate

Relache with special guests The Zs @ the Sanctuary in the Fleisher Art Memorial, Philadelphia, PA
Sunday, September 23, 2007

Living Room Music by John Cage
December 1952 by Earle Brown
Ryoanji by John Cage
Grete by Christian Wolff
4 Systems by Earle Brown (performed by The Zs)
December 1952 by Earle Brown (performed by Relache with The Zs)

Relache opened up their 2007/2008 season with a program featuring three-quarters of the "New York School" as sonic arguments for compositional indeterminacy unfolded beautifully before the frescoes, saints and virgin Mary found within the old Church of the Evangelist sanctuary within the Fleisher Art Memorial. The faithful, focused interpretations of this music found a receptive congregation within the narrow sanctuary space that proved to be an ideal acoustic match for the warm, detached sonorities of this strain of American music.

Living Room Music is a pulsating work that makes use of found objects, voices and flute to create an inviting, playful sound. The soft texture of slapped knees, newspapers, plastic containers over whistles and spoken variations upon the phrase "once upon a time" shimmered with an unpretentious joy that set the tone for the afternoon concert.

December 1952 is one of the great graphic scores by Earle Brown that blurs the line between improvisation and indeterminacy as the wide range of interpretive freedoms extended toward the performers is counterbalanced by the singular shared focus upon the visual elements of the score. The spirited interpretation offered by Relache was a tantalizingly brief glimpse of the sonic beauty such an ensemble can coax from the sparse dashes and lines found upon a sheet of paper. The second performance of this same piece - this time augmented by the Zs - was an even more stunning sonic postcard.

Ryoanji was performed by Lloyd Shorter on oboe, Chris Hanning on percussion and three recordings of oboe with the playback controlled by other members of the Relache ensemble. Shorter performed his part from the back of the sanctuary while the other parts emanated from the front. The spatial elements of this piece offset the narrow timbral range of this haunting work. John Cage is such an endless source of amazing, beautiful music. I'm stunned at how often I'm struck by his ideas and how deeply his music affects me. This is a particularly beautiful piece that I was not yet familiar with.

Grete is a new work by Christian Wolff that was specifically commissioned by the Relache ensemble. As the final surviving member of the "New York School," Wolff is still composing new works that make use of indeterminacy. This particular performance was the highlight of the afternoon as Relache took advantage of the range of choices left to them by the composer to fashion a varied, multi-movement interpretation from the raw compositional materials as they applied a refined sense of balance and form. They also made good use of their ears as they reinforced the interdependence of the individual parts. This was a beautiful, joyous sonority that blossomed from the seeds of Living Room Music.

The Zs are a cross-over oddity with boundless potential. It's rare when a single ensemble can offer a credible conduit between chamber music and rock. The four members perform while facing each other within a tight square formation. Ben Greenberg's unamplified electric guitar was a particularly nice touch for their quiet interpretation of 4 Systems. The photocopies of the altered Earle Brown score left on the seats during intermission was suggestive of the band art found on fliers and posters stapled to telephone poles. This meshed well with the overall theme of unpretentious regard for art and found objects.

Scale of the Day: E Pythagorean Lydian 1% wide


The E Pythagorean Lydian 1% wide Scale. There's such a peculiar "out-of-tune" quality to the sound of this scale. The already larger than equal-tempered intervals are pushed even wider by the otonal 3-limit (pre-stretched) intervals along with the wide octaves that strike the ear in odd ways.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: Razumovsky and Jalapeno Diplomacy

Ludwig van Beethoven: The Complete Quartets, volume III. Performed by the Orford String Quartet in 1986. Delos: DE 3033.

String Quartet in F Major, Op. 59, No. 1 ("Razumovsky")
String Quartet in A Major, Op. 18, No. 5

Andrew Dawes: violin
Kenneth Perkins: violin
Terence Helmer: viola
Denis Brott: cello

Opus 59 is the main attraction for me on this disc as this first of the three "Russian" quartets is such an outstanding mash-up of Classical and Romantic sensibilities. There are some abrupt transitions, unresolved dissonances and arrested harmonic transitions that keep this one interesting. In the wake of that piece, the Opus 18 feels like a polite, after-dinner work that squares away with familiar Classical conventions.

Albert Ayler: Holy Ghost [box set] disc 2. 2004. Revenant Records: 213.

Albert Ayler Trio - June 14, 1964 at the Cellar Cafe, NYC
Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone
Gary Peacock: bass
Sunny Murray: drums

Albert Ayler Quartet - September 3, 1964 at Cafe Montmartre, Copenhagen, Denmark
Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone
Don Cherry: cornet
Gary Peacock: bass
Sunny Murray: drums

Burton Greene Quintet - February 1966 at Slugs', NYC
Burton Greene: piano
Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone
Frank Smith: tenor saxophone
Steve Tintweiss: bass
Rashid Ali: drums

Once Ayler found his sound and his signature tone on the tenor he augmented the entire experience with the kindred spirits of his ensembles. This time through disc 2 I'm simply floored by Gary Peacock. How cool would it be to have Peacock and Sunny Murray in your rhythm section? And then you add Don Cherry for the Copenhagen set and come away with some outrageous creative fire. The loss of Ayler in 1970 seems more acute when you consider the careers of Peacock, Murray and Cherry over the span after 1964. The single track from the Burton Greene Quintet is a raging torrent of sonic fury with Ayler screaming (via his tenor) in the thick of it.

Tim Berne: Mind over Friction (collection, the): A re-issue of the classic Science Friction Live and Studio Recordings. 2001, 2003. Screwgun: sc700018.

Tim Berne: alto saxophone
Tom Rainey: drums
Craig Taborn: rhodes piano, laptop computer, virtual oragan
Marc Ducret: electric guitar, acoustic guitar

I've heard precious little of Tim Berne's music, but what little has hit my eardrums has been profoundly enjoyable enough to prod a deeper listening. And with this triple-CD re-issue of the Science Friction material I have a chance to drink from the fire hose of Berne's creative output. Or in this case, take a direct shot at point blank from a Screwgun.

With tightly wound compositions, improvisations, and dense, shifting textures Berne crafts a loud musical territory that is as much progressive rock as it is jazz - if not more on the prog side of the equation. The live sets found on discs 2 and 3 stretch the material out along much longer durations than the studio recording of the first disc. But there's a surprising continuity of sound between the David Torn post-processed mixes and the live recordings with Craig Taborn's electronic sounds and rhodes piano balancing well against Marc Ducret's intense guitar material. I'm stunned at how relentless this music is and how profoundly appealing it all is. These four players are incredible musicians. Music this complicated would be a complete disaster with anything less than what these guys bring to the mix and I'm anxious to hear more.

European Echoes on the Gibson

Bern Nix Trio @ An Die Musik, Baltimore, MD
Saturday, September 22, 2007

Bern Nix: guitar
Francios Grillot: bass
Jackson Krall: drums

"I'd now like to play 'European Echoes,' which is a piece composed by my former employer..." Having only recently discovered "European Echoes" myself, it was a pleasure to hear it within a guitar trio context led by Bern Nix, a former Prime Time guitarist with the enviable experience of being employed and immersed within the harmolodic world of Ornette Coleman. It's an excellent choice from the Coleman oeuvre for the melodic talents of Nix.

Jazz guitarists don't get more unassuming than Bern Nix. With incredible focus on phrasing, linear improvisation and an approach to the music that sits squarely within the tradition, Nix allows the substance of his playing to speak for him. With a set list comprised of original compositions mixed in with interpretations of gems such as "European Echoes," he displayed an impressive improvisational sensibility for boundless melodic development and an uncanny ability to return into the original "tune" from unexpected angles.

Overall, the balance was a little off with this trio with Krall's drumming often overwhelming the trio sound as things settled into a narrow dynamic range. There was a liquid quality to this music as the players filled every moment with sound, leaving precious little space in the overall sonic picture. At the end of each piece the music would quickly wash away with a froth like an ocean wave retreating from a beach as the trio navigated through brief codas with minimal flourish. It was the texture of those fleeting moments when the players would pry gently away from the formal structure of the "tunes" that delivered the sense of contrast missing from most of this set.

Scale of the Day: E Lydian mapped to the Cube-root-of-2


The E Lydian mapped to the Cube-root-of-2 Scale. All the bright, Lydian flavor packed within each equal tempered major third. The equal tempered major third becomes the new harmonic equivalence, which plays some cognitive tricks on the ear as three consecutive 400-cent major thirds forms a 1200-cent octave - the more traditional interval of harmonic equivalence.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Scale of the Day: E Flat Lydian mapped to the 3/2


The intervallic content of the E Flat Lydian mapped to the 3/2 Scale. All the proportions of the standard, equal-tempered Lydian found within the just perfect fifth.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Scale of the Day: E Lydian augmented 5 mapped to the 3/2


The E Lydian augmented 5 mapped to the 3/2 Scale. Despite the augmented fifth degree, this scale is compressed to fit within the 3/2 just perfect fifth. This kind of cross-purpose appeals to my (twisted?) sensibilities. Cognitively, there is little trace of the augmented tonality as the unfamiliarity of the 3/2-as-harmonic-equivalence pulls the ears into an unusual harmonic territory.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: From A Window I Can See A Beautiful and Pastoral Day

Wayne Horvitz/4+1 Ensemble: From A Window. 2001. Disk Union: Avan 080.

Wayne Horvitz: composer, piano, prepared piano, hammond B-3, pump organ, synthesizers, toy piano
Eyvind Kang: violin, viola
Tucker Martine: live electronic processing, live drum machine
Julian Priester: trombone
Reggie Watts: keyboards, vocals, live drum machine, piano
Skerik: baritone saxophone

Wayne Horvitz nails such a unique balance on this disc. An exquisitely quiet sound filled with so much electronic detail and live sound manipulation with plenty of breathing room for the melodic contours and great arrangements to weave throughout the sound. And for all its restraint and brittle, quiet details, there's a deeply satisfying sense of rhythmic groove that keeps the ears buoyant and the foot tapping.

Andrew Hill: A Beautiful Day. 2002. Palmetto Records: PM 2085.

Andrew Hill: piano
Scott Colley: bass
Nasheet Waits: drums
Aaron Stewart: tenor saxophone
John Savage: alto saxophone, flute
Marty Ehrlich: alto saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet, flute
Greg Tardy: tenor saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet
J.D. Parron: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet
Ron Horton: trumpet
Dave Ballou: trumpet
Laurie Frinck: trumpet
Bruce Staalens: trumpet
Charlie Gordon: trombone
Joe Fiedler: trombone
Mike Fahn: trombone
Jose D'Avila: tuba

A beautiful day indeed. The crowd seems severely under-enthused given the caliber of playing and arranging being presented in this live set at New York's Birdland. But then, Andrew Hill's genius is found in the understatement that marks so much of his work. These pieces are packed with so many ideas that it's amazing how light and unencumbered they feel. With so much to focus on with this 16-piece ensemble - with generous helping of sub-groups and solos - I find my ears drawn to the drumming of Nasheet Waits this time around. Outstanding. Not to mention the tasty flute and bass clarinet timbres.

Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 6 in F major (op. 68) "Pastorale". Recorded by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in 1993. Conducted by Mark Ermler. The International Music Company: 205298-305.

Of all the Beethoven Symphonies, the appeal of the sixth seems the least immediate somehow. First of all, it's the most familiar, the most abused by "background music" operations and advertising by far as it gets diced and excerpted as some kind of shorthand for "idyllic" or "tranquil." Then there is the whole "pastoral" element, standing in sharp contrast to the explosive energy of the fifth symphony. It seems "less serious." Though as it turns out, the whole pastoral, peaceful quality is deceptive. Because when taken as a whole - as Beethoven wrote it long before Madison Avenue stripped it of all formal consequence - this one sneaks up and slowly reveals itself for the brilliant orchestration, compositionally balanced conception and beautiful harmonic development that it is.

uTopian Turtletop recently shared his listening experience with this work.

Scale of the Day: E Flat Lydian augmented 5 mapped to the Triative


The intervallic content of the E Flat Lydian augmented 5 mapped to the Triative Scale. The raised fifth causes a slight ripple within the sequence of intervals.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Scale of the Day: E Pythagorean Lydian mapped to the Triative


The E Pythagorean Lydian mapped to the Triative Scale. The process of mapping the Pythagorean just intervals within a 3/1 expanse involves swapping out the 1200-cent value of the 2/1 (octave) with the 1901.96-cent value of the 3/1. For example: the 3/2 perfect fifth is 701.96-cents in octave-space (1200 * (base-2-log of 3/2) = 701.96). In triative space the 3/2 is re-mapped to 1112.57-cents (1901.96 * (base-2-log of 3/2) = 1112.57). After setting the math aside, the intervals are fascinating to listen to.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Scale of the Day: E Flat Pythagorean Lydian mapped to the Square-root-of-2


The intervallic content of the E Flat Pythagorean Lydian mapped to the Square-root-of-2 Scale. This is a fine-tuning of a would-be quarter-tone scale.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: Tenor, Alto and Latin Prayers

Ellery Eskelin: Vanishing Point. 2001. Hat Hut Records: hatOLOGY 577.

Ellery Eskelin: tenor saxophone
Mat Maneri: viola
Erik Friedlander: cello
Mark Dresser: bass
Matt Moran: vibraphone

Ah, the sweet sounds of Eskelin's tenor with strings. But this isn't the saccharine, faceless wash of backing strings over sinewy show tune melodies any more than Matt Moran's vibraphone is a "heavy metal" addition to this sound. This is a meeting of five equals as each spontaneously contributes to the final sound. And putting five great improvisers in a studio together is a winning formula. This one even more so. There's some big ears, big chops and lot of surprising moments on this disc.

Ornette Coleman: Sound Grammar. 2006. Sound Grammar: SG11593.

Ornette Coleman: saxophone, violin, trumpet
Denardo Coleman: drums, percussion
Gregory Cohen: bass
Tony Falanga: bass

We should all sound this good at age 76. Ornette Coleman keeps the harmolodic fires burning with this great quartet. With a melodic sensibility and improvisational genius that has never stopped evolving as Coleman is completely "on" for this live set in Ludwigshafen, Germany. The texture of one arco bass, one pizzicato bass, and the loose-yet-centered drumming of Denardo Coleman is an ideal sonic bed for Ornette's sonic language. Everything he's ever done will always be compared to those breakout Atlantic recordings. One should not be blinded by his brilliant past when drinking in his thrilling recent outings.

Giacinto Scelsi: Natura Renovatur. 2005. ECM: New Series 1963/476 3106.

Francis-Marie Uitti: cello (on all tracks)
Munchener Kammerorchester:
Christoph Poppen: conductor
Muriel Cantoreggi, Max Peter meis, Romuald Kozik, Clara Baek, Michaela Buchholz, Viktor Konjaev, Bernhard Jestl, Mary Mader: violins
Kelvin Hawthorne, Nancy Sullivan, Stefan Berg, Aidan Pendleton: violas
Peter Bachmann, Michael Weiss, Benedikt Jira, Claudia Weiss: cellos
Veronika Papai: double-bass

Ohoi for 16 strings (1966)
Ave Maria for violoncello solo (1970) from: Three Latin Prayers for solo voice
Anagamin for 11 strings
Ygghur for voiloncello solo (1961) from Trilogy - The three ages of Man
Natura renovatur for 11 strings (1967)
Alleluja for voiloncello solo (1970)

While each work in this collection is an astonishing piece of shimmering beauty - each well recorded and superbly performed - it is the solo pieces played by Francis-Marie Uitti that are the most devastating in this collection. Ygghur for solo cello being the most intense, focused work of them all. Given the unique working relationship formed between Uitti and Scelsi and the depths of Scelsi's creativity and spiritual focus that Uitti plumbs with so much authenticity I can only wish that ECM had had the courage to make this a full length CD of solo cello music. But given a choice between exquisite versus devastatingly exquisite this is a small complaint. The strains of Alleluja from Three Latin Prayers for solo voice that Uitti lovingly unfolds at the close of this listening experience painfully superb.

Scale of the Day: E Lydian minor 2 mapped to the Square-root-of-2


The E Lydian minor 2 mapped to the Square-root-of-2 Scale. The tonal gravity of scale degrees a quarter-tone above and below the tonic is unusually strong (and the tonic is found at every "tritone" in Square-root-of-2 harmonic space).

Electric Junk Hits The Street

Electric Junk Band @ The Atomic Stage, Hampdenfest, Baltimore, MD
September 15, 2007

The Electric Junk Band knows how to distribute their creative cycles. With feet and spare drum sticks to go around all the percussive time-keeping elements are spread around the trio. Even the guitar strings and Realistic synthesizer are subjected to a good smack from the mallets from time to time. Even breath is harnessed into the service of sound with harmonicas and a kazoo.

The slip-shod roughness and deliciously unpolished sound gives this Delta Blues outfit surprising charm and credibility. Pushing through an equally rough patch of technical issues at the onset of their set, with various parts of the band popping between extremes of amplified and inaudible, the quirky unpolished gem began to emerge before the backdrop of the setting sun behind the Falls Street traffic light cycles. At the fringe of the Hampdenfest - a street fair for a community that revels in fringe - capping off both the Avenue and conclusion of the festival it was hard to imagine a more fitting final impression than this abundance of quirk and rattle.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Scale of the Day: E Flat Lydian minor 2


The intervallic content of the E Flat Lydian minor 2 Scale. One of the interesting harmonic artifacts of this altered scale is in the sequence of fourths - tritone, tritone, perfect fourth, perfect fourth, perfect fourth, diminished fourth, perfect fourth, tritone - that points toward some interesting properties to bring out in performance. The presence of the extra "tritone" along with the harmonic ambiguity of the equal tempered diminished fourth (which can cognitively pass for a major third) sets up some unusual situations. Also, the minor second and augmented fourth degrees help eliminate the all-too-common ii-V-I progression by completely altering the subdominant/dominant properties of those harmonies.

Chamber Music/Extended Technique/Creative Improvisation Synthesis @ An Die Musik

Vincent Courtois/Sylvie Courvoisier/Ellery Eskelin Trio @ An Die Musik, Baltimore, MD
September 14, 2007

Vincent Courtois: cello
Sylvie Courvoisier: piano
Ellery Eskelin: tenor saxophone

From the first deliberate sound of the opening set - a natural harmonic from a piano string with one hand muting the node and the other bringing the hammer solidly against the string from the keyboard - Sylvie Courvoisier
possessed an aggressive and uncontainable creative edge that had her springing from the piano bench. Even the idiosyncratic creaks and squeaks from that very bench were seized upon as a coherent answer - and brilliant accompaniment - to Courtois's amplified micro-sound explorations on the cello.

The convergence upon the similarities of bow scrapes, tenor keypads and a piano bench is just one example of the reactive approach toward improvisation that marks the textural territory mined by this fantastic trio. These master improvisers fill the sonic canvas by matching one another and making transitions through subtraction and addition as they tastefully withdraw their own contributions to expose duos and solos before finding a new texture to match. Vincent Courtios made his own "perfect pitch" abundantly clear several times as he answered several gestures with an exact match of his own.

Ellery Eskelin has made a career out of crafting and creating situations that allow these kinds of textures to emerge and transform. Much of this is well documented (and quietly emerging as a point of fixation at HurdAudio) as he has developed an approach toward weaving his own sound and impulse into an astonishing range of situations. Here, his linear contributions and deft pointillistic exchange made for a nice counterbalance to the elastic timbral explorations of the piano and cello. The moments of piano and tenor saxophone duos that emerged from time to time within these free improvisations took on beautiful, Messiaen-like hues.

The use of amplification brought out an interesting dimension to Vincent Courtois's cello sound. As the only amplified instrument on stage, it wasn't used to "compete" with the piano and saxophone volumes. It did bring out the micro-sounding world of cello string and body sounds as scrapes and percussive taps were brought into sharp focus. The dynamic use of the volume pedal had me wondering how such technique might be employed for the extended piano sounds. And in a moment of improvisative generosity, Courtois angled his cello so that the contact microphone would pick up Eskelin or Courvoisier's playing, adding the resonance of the body of the cello and the emanation from the amplifier to the overall sonic image. This worked particularly well.

Sylvie Courvoisier has impressively integrated extended techniques into her overall approach. Each movement toward the inner guts of the piano was a natural part of her sound. With mallets, gaffer tape, metal balls and picks within easy reach she shaped the piano sounds with an even consistency no matter what method was employed to vibrate the piano wire. There was a period of strummed chords across the strings with the harmonic tones silently depressed from the keyboard - a technique reminiscent of Henry Cowell's Aeolean Harp - that unfolded with fantastic spontaneity and textural logic. The restlessness of constantly folding new material and timbres into her playing combined with an unfaltering deliberateness that made the live Courvoisier experience a revelation.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Scale of the Day: E Pythagorean Lydian diminished 5


The E Pythagorean Lydian diminished 5 Scale. It's been a while since there's been a 'scale of the day' with the Pythagorean comma. It's one of my favorite intonational anomolies that has the diminished fifth 22.46-cents lower than the augmented fourth, creating the unusual situation of adjacent tones on an ascending scale that physically descend.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

People Get Ready - Guelph Jazz Festival + Colloquium 2007

2007 Guelph Jazz Festival + Colloquium
Guelph, Ontario, Canada
September 5 - 9

Back in 1705, Johan Sebastian Bach made the 290-mile trek by foot from Arnstadt to Lubeck to hear Dieterich Buxtehude play organ. Not to compare myself to the old master, but I do understand the impulse. With Anthony Braxton on the schedule for the 2007 Guelph Jazz Festival the 500-mile journey was well worth the drive. Add in Myra Melford, Charlie Haden, Mark Dresser, Curtis Fowlkes, Carla Bley, Matt Wilson, Marianne Trudel, Catherine Potter, Nels Cline, Taylor Ho Bynum - just to name an impressive sampling - and I have to wonder if Bach's return trip was as blissful.

It is a credit to the vision and ideals of artistic director Ajay Heble that this small college town in southern Ontario makes a habit of hosting such a vibrant gathering each year. It's the consistency of bringing in the brightest and most exciting talents from around the world that draws in an enthusiastic and passionate audience. Many of the big city jazz festivals should take note of this consistency. The open exchange of ideas and dialogue in the accompanying colloquium fills out the music-rich experience by providing a forum for thoughtful practitioners who have a great deal to say about their art.

There was a rare warmth from each of the performers I saw that leads me to believe they were treated well during their time in Guelph. Their "thank yous" to the festival organizers, volunteers and the audience seemed genuine. The venues were acoustically outstanding. The technical production values were excellent. And the "friendly experiencers" were engaged, informed and receptive. I'm going to miss standing at the front of the line for a 10:30am Anthony Braxton concert with people who intuitively understand the profound appeal of an early morning performance by Anthony Braxton. Even if Nels Cline kept them up until 2:00am the night before. I'm going to miss the pleasant realization that Pauline Oliveros is sitting directly behind me at a concert and Peter Brotzmann is just off to my right. I can't wait to see who they schedule next year. Until then, I'll have to submit my own papers on "improvisativity," apply for a press pass or put on J.S. Bach's walking shoes.

Scale of the Day: A Flat Octave subdivided: 2 equal [2 equal/2 equal]


The A Flat Octave subdivided: 2 equal [2 equal/2 equal] Scale as one would find it on any conventionally tuned, equal tempered instrument. This scale happens to trace out the harmony of the A flat diminished chord. Which is not surprising given that a sequence of equal tempered minor thirds divides the octave into four equal segments.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

People Get Ready - Guelph Jazz Festival + Colloquium 2007: Anthony Braxton - Diamond Curtain Wall Trio + One

Anthony Braxton - Diamond Curtain Wall Trio + One @ Guelph Youth Music Centre, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, September 9, 2007

Anthony Braxton: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, sopranino saxophone, contrabass clarinet
Taylor Ho Bynum: trumpet, piccolo trumpet, flugelhorn, alto trumpet, trombone, conch shell
Mary Halvorson: guitar
Kyle Brenders: saxohpones

The triple dose of weekend Braxton concluded with a small ensemble incarnation with the multi-faceted composer/multi-instrumentalist/academic/thinker putting on a clinic of raw interactive creative energy. On stage with Anthony Braxton were three players up for the "improvisative" experience and a notebook computer running Supercollider that was more reactive than actively engaged.

For some reason, I've been exposed to a lot of "Supercollider" live performances this past year. Very few of them are worth writing about. Anthony Braxton deftly avoided the many pitfalls this piece of software draws out from other "performers" by limiting its role to an interactive function. In effect, it added a subtle layer of resonance to the sound based upon the live input of the performers.

But it was the energetic, exquisite "input" that made this performance so profoundly amazing. Watching Braxton and Bynum match frenetic, high octane bursts at one another as each performer stretched fearlessly into aggressively reactive territories relative to one another made for a fitting concluding concert after a weekend of creative highlights and thought provoking words and deeds.

People Get Ready - Guelph Jazz Festival + Colloquium 2007: Nels Cline and G.E. Stinson

Nels Cline and G.E. Stinson @ Mitchell Hall, St. George's Anglican Church, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, September 8, 2007

Nels Cline: guitar, effects
G.E. Stinson: guitar, effects

Nels Cline and G.E. Stinson offered up a sonic catalogue of the number of ways one might vibrate the strings of an electric guitar without actually strumming it. Though Cline did manage to work in some aggressive strumming into the sounding tapestry as well from time to time. With a vast arsenal of foot pedals and knobs employed to sculpt the evolving drone texture these two players with a long history of playing together worked with intuitive and collaborative ease.

They also have a flare for mature, creative improvisation with taste as they never sustained their forays into loud territory despite having more than enough amplification at their disposal for mad plunges into pain. Their sense of dynamic contrast allowed for rich details to swirl over the long durations of their set.

G.E. Stinson spent a great deal of time crouched spider-like at the floor as he worked the knobs and pedals spread out on the floor before him. And before long a spider of the true arachnid variety came down from the church attic to find a perch upon Nels Cline's head for an enviable perspective upon the sonic action.

The duo concluded the evening with a short improvisation with tantalizing harmonic potential. Stinson affixed metal clips to his guitar strings just over the body of the instrument so that a slight jarring of the guitar caused an intriguing chord to materialize and shimmer as the clips shook the strings from their nodal perches. That's an intriguing extended technique worth revisiting.

People Get Ready - Guelph Jazz Festival + Colloquium 2007: Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra featuring Carla Bley

Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra featuring Carla Bley @ River Run Centre, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, September 8, 2007

Charlie Haden: bass
Carla Bley: piano, arrangements
Chris Cheek: tenor saxophone
Tony Malaby: tenor saxophone
Miguel Zenon: alto saxophone
Michael Rodriguez: trumpet
Seneca Black: trumpet
Curtis Fowlkes: trombone
Vincent Chancey: french horn
Joe Daley: tuba
Steve Cardenas: guitar
Matt Wilson: drums

The Liberation Music Orchestra is one of the few bands that gives me chills just stepping out onto the stage. If you love this music and know the history of the players assembling before your eyes the goosebumps are involuntary. When you add the anticipation of the stirring patriotic and protest music - music motivated by a love of the human spirit and a sadness for the ways that spirit continues to be assaulted by current political realities - this becomes a revival meeting for the soul.

This live experience has ignited an intense curiosity for the music and life of Carla Bley. Carla Bley as the arranger of this exquisitely melodic, beautiful music. Carla Bley as pianist. Carla Bley as an unbelievable presence on stage with these deeply talented players. It's time to comb the vinyl stores for every scrap of music this woman has brought into being. It's hard to imagine a more under-celebrated visionary.

Haden drew heavily from his remarkable Not In Our Name material with knockout renditions of "This Is Not America," the "America the Beautiful (Medley)" and "Amazing Grace" along with the ensemble's classic blues take on "We Shall Overcome" that marked their beginnings almost forty years ago. This is music with deep roots and even deeper convictions.

People Get Ready - Guelph Jazz Festival + Colloquium 2007: Trio M - Myra Melford, Mark Dresser, Matt Wilson

Trio M @ Guelph Youth Music Centre, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, September 8, 2007

Myra Melford: piano, composer
Mark Dresser: bass
Matt Wilson: drums

Trio M marks Myra Melford's triumphant return to the piano trio format. The trio she led in the early '90s with bassist Lindsey Horner and drummer Reggie Nicholson recorded some amazing music that I still listen to with great regularity. After working with a range of extended ensembles, exploring more open-ended improvisation forms in a variety of contexts and spending time studying in India she has returned to her "roots" with bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Matt Wilson to form what is easily the best piano trio I've ever seen live. With all new compositions that mix structured melodic material with free improvisation and a stunning amount of blues this was hands down the best concert of the festival. I came away from this performance in a daze of amazement, as did much of the audience under a spell that lingered well after the last note had faded away into the ether.

Mark Dresser is a phenomenal bassist. His integration of extended techniques is well documented and he's still finding ways to pull new sounds out of his instrument. In this performance he had additional pickup microphones up near the top of the neck of his bass that allow the difference tone - the length of string between where it is stopped and the top of the instrument - to ring out with eerie effect. It was an effect he used sparingly that added an interesting dimension to his sound.

Matt Wilson is possibly the happiest drummer on the planet. Who can blame him given the kind of people he's playing with. With an animated grin and laughter as part of his drum kit he was the most engaged and engaging drummer of the festival. And he would later impress me even more as the drummer of the Charlie Haden Liberation Orchestra later the evening.

The sounding fabric that joined these three instruments together was seamless as Melford's percussive playing blended with Wilson's drumming while weaving deftly within and around the harmonic registers shared with the wide ranging Mark Dresser. This trio sounded more unified than seems possible given the difference in timbre of these instruments. With performances like this one it's easy to explain why I hold Myra Melford in such high esteem.

Scale of the Day: G Ionian 1% narrow


The G Ionian 1% narrow Scale. Here's another example of a deliberately and systematically de-tuned equal tempered "major" scale. This time the interval sizes are compressed.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: Japanese and American Voices

Shonen Knife: Brand New Knife. 1997. MCA Victor/Big Deal: 9035-2.

Naoko Yamano: vocals, guitar, melotron
Michie Nakatani: vocals, bass
Atsuko Yamano: vocals, drums, percussion

It's not all heady jazz and dusty classical in the HurdAudio rotation. And there are times when the ears need some candy.

There's something undeniably pleasant about this strange mix of an all-grrl punk trio filtered through the cultural lens of Japanese-to-English translation. The quirky song subject material (roller coasters, fear of frogs, boredom, eating healthy, etc.) combined with the non-native English language with it's "off" tenses and rhythms makes for several amusing moments. The draining of the concrete baggage of language that results is a positive byproduct. The seven "bonus" tracks of the original Japanese versions of these songs allows one to hear the startling difference in vocal delivery between the two languages.

Brian Sacawa: American Voices. 2007. Innova: 675.

Brian Sacawa: saxophones

Piece in the Shape of a Square by Philip Glass
Pre-Amnesia by Lee Hyla
Pastlife Laptops and Attic Instruments by Erik Spangler
Netherlandi by Chris Theofanidis
Bacchanalia Skiapodorum by Derek Hurst
Voice Within Voice by Keeril Makan
The Low Quartet by Michael Gordon

Yo, Brian! Wassup! When's that Hybrid Groove Project disc gonna drop? I'm diggin' that Pastlife Laptops and Attic Instruments and all and looking forward to some fresh beats from the Dubble8... Actually, after hearing Pastlife live a few times and spinning American Voices in the rotation the integration of groove and turntable technique with Sacawa's tone and sensibility draws the ears deeper into promising territory yet to be fully explored.

I'm also struck by Derek Hurst's Bacchanalia Skipodorum this time through American Voices. The timbral similarity between the electronic sounds and the saxophone is explored to great effect. The placement of live saxophone (with light reverberation) within the electronic soundscape helps accentuate the rhythmic qualities of this piece's construction as Sacawa threads his way through the electronic jungle.

Joe Lovano Ensemble: Streams of Expression. 2006. Blue Note Records: 946 3 41092 2.

Joe Lovano: composer, arranger, tenor saxophone, alto clarinet, aulochrome
Gunther Schuller: composer, conductor, arranger
Tim Hagans: trumpet
Barry Ries: trumpet
Larry Farrell: trombone
Steve Slagle: alto saxophone, flute, soprano saxophone
George Garzone: tenor saxophone
Ralph Lalama: tenor saxophone, clarinet
Gary Smulyan: baritone saxophone
John Hicks: piano
Dennis Irwin: bass
Lewis Nash: drums
Charles Russo: clarinet, bass clarinet
Michael Parloff: flute
James Weidman: piano

This disc succeeds on so many different levels it's scary. A focused listening is enough to come away smitten by this music. The brilliantly arranged and composed "The Birth of the Cool Suite" by Gunther Schuller is centerpiece of this listening experience. This gem is surrounded by movements from Lovano's own "Streams of Expression" composition along with three smaller ensemble pieces mixed in to fill out the outstanding sequence of music that unfolds over this disc. The range of small and large ensembles gives this one a nice range of density. And its the use of density that makes the Gunther Schuller's writing so deeply engaging. Beyond the compositional riches there is also a wealth of great improvisation from Lovano (and the rest of his ensemble too, but Lovano's playing is on a whole other plane here). I'd give this one an A+, four stars and a 10 out of 10 or whatever metric one uses to measure quality.

People Get Ready - Guelph Jazz Festival + Colloquium 2007: Catherine Potter - Duniya Project

Catherine Potter - Duniya Project @ Guelph Youth Music Centre, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, September 8, 2007

Catherine Potter: composer/arranger, bansuri flutes
Thom Gossage: drums
John Gzowski: guitar
Nicolas Caloia: bass
Subir Dev: tabla

With a rare blending of East Indian Classical traditions and Western Jazz that lends equal weight and musicianship toward both improvised musics, the Duniya Project makes for one vibrant and exciting quintet. Catherine Potter led this group through a long set of tight, well-rehearsed music with generous space extended toward each performer. An automated tamboura provided a steady drone while the music flowed seamlessly through a wide range of densities, hypnotic solos and soaring melodic materials. The balance and blending of wooden flutes within the texture of drums, bass, guitar and tabla made for a great sound. And the energetic "trading 4's" between the drummer and tabla player was a brilliant display of creative musicianship.

People Get Ready - Guelph Jazz Festival + Colloquium 2007: Double Bill - Anthony Braxton with AIMToronto Orchestra & William Parker Ensemble

Anthony Braxton + AIMToronto Orchestra/William Parker Ensemble @ River Run Centre, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
Friday, September 7, 2007

Anthony Braxton: composer, conductor, reeds
Christine Duncan: voice
Rob Piilonen, Ronda Rindone, Kyle Brenders, Evan Shaw, Colin Fisher: woodwinds
Nicole Rampersaud: trumpet
Scott Thomson: trombone
Ken Aldercroft, Justin Haynes: guitar
Parmela Attariwala: violin
Tilman Lewis: cello
Rob Clutton, Victor Bateman: bass
Tania Gill: piano
Nick Fraser, Joe Sorbara, Brandon Valdivia: percussion

The headlining performance of the Guelph Jazz Festival followed up the morning dose of Anthony Braxton as lecturer with an evening of Anthony Braxton as composer and conductor as the 18-piece AIMToronto Orchestra played an early species of Braxton's Ghost Trance Music. The multitude of musical influences at work were clearly evident as a thick synthesis of several traditions. With an assortment of notations, hand gestures and messages written on a portable white-board displayed to the ensemble at key moments this performance was an elaborately orchestrated group improvisation. And the sonic colors were stunning.

The presence of text, performed by vocalist Christine Duncan, was an unusual element I've not heard in Braxton's Ghost Trance Musics before. The words and sentences shared similar qualities to the melodic phrases that rippled throughout the changing textures. This was a thick, detail-rich sound that benefited from the energetic and earnest approach of this large ensemble.

The interchangeability of the roles of conductor and performer added a democratic quality to this music as performers would occasionally take over directing responsibilities for sub-groups within the ensemble and Braxton would occasionally pick up a saxophone to insert a short layer into the overall sound. The role of conductor was not taken up by most members of the ensemble, and for all the appearance of democracy the overall sound of this music was pure Braxton as the individual performers submitted to the overall collective sound. The lack of individual "solos" (in the traditional sense) in favor of a group sound construction seems to be a conscious mark of Ghost Trance music. In an odd way, it feels like Braxton's soloist logic projected into a group dynamic. The sound masses that result are fascinating.

William Parker: composer, bass
Amiri Baraka: poetry
Leena Conquest: voice, dance
Dave Burrell: piano
Lewis Barnes: trumpet
Darryl Foster: tenor saxophone
Sabir Mateen: tenor saxophone
Hamid Drake: drums

"The Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield"

This extended, single-movement suite - loosely constructed around the civil rights themes from the songs of Curtis Mayfield - contained many compelling component parts.

Hamid Drake, in particular, was the strongest element as his intense, joy-filled drumming and Max Roach inspired solos (the performance was dedicated to the late drummer) was simply incredible to behold. It was nearly impossible not to focus on his playing throughout this performance.

Amiri Baraka launched into a "Who Broke America?" diatribe that was a relentless laundry list of rage and grievance over centuries of American failures and short comings. Woven in over steady wall of improvised sound from the ensemble this long list was powerful and sobering.

Each member of this ensemble contributed some incredible playing toward this sound. And Leena Conquest even launched into some dance that flowed beautifully over the dense textures. But the overall work felt rough and under-rehearsed. Dave Burrell played some brilliant solos early on before getting completely buried underneath the sound by the end.

The use of physical space was particularly puzzling. Hamid Drake occupied an island of space all to himself in the center of this large stage. While the horns were at a distant stage right, the vocalist and poet at front stage left-center, William Parker lurking well behind the horns and the pianist way out at stage left. There was a lot of empty space between these players that resulted in a disconnect between the strengths of the individual parts.

There was a great piece within this composition waiting to be coaxed out with more practice and interplay between these impressive talents that just begged for the individual parts to merge into a cohesive whole.