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.

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