Friday, October 26, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: The Medium is the Messenger(s)

Elliott Sharp/Tectonics: Field & Stream. 1998. Knitting Factory Records: KFR-227.

Elliott Sharp: doubleneck guitarbass, bits and bytes, drum programming, tenor saxophone
Zeena Parkins: sampler, little green drone guitar
Frank Rothkamm: drums, bass

This one has always struck me as the more reserved and texturally nuanced of the three "Tectonics" releases. The electronica timbre pallet is more pronounced in the overall balance and drum programming technique while still retaining the abrasive turns that keep things from settling into the mundane qualities of much of the electronica genre. The final track, "Lithic" takes a complete departure from the forward motion of the rest of Field & Stream as it settles into a static processed electronic texture. It's a fitting coda for this studio effort from Elliott Sharp.

Ornette Coleman: The Empty Foxhole. 1966 (re-released in 1994). Blue Note Records: CDP 7243 8 28982 2 1.

Ornette Coleman: alto saxophone, trumpet, violin
Charlie Haden: bass
Denardo Coleman: drums

The mournful trumpet, played with the rough technique of Ornette Coleman, carefully and simply tracing out the melodic contours of the title track as a 10-year-old Denardo Coleman plays a simple pulse with Charlie Haden weaving the bass within the texture before this short track blossoms into a harmolodic haze is one of the rewarding moments uncovered as one spends time with this under valued (and often not listened to enough given the focus on the age and lineage of the drummer found in online reviews) Coleman recording. There's a quiet space between each performer as they paint with spare strokes. The timbre of Coleman's violin and trumpet playing takes some getting used to. But he's not turning to those instruments for a conventional sound or technique as Coleman's relative unfamiliarity with his secondary axes sheds a different light on the raw essence of his melodic sensibility.

Art Blakey/The Jazz Messengers: The Jazz Messengers at the Cafe Bohemia volume 1 & 2. 1955. Re-released in 2001. Blue Note Records: 7243 5 32148 2 1 & 7243 5 32149 2 0.

Art Blakey: drums
Kenny Dorham: trumpet
Hank Mobley: tenor saxophone
Horace Silver: piano
Doug Watkins: bass

It's hard to believe that mono can sound so good, but given the caliber of the players on this recording - all of them at the top of their game - there's plenty for the ears to drink in regardless of the number of channels. But for a monophonic recording it has remarkable clarity (thank you Rudy Van Gelder for being on the scene with the microphone at this gig). After an unusually hectic week at HurdAudio, these two discs are exactly what the brain needs to both unwind and simply marvel at the Kenny Dorham arrangements.

Speaking of Dorham, this is the recording that brought this great trumpet player into sharp focus as a player, composer and arranger at HurdAudio. While this is a quintet that could have made anything sound spectacular, it's these particular arrangements that make this listening experience into something transcendent from an evening that still gives off enormous luminescence more than half a century later.

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