Friday, November 23, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: Of Signs, War and Seafaring

Sylvie Courvoisier: Signs and Epigrams. 2007. Tzadik: TZ 8033.

Sylvie Courvoisier: piano

This disc is everything I'd hoped to hear after seeing Sylvie Courvoisier perform earlier this year. There's the same deliberateness to this sound as she works deftly between the keyboard and the interior of the instrument. The improvisations and through-composed pieces on this disc are clearly from the same creative impulse. Courvoisier's attention to the details of this sound emerge as compelling explorations of piano timbres with an ear for harmony and gesture.

Billy Bang: Vietnam: The Aftermath. 2001. Justin Time Records: Just 165-2.

Billy Bang: violin
Ted Daniel: trumpet
Frank Lowe: tenor saxophone
Sonny Fortune: flute
John Hicks: piano
Curtis Lundy: bass
Ron Brown: percussion
Michael Carvin: drums
Butch Morris: conductor (on one track)

This is a great recording from Billy Bang. The combination of these players realizing such profoundly personal compositions makes for an incredible balance of introspective expression and group improvisation. Given the difficult subject matter of coming to terms with Bang's service in Vietnam there's a surprising range of warmth (and funky groove) that fits along side the darkness and pain. Bang adds material from the musical traditions and sounds of Vietnamese culture to his jazz palette for a sound with deep roots.

Laurie Anderson: Life On A String. 2001. Nonesuch: 79539-2.

Laurie Anderson: vocals, keyboards, violins, gongs
with various (small) combinations of:
Elena Barere: concert master - Joey Baron: drums, percussion - Martin Brumback: percussion arrangement - Vinicius Cantuaria: percussion - Mino Cinelu: percussion - Timothy Cobb: bass - Greg Cohen: acoustic bass - Jill Dell'Abate: orchestra conductor - Enrico DiCecco: violin - Jonathan Dinklage: violin - Karen Dreyfus: viola - Barry Finclair: violin - Danny Frankel: percussion, hand claps, "box-o-toys" - Eric Friedlander: cello - Bill Frisell: guitar - Jean Ingram: violin - Mitchell Froom: keyboards, claviola, mellotron, wurlitzer - Liheng: baritone banhu - Vincent Lionti: viola - Eyvind Kang: violin - John Kelly: background vocals - Ann Leathers: violin - Jeanne LeBlanc: cello - Dwight Mikkelsen: copyist - Heidi Modr: violin - Jan Mullen: violin - Tom Nelis: vocals - Van Dyke Parks: string arrangements, conductor, keyboards - Ellen Payne: violin - Joel Pitchon: violin - Sue Pray: viola - Lou Reed: guitar - Ben Rubin: bells - Peter Scherer: keyboards, percussion - Jamshied Sharifi: additional keyboards, strings - Ricky Sortomme: violin - Skuli Sverrisson: bass, little organ, percussion programming, high bass, sounds, bowed guitars, keyboards - Chris Speed: saxophone - Cuong Vu: trumpet - Carol Webb: violin - Judith Willmer: viola - Hal Willner: turntables, samples - Mocean Worker: beats, keyboards - Fredrick Zlotkin: cello

The oceanic themes woven throughout this disc provides a story-telling unity to a collection of creative songs accompanied by textures performed by a small army of musicians from the New York "downtown" scene. The result is a Laurie Anderson listening experience I have a particular fondness for. Anderson is well beyond stretching formulaic song-form structures as she crafts beautiful slices of appealing and unpredictable sonic poetry.

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