Wednesday, November 14, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: The Tri-Centric Edition

Beck: Guero. 2004. Interscope Records: B0003481-02.

There's been a noticeable dearth of beats in the HurdAudio rotation, or at least anything one could conceivably use to get their freak on. I'm still not a big fan of the Dust Brothers production sound - in many ways they seem like a step backward from Beck's more adventurously over produced outings. Ultimately it's the song writing that holds this one together and elevates it well beyond the average "alternative" rock outing. And it certainly provides some much need balance and perspective to a listening diet that runs heavy on the heady side.

Anthony Braxton: Piano Quartet, Yoshi's 1994 [disc 3]. 1994. Music & Arts: CD 849.

Anthony Braxton: piano
Marty Ehrlich: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, clarinet
Joe Fonda: bass
Arthur Fuller: drums

After finally sinking my ears into the first disc of this collection I move my attention to the third disc... and it's back to struggling to hear through Braxton's plodding piano solos. It's hard to fault Braxton for pushing these jazz standards toward a more open tradition, but I'm struggling mightily with the narrow dynamic range whenever the piano shifts into the focal point and the difficulty of hearing within this music when confronted with that sound. Ehrlich, Fonda and Fuller are outstanding throughout this set. Repeated listening might reveal new layers to this performance, but my initial impression is disappointment. And that's a reflection of the high expectations I have for Anthony Braxton's music. Perhaps the shackles of the jazz standards will always pale compared to the exuberant brilliance of his original compositions.

Anthony Braxton: 9 Compositions (Iridium) 2006[disc 2] . 2006. Firehouse 12 Records: FH12-04-03-001.

Recorded live: March 16, 2006 at Iridium Jazz Club, New York City.

The Anthony Braxton 12+1tet
Anthony Braxton: composer, alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, sopranino saxophone, clarinet and Eb contalto clarinet
Taylor Ho Bynum: cornet, flugelhorn, trumpbone, piccolo trumpet, bass trumpet, shell
Andrew Raffo Dewar: soprano saxophone, c-melody saxophone, clarinet
James Fei: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet
Mary Halvorson: electric guitar
Stephen H. Lehman: alto saxophone, sopranino saxophone
Nicole Mitchell: flute, alto flute, bass flute, piccolo, voice
Jessica Pavone: viola, violin
Reut Regev: trombone, flugelbone
Jay Rozen: tuba, euphonium
Sara Schoenbeck: bassoon, suona
Aaron Siegel: percussion, vibraphone
Carl Testa: acoustic bass, bass clarinet

Disc 2 = Composition 351 - dedicated to the composer/scholar Harvey Sollberger

Thick, wildly varied group improvisation guided by the unifying force of Braxtonian logic. This music is a high achievement in large ensemble improvised sound. I'm particularly impressed by Nicole Mitchell's flute work in this set as well as the sparse vocalizations of the swinging melodic lines that spring into this texture. This is a music of sonic clouds and pulse, a pulse that is often obscured by the density of this sound but never lost. It's original large ensemble music like this that holds these ears in complete awe of Anthony Braxton.

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