Saturday, November 10, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: Two Sax Trios and a Piano Quartet

Thomas Chapin Trio: Anima. 1991. Re-released as Disc 2 of Alive. Knitting Factory Records: 35828 02482-2.

Thomas Chapin: alto saxophone, flute, alto flute, voice changer, laff box
Mario Pavone: bass
Steve Johns: drums
with guest:
Michael Sarin: drums

With the tragic loss of Thomas Chapin - gone far too soon - and the loss of the Knitting Factory as the jazz institution it once was this recording hits the ears with the same vibrancy and frozen moments from a golden age of creative excellence one hears from an Art Blakey recording. Mario Pavone has a rich, warm timbre on the bass and the sense of time that sits deep within the pocket. These Thomas Chapin compositions and improvisations peel away the passing seconds with brilliant vitality. At times he finds a looping pattern that reinforce a deeply satisfying groove. At other times he carves longer melodic lines across the surface. The end result is an achingly beautiful legacy.

Anthony Braxton: Piano Quartet, Yoshi's 1994 [disc 1]. 1994. Music & Arts: CD 849.

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

As a die-hard Braxton fanatic I've found this particular set hard to embrace with the same enthusiasm that comes naturally with his more aggressively genre defying compositions and free improvisations. But it's hard not to keep coming back to this music given the outstanding musicianship contained within this quartet. And this time through the ears have hooked onto some unexpected pleasures. There is more dynamic range in Braxton's thorny pianism than I'd given credit for - particularly in the quiet moments of "Bluesette"and the unusual accompaniments he plies behind the other soloists. The focal points on these jazz standards is a complete departure from how one would listen to them in more museum-esque presentations, but that's what Braxton brings to the table with his considerable creative energy harnessed toward the service of these jazz war horses. The rough edges of Braxton's piano technique are tough to hear beyond- but there is a different light cast on these familiar pieces that is startling.

Ellery Eskelin: Forms. 1990 - re-released in 2004. Hat Hut Records: hatOLOGY 592.

Ellery Eskelin: composer, tenor saxophone
Drew Gress: bass
Phil Haynes: drums

This early effort puts Eskelin's tenor within a conventional trio instrumentation and showcases his compositional and improvisational brilliance beyond the textural manipulations he has navigated since. The titles of Eskelin's original compositions read like the generic labels of a no-frills shelf: "Blues," "Ballad," "Latin," "Bebop" and so on while the moment to moment unfolding of this sonic fabric is anything but vanilla. The rhythm section of Gress and Haynes provides an outstanding sound for these pieces with a creative impulse that clearly helps drive Eskelin's creative energy on these performances.

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