Sunday, December 02, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: Postcards from Napoleon

Joe Henderson: Mode for Joe. 1966. Re-released in 1988. Blue Note Records: CDP 7 84227 2.

Joe Henderson: tenor saxophone
Lee Morgan: trumpet
Curtis Fuller: trombone
Bobby Hutcherson: vibes
Cedar Walton: piano
Ron Carter: bass
Joe Chambers: drums

For those not yet smitten by Joe Henderson's tenor saxophone this one makes for a good introduction. And for those who have already fallen for his tone and inventive improvisations this disc is a knockout. My ears are fascinated by the Henderson originals "A Shade of Jade" and "Caribbean Fire Dance" and wonder why he isn't given more due for his compositional side. The chemistry of this 7-piece is unbelievable in the same way these 1960s Blue Note sessions seem to leave one's jaw on the floor.

James Tenney: Postal Pieces. 2004. New World Records: 80612-2.

Performed by The Barton Workshop
James Fulkerson: director

Maximusic (1965)
Swell Piece (1967)
A Rose Is a Rose Is a Round (1970)
Beast (1971)
Swell Piece #2 (1971)
Having Never Written a Note for Percussion (1971)
Koan (1971)
For Percussion Perhaps, Or...(nig
Swell Piece #3 (1971)
August Harp (1971)

Conceptual simplicity captured by notated scores no larger than post cards. Simplicity that unfolds in startling detail as the Barton Workshop applies earnest ears and sensibility to put this music in motion. The complex harmonic partials of the steady, rumbling crescendo played on a gong for Having Never Written a Note for Percussion is an endless source of awe and reward for the attentive ear. The unhurried pace of August Harp or the deliberate beating dissonance of Beast are persistent reminders of what sound - and by extension - music is and could be.

Ludwig van Beethoven: The Symphonies [disc 5]. Recorded in 1994. The International Music Company: 205299-305.

Symphony No. 7 in A major (op.92)
Barry Wordsworth: conductor
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Symphony No. 8 in F major (op. 93)
James Lockhart: conductor
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Composed in close proximity to one another, these two symphonies are widely regarded as the "anti-Napoleon" symphonies written as a response to the self-appointed emperor's betrayal of the ideals of the French Revolution. One rarely sees these works promoted as such in current times. Current political disillusionment would be a deep well for expressive intent of all forms with a spiritual forbearer in these works.

The first movement of the seventh symphony packs far more bombast than I've acquired a taste for. But more than makes up for it with three fascinating movements in its wake. Upon this listening it occurs to me that the eighth symphony is perhaps the most neglected of the nine. I know I'm guilty of not spending enough time with it. It feels like the calm before the brewing storm of the ninth.

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