Wednesday, January 02, 2008

HurdAudio Rotation: Of Mountains and Celestial Pathways

Myra Melford/Tanya Kalmanovitch: Heart Mountain. 2007. Perspicacity: PR03.

Myra Melford: piano, harmonium
Tanya Kalmanovitch: viola, violin

These 19 brief tracks flow like movements from a single work. As improvisers, Melford and Kalmanovitch frame a wide range of sonic ideas and responsiveness to each other that keeps things fresh throughout this listening experience. This is incredibly pleasant music and it's a welcome spin in the rotation.

James 'Blood' Ulmer: Birthright. 2005. Hyena Records: TMF 9335.

James 'Blood' Ulmer: vocals, guitars, flute

How does one man channel so much feeling and soul-drenched expression into a solo sound? Not only is James 'Blood' Ulmer on a first-name basis with the devil, with a blood curdling cackle to go along with such familiarity, but Ulmer can also put the dark lord in his place and make credible demands of the angels as well. With a gravelly voice and honest words about vice, deed and intention Birthright is an impressive collection of raw, beautiful blues playing.

Sun Ra: Strange Celestial Road. 1987. Rounder Records: CD 3035.

Sun Ra: keyboards
Michael Ray, Curt Pulliam, Walter Miller: trumpets
Craig Harris, Tony Bethel: trombones
Harry Wilson, Damon Choice: vibes
Richard Williams, Steve Clarke: bass
Vincent Chancy: french horn
John Gilmore, Marshall Allen, Elo Omoe, James Jacson, Danny Thompson, Kenny Williams, Hutch Jones, Sylvester Baton, Noel Scott: reeds
Luqman Ali, Reg McDonald: drums
Artaukatune: percussion
Skeeter McFarland, Taylor Richardson: guitar
June Tyson, Rhoda Blount: vocals

A much appreciated slice of Sun Ra. And on this side of the holidays the lengthy, rambling grooves with sprawling segments of "space age" poetry, free improvisation and funk is exactly the tone to bring on a new year. Hearing Vincent Chancey's horn playing within an Arkestra setting is a particular aural treat within a large ensemble stacked with outstanding (and underrated) talent. Of the vast Sun Ra catalogue, this isn't his most striking or most challenging recorded evidence. But it is a piece of the sound and journey of the Saturn soul and each face of his arrangements and large ensemble sensibility is well worth a listen.

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