Monday, January 21, 2008

HurdAudio Rotation: Rare Beauties

Ornette Coleman: Beauty is a Rare Thing [disc 2]. 1993. Atlantic/Rhino Records: R2 71410.

Ornette Coleman: alto saxophone
Don Cherry: cornet, pocket trumpet
Charlie Haden: bass
Billy Higgins: drums
Ed Blackwell: drums

On Friday, October 9, 1959 the legendary quartet of Coleman, Cherry, Haden and Higgins recorded "Ramblin'" at Radio Recorders in Hollywood, California. This Ornette composition has since become a staple of Charlie Haden's recording and live performance repertoire. I've heard multiple arrangements with Haden's various projects and hearing this disc reveals the qualities Haden discovered in that incredible recording session. Haden's own bass solo on that track already reveals a deep connection with this piece.

The music from these sessions were originally released on Change of the Century, The Art of the Improvisers, Twins and This is Our Music. And much of this material was not released until this box set revealed untold treasures from the time when these free improvisers coalesced around a sound that would forever alter the fabric of jazz. How is it that these major labels could sit on so much great music? The mind reels at the years pieces like "I Heard It Over The Radio" or "The Tribes of New York" went unheard. The hungry mind and ears find the substance of this music unfaded by the passage of time.

Thomas Chapin Trio: Third Force. 1991. Re-released as disc 1 of Alive (box set). 1999. Knitting Factory Records: 35828 02482 2.

Thomas Chapin: saxophones
Mario Pavone: bass
Steve Johns: drums

"Ahab's Leg" kicks off this set, and if there's any piece coursing through my own veins this one is a strong candidate. The angular, melodic lines are as natural and familiar as any other composition that's rattled around these ears over the years. Third Force is a great trio album, one that gets better with age. Chapin's creative force bubbles up with so much variation in this debut outing for his trio. At turns funky, beautiful, ugly, fun, introverted and briskly expressive there is also the bitter taste of an artist cut down far too soon by leukemia. On recordings there is much to savor and celebrate. Chapin would have turned 50 this year...

Fantastic Merlins: Look Around. 2007. Innova: 670.

Nathan Hanson: tenor saxophone, electronics
Jacqueline Ferrier-Ultan: cello, electronics
Brian Roessler: bass
Federico Ughi: drums

A thick texture of low strings punctuated by percussion with a saxophone woven into the sonic cloud. Fantastic Merlins paint a moving picture of sound composed of long shots that need no resolution. As beautiful and taut as these compositions are, the Fantastic Merlins are at their best in the live tracks on Look Around. The unseen crowd of St. Paul's Clown Lounge adding an immediacy and tension to the soundscape. There's a jazz vibrancy coming out of Minnesota in this new century that rivals the honky tonks of Kansas City and St. Louis of the swing era. Look Around is an invitation to explore this mid-western phenomenon that rewards the ears with a richly rewarding sound.

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