Sunday, January 20, 2008

HurdAudio Rotation: Roots, Preomintion and Gravitas

Misha Mengelberg: The Root of the Problem. 1997. Hat Hut Records: hatOLOGY 504.

Misha Mengelberg: piano
in duos and trios with configurations of:
Steve Potts: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone
Thomas Heberer: trumpet
Michel Godard: tuba, serpent
Achim Kremer: percussion

Misha Mengelberg mines an unusual space within the nearly limitless confines of free improvisation. There is a calm, unhurried exhilaration that the sequence of moments and gestures could go in any direction - with a technique to back up the stylistic demands of any journey. With unfailing taste for improvising partners these snapshots convey a mature yet wild sound that is rarely so deftly navigated as it is in The Root of the Problem. These ears are taking notice of Mengelberg and curious to hear more from the Dutch jazz scene.

Ellery Eskelin: Premonition. 1993. Prime Source: cd 2010.

Ellery Eskelin: tenor saxophone

There's a part of me that wants to hear a "For Tenor" follow up to Anthony Braxton's groundbreaking For Alto recording from 1969. Eskelin's Premonition, a solo tenor saxophone outing is a high accomplishment of its own that carves out a singularly different territory from the monophonic language of Braxton. The balance of three solos from Eskelin's structured improvisations of "Song Cycle" against three standards sheds light on the common thread that runs through Eskelin's sound as both composer and interpreter. The "Song Cycle" makes it clear that Eskelin's distinctive sound is his own, and in full sonic view even when unaccompanied by the extreme talents with which he normally surrounds himself. The light, pre-programmed percussion on the brief "Besame Mucho" clouds the solo experience to some extent, but makes for a pleasant coda. "For Tenor" it isn't, but it is a strong case for outstanding creative and lyrical voice of Ellery Eskelin.

Wayne Horvitz/Gravitas Quartet: Way Out East. 2006. Songlines: SGL SA1558-2.

Wayne Horvitz: piano, electronics
Peggy Lee: cello
Ron Miles: trumpet
Sara Schoenbeck: bassoon

The "chamber jazz" that Wayne Horvitz has been mining in recent years takes on the hues of improvising piano, cello, trumpet and bassoon on Way Out East. This disc shares several melodic and formal qualities with Horvitz's Otis Spann release from 2001 with the Seattle Chamber Players. But the group improvisation - and the prominence of Shoenbeck's bassoon sound - takes this music into slightly different territory. The short durations of these pieces and the strong harmonic and melodic focus keep things within a "composed" sensibility even as the improvisation adds considerable detail and texture. The few pieces that are free improvisations - either as a duo with Schoenbeck in "Our Brief Duet" or as a group on "Between Here and Heaven" and "Reveille" - manage to fold completely into the familiar treads of Horvitz's distinct sound. This makes for a sonically attractive, shimmering listening experience.

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