Saturday, January 12, 2008

HurdAudio Rotation: Two Trumpets and a Minnimalist Masterpiece

Mazen Kerbaj: Brt Vrt Zrt Krt. 2005. Al Maslakh: 01.

Mazen Kerbaj: trumpet

Much like his cartoons, Mazen Kerbaj's approach to solo trumpet improvisation twists, distorts and subverts one's expectations even as it unflinchingly arrives at profound truths. The amplified buzzing and plumbing of the instrument pulls the ears deep inside the instrument and reveals a startling sonic landscape. And much like his cartoons, improvisations and productions from his indie label I am left with a deep admiration for the expressiveness and gritty portrayal of life within the Lebanese artistic scene of Beirut. Full length solo trumpet outings are few and far between and this one as unique and engaging as they come.

Steve Reich: Music for 18 Musicians. Performed by the Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble. 2007. Innova: 678.

GVSU New Music Ensemble
Bill Ryan: director
Gwendolyn Faasen, Stacey Van Vossen, Mary Crossman: voices
Amanda Duncan: voice, marimba
Alexander Hamel: xylophone, marimba, maracas
Samuel Gould: xylophone
Nicholas Usadel, Tim Church: marimbas
Joshua Puranen: marimba, maracas
Gregrey Secor: vibraphone
Daniel Redner: piano, maracas
Craig Avery: piano, marimba
Shaun MacDonald, Kelly Rizzo, Kurt Ellenberger, Lee Copenhaver: pianos
Mark Martin: violin
Pablo Mahave-Veglia: cello
Charlan Mueller, Alexander Kolias: clarinets, bass clarinets

Music for 18 Musicians is long overdue for vibrant reinterpretations such as this one. Once plunged into the lush, beautifully recorded offering found on this disc I was reminded why this work was such an addiction for my ears in my late teens. The pulsing, formal arrangement and eleven chord cycle are immediately discernable. But the sheer awe and beauty of this sound is a shock despite the familiarity and transparency of this composition. I sincerely hope there are plans in the works to record other landmark pieces of the last century with the same verve and attention to clarity found here.

Miles Davis: The Complete On The Corner Sessions [disc 1]. 1972, 1973, 1974, 2007. Sony BMG Entertainment: 88697 06239 2-DI.

Miles Davis: trumpet
Dave Liebman: soprano saxophone
Chick Corea: synthesizer
Herbie Hancock: electric piano
Harold Ivory Williams: organ, synthesizer
John McLaughlin: guitar
Colin Walcott: electric sitar
Michael Henderson: electric bass
Jack DeJohnette: drums
Don Alias: congas, percussion, kalimba, African percussion
Badal Roy: tablas
Billy Hart: wood block, cowbell, percussion, drums
Carlos Garnett: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone
Bennie Maupin: bass clarinet, flute
Dave Creamer: guitar
Lonnie Liston Smith (speculated): electric piano
Al Foster: drums

There's no shortage of observation on how Miles caught the jazz press flat-footed with On the Corner. The erudite ears craving a reprise of the Kind of Blue masterpiece had long become entrenched in the anti-body physicality that the chewy, funky noise Davis unleashed and confronted. With the perspective of years it seems peculiar to regard these long, grinding and fiercely non-commercial tracks as "selling out." The artistic renewal, and infectious churn of this music is a notable departure from the Birth of the Cool. Sinking one's ears into this bounty of material reveals just as much substance as any other era of the Miles Davis catalogue.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.