Sunday, February 10, 2008

HurdAudio Rotation: Three American Originals

Charles Ives: The Symphonies/Orchestral Sets 1 & 2. 2000. Decca: 289 466 745-2.

Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra
Zubin Mehta: conductor

The Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus
Christoph Von Dohnanyi: conductor
Jahja Ling: second conductor
Gareth Morrell: chorus conductor

Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields
Neville Marriner: conductor

Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 4
Orchestral Set No. 2
Symphony No. 2
Symphony No. 3 "The camp meeting"
Three Places in New England (Orchestral Set No. 1)

This is simply some of the most impressive orchestral music I am aware of. Much of it is dense with ideas as the sound coalesces into an aural portrait of a New England lost to the mist of time. The quarter-tone smears in the second movement of Symphony No. 4 holds particular interest for me even as the breathtakingly ambitious scope (multiple conductors, multiple tempos, poly-harmonic textures, etc.) of this Symphony makes it one of the most awe inspiring works in the repertoire.

Thomas Chapin Trio plus Brass: Insomnia. 1992. Re-released as disc 3 of the Alive box set. Knitting Factory Records: 35828 02482 2.

Thomas Chapin: alto saxophone, flute
Mario Pavone: bass

Michael Sarin: drums
Al Bryant: trumpet
Frank London: trumpet
Curtis Fowlkes: trombone
Peter McEachern: trombone
Marcus Rojas: tuba
Ray Stewart: tuba

There's a rocking, Dirty Dozen Brass Band quality to this music. Hearing these familiar Chapin pieces expanded into this larger ensemble setting is a real treat and the flute playing is fantastic. Thomas Chapin had an understanding of how to steer the delicate, overtly beautiful sound of the flute toward gritty, earthy improvisations with enormous appeal. The ch
emistry of that core trio of Chapin, Pavone and Sarin remains the engine that drives this larger ensemble sound.

Anthony Braxton: Piano Quartet, Yoshi's 1994 [disc 2]. 1996. Music & Arts: CD 849.

Anthony Braxton: piano
Marty Ehrlich: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, clarinet
Joe Fonda: bass
Arthur Fuller: percussion

Anthony Braxton is a brilliant composer, performer and theoretician. However, he is not the person to bring his sonic vocabulary to the piano. I have such high expectations for Braxton's endeavors that I can't leave these piano quartet excursions alone even when confronted by the disbelief at his plodding, harsh technique on the instrument. As a reedsman, Braxton's playing soars - even when interpreting the jazz warhorses of standards. Marty Ehrlich does an excellent job on reeds on this set. The whole quartet is outstanding - except for that sore spot on ivories from the band leader. When one manages to listen between the offsetting solos there is a richness to this recording that makes it worthwhile. This band is at its best when interpreting Thelonius Monk and this second disc does feature "Nica's Dream" and "Pannonica."

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