Sunday, March 09, 2008

HurdAudio Rotation: Standards, Ghost Trance and Eroica

Anthony Braxton: Piano Quartet, Yoshi's 1994 [disc 4]. 1996. Music & Arts: CD 849.

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

There are many aspects to Anthony Braxton, and his relative position to "traditional" jazz - which is at its most direct trajectory in his take on the hallowed standards - is a significant part of the larger brilliant output of one of this era's most impressive composer, thinker and practitioner. This particular manifestation is full of challenges, both to the traditional expectations of "straight ahead" jazz as well as to the ears with Braxton's piano-as-non-native-instrument technique. Yet I find it hard to leave this set alone given the sonic gems these found just beneath the rough exterior. This fourth disc may be the strongest of the set with long stretches of brilliant playing from the quartet that is marred slightly by some suspect production choices. The artificial fade-out at the end of "Body and Soul" and the off-mic sound of Marty Ehrlich going into "Just Friends" being the most unfortunate. In between these gaffs (and the heavy-handed piano solos) there is a wealth of outstanding, creative playing.

Anthony Braxton 12+1tet: 9 Compositions (Iridium) 2006 - disc 3. Firehouse 12 Records: FH12-04-03-001.

Recorded live: March 17, 2006 at Iridium Jazz Club, New York City.

The Anthony Braxton 12+1tet
Anthony Braxton: composer, alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, sopranino saxophone, clarinet and Eb contalto clarinet
Taylor Ho Bynum: cornet, flugelhorn, trumpbone, piccolo trumpet, bass trumpet, shell
Andrew Raffo Dewar: soprano saxophone, c-melody saxophone, clarinet
James Fei: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet
Mary Halvorson: electric guitar
Stephen H. Lehman: alto saxophone, sopranino saxophone
Nicole Mitchell: flute, alto flute, bass flute, piccolo, voice
Jessica Pavone: viola, violin
Reut Regev: trombone, flugelbone
Jay Rozen: tuba, euphonium
Sara Schoenbeck: bassoon, suona
Aaron Siegel: percussion, vibraphone
Carl Testa: acoustic bass, bass clarinet

Disc 3 = Composition 352 - dedicated to the composer Sofia Gabaidulina
There is something beautiful about the sublimation of a large pool of creative improvisers toward a collective sonic fabric. With a combination of deeply thought structures built out of trance, pulse and a level social dynamic these "third species" Ghost Trance musics are hour-long beads of near-utopian brilliance. This take on Composition 352 in particular takes a meandering path through a vast musical territory with surprising transitions and textures around each temporal bend.

Ludwig van Beethoven: The Symphonies [disc 2 - Symphony No. 3 in E Flat major (op. 55) "Eroica"]. Recorded in 1994. The International Music Company: 205297-305.

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Guenther Herbig: conductor

Spending time with ears focused on the Beethoven symphonies is the music literature equivalent of reading Shakespeare. The broad forms and outlines are extremely familiar, yet the details remain vivid and startling when revisited. The "Eroica" symphony is perhaps the equivalent of re-reading Julius Caesar. The second movement in particular is perhaps one of Beethoven's best examples of formal development that hints at the early Romanticism yet to come.

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