Sunday, April 06, 2008

HurdAudio Rotation: Ears on the Reeds

Joe Lovano Ensemble: Streams of Expression. 2006. Blue Note Records: 946 3 41092 2.

Joe Lovano: tenor saxophone, alto clarinet, aulochrome
Gunther Schuller: conductor, arranger
Tim Hagans: trumpet
Barry Ries: trumpet
Larry Farrell: trombone
Steve Slagle: alto saxophone, flute
George Garzone: tenor saxophone
Ralph Lalama: tenor saxophone, clarinet
Gary Smulyan: baritone saxophone
John Hicks: piano
Dennis Irwin: bass
Lewis Nash: drums
Charles Russo: clarinet, bass clarinet
Michael Parloff: flute
James Weidman: piano

Gunther Schuller is a rare talent who can directly reference the miraculous sound of the collaboration between Miles Davis and Gil Evans and produce an aural image thick with homage that still crackles with all the vitality and contemporary verve that made this body of music so electric more than a half century ago. He does more than emulate the sound of those brilliant Evans arrangements, he caresses an evolutionary sheen that reveals just how rich a large ensemble sound still is. With Joe Lovano as the focal point of these performances - and as composer for the works surrounding the Birth of the Cool Suite - Streams of Expression presents an experience not unlike encoutering Miles Ahead or Sketches of Spain for the first time. Lovano has a knack for drawing upon deep jazz roots and delivering the sound of a living history. There is no stench of conservative revivalism in this music. These are great arrangements combined with passionate performances that are more than worthy of any Blue Note recording of any era.

Anthony Braxton Sextet: (Victoriaville) 2005. 2005. Victo: cd098.

Anthony Braxton: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, sopranino saxophone
Taylor Ho Bynum: trumpet
Jay Rozen: tuba, electronics
Jessica Pavone: violin
Chris Dahlgren: bass
Aaron Siegel: drums, percussion, vibraphone

Musicologists will have an abundance of riches to sort through when studying the music of Anthony Braxton. The overwhelming substance of his theoretical underpinnings is backed up by an expansive recorded catalogue that could take several lifetimes to fully absorb. Somewhere in that ocean of Braxtonian bliss is this sampling of "second species ghost trance music" as performed by this sextet of brilliant improvisers. The near-meditative quality of this long-form composition ripples with the intense layering and sensitive contributions from the members of this group.

Ellery Eskelin: Vanishing Point. 2000. Hat Hut: hatOLOGY 577.

Ellery Eskelin: tenor saxophone
Mat Maneri: viola
Erik Friedlander: cello
Mark Dresser
: bass
Matt Moran: vibraphone

This could almost be thought of as Eskelin's "Tenor and strings (with vibraphone)" with the way this sound contrasts against the aural image of a lone reeds man soaring against a "lush" bed of strings. The reality of this recording is that this is a quintet of equals where no one plays "second fiddle." The sonic interaction between players and the complete spontaneity of these free improvisations is a showcase of real-time composition from five of New York's finest creative talents. The low to mid-range territory of this instrumentation is never clouded as the ears applied to these performances keeps the thickness of this sound well in check with startling contrasts and an intuitive grasp of form.

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