Wednesday, August 13, 2008

HurdAudio Rotation: Petra-fied, lower-cased and Drinking in a London Trio

Petra Haden and Bill Frisell: Petra Haden and Bill Frisell. 2005. Songline/Tonefield: TND 312.

Petra Haden: vocals, violin
Bill Frisell: electric guitars, acoustic guitars, loops

This one is a stunner. If more vocalists had the intonation, humor and taste that Petra Haden has in spades there would be a lot more voices pouring past these eardrums. With plenty of overdubs from both of these artists to fill out a rich, beautiful sonic canvas this pair takes a non-dogmatic tour through multiple song sources and identities. Giving each song the Lee Townsend production sound that often elevates well above the original versions of these songs. "Moon River" is outstanding, and has the clear stamp of Frisell's frequent visits to this tune. "Floaty" takes the Foo Fighters sound toward a decidedly different Seattle sensibility. "Yellow" leaves no trace of the egos behind Coldplay. The traditional Tuvan "Bai-laa Taigam" maintains its spiritual connection. And this arrangement of Frisell's "Throughout" leaves these ears hungry for a full treatment of the Frisell songbook.

Morton Feldman: Works for Piano. 1990. Hat Hut Records: hat ART CD 6035.

Marianne Schroeder: piano

Intermission 5 (1952)
Piano Piede to Philip Guston (1963)
Vertical Thoughts 4 (1963)
Piano (1977)
Palais De Mari for Francesco Clemente (1986)

I've been hearing this kind of texture referred to as "lower-case music." Slight traces of quiet piano gestures that barely leave a ripple in the silence. It's a thoughtful tranquility made up of a sequence of gestalts that stubbornly refuse to develop beyond mere temporal proximity of one to the other. Listening to it is like finding hidden details in a freshly raked rock garden. The rigor behind this meditative space is deceptive. It demands a calm from both the performer and listener that is a rare commodity in this world. Easily disturbed by the slightest murmur from the surrounding environment. Even "lower-case" thoughts leave reflections when the mind is submerged within this suspended state.

Anthony Braxton/Evan Parker/Paul Rutherford: Trio (London) 1993. 1993. Leo Records: CD LR 197.

Anthony Braxton: reeds
Evan Parker: reeds
Paul Rutherford: trombone

Having, and listening, to this CD is simply not optional. If you are a "friendly experiencer" of the creative music of Anthony Braxton there is already the considerable gravity of his presence on this set of improvisations. Then there is Evan Parker, another luminary of saxophone improvisation. Inserted between this pair of titanic reedsman from either side of the Atlantic is Paul Rutherford on trombone. The fact that it manages to exceed expectations already set high by these figures makes for a rewarding spin of trio improvisation that spans wide dynamic and textural range while adding a few happy wrinkles onto the attentive brain. Recorded live at the Bloomsbury Theatre during the 1993 London Jazz Festival at a moment in time when all three of these players were way on top of their game, this is exactly the kind of experience that drives free jazz archivists to keep seeking more.

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