Tuesday, October 21, 2008

HurdAudio Rotation: Hammer, Paris, Freedom!

Elliott Sharp/Soldier String Quartet: Hammer, Anvil, Stirrup. 1989. SST Records: SST CD 232.

Elliott Sharp: composer, guitars
Laura Seaton: violin
David Soldier: violin
Ron Lawrence: viola
Mary Wooten: cello
Ratso B. Harris: bass

This is one of those discs I tend to include when people ask for lists of high esteemed recordings in my collection. The main attraction is "Tessalation Row," possibly Sharp's most impressive and enduring chamber work to date. The sound of it, with the relentless scratching into an unbelievably rich, harsh texture combined with the formal underpinnings of applying the Fibbonacci series to nearly every parameter makes for a recording that hits these ears often. It's music like this that made me into the music collector I am today. Constantly seeking out listening experiences like this. The compositions that surround "Tessalation Row" are drawn from the same vein. Each comes up with a different application of mangled, lower east side, hard core aesthetic smeared over a string quartet. "Hammer, Anvil, Stirrup" adds electric guitar into the mix and "Re/iterations" offers up a multi-track version of "Tessalation Row" with contrabass added into the sound. The result is a stark, hostile environment of inordinate appeal.

Cecil Taylor: The Great Paris Concert. 1966 (re-released in 1994). Black Lion: BLCD 60201.

Cecil Taylor: piano
Jimmy Lyons: alto saxophone
Alan Silva: bass
Andrew Cyrille: drums

The attraction here for a Cecil Taylor fan is the interaction between these four players as they aggressively shape their free jazz sound in this 1966 performance in Paris. "Student Studies" parts one and two pull at the long form, creative forces at work as the four pairs of ears run a jagged dance over cerebral impulse. Andrew Cyrille's drumming in particular leaps out from the speakers with a propulsive edge.

Max Roach: We Insist! - Freedom Now Suite. 1960 (re-released in 1989). Candid Records: CCD 79002.

Max Roach: drums
Booker Little: trumpet
Julian Priester: trombone
Walter Benton: tenor saxophone
Coleman Hawkins: tenor saxophone
James Schenck: bass
Michael Olatunji: congas
Ray Mantilla: percussion
Tomas DuVall: percussion
Abbey Lincoln: vocals

There is so much that hits the mark on this classic recording. Max Roach on drums, Max Roach as composer and conceptualist on a suite celebrating emancipation at a time when the civil rights movement was picking up momentum. Then there is the personnel list (Booker Little! Coleman Hawkins!). Abbey Lincoln's voice sounds along a steady pulse of African-rooted drumming as various soloist come into focus. Julian Priester's relaxed solo over "Tears for Johannesburg" is a thing of beauty. But it's the drums and percussion that runs throughout this suite with the irresistible qualities of Max Roach on full display.

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