Sunday, November 02, 2008

HurdAudio Rotation: Foxholes in the Field, Suites in the Stream

Elliott Sharp/Tectonics: Field & Stream. 1998. Knitting Factory Records: KFR-227.

Elliott Sharp: doubleneck guitarbass, bits and bytes, drum programs, tenor saxophone
Zeena Parkins: sampler, little green drone guitar (guest on two tracks)
Frank Rothkamm: drums 'n bass (guest on one track)

These forays into the "electronica" genre - these Tectonics releases - are like old friends to these ears. Elliott Sharp bends the sonic materials of drum 'n bass music with an ear toward subversive turns and gaping holes in the sonic texture to keep the whole thing from settling too deep into a mindless groove. If anything, these are mind-full grooves with light - and severely welcome - doses of noise from his guitar.

Ornette Coleman: The Empty Foxhole. 1966 (re-released in 1994). Blue Note Records: CDP 7243 8 28982 2 1.

Ornette Coleman: alto saxophone, trumpet, violin
Charles Haden: bass
Denardo Coleman: drums

Back in music school it was fashionable to be a back-handed fan of Ornette Coleman. Pouring praise upon his earliest releases with Don Cherry, Billy Higgins and Charlie Haden while expressing skepticism about everything he has recorded since that time (a time that is quickly receding to half a century into the past). The Empty Foxhole may have played a role in the often repeated need for simultaneous embrace and rejection. Much has been made - and continues to be made - of recording his then 10-year-old son on drums with the harmolodic heavy weights of Coleman and Haden filling out the rest of the trio. Perhaps this flaunts the child-like playfulness of free improvisation too literally for some. And while this doesn't have the same explosive "it" factor of those great quartet recordings. There is plenty of "it" to be found whenever Ornette Coleman picks up a horn (or a trumpet, or a violin).

Lou Harrison: por Gitaro: Suites for Tuned Guitars. 2008. Mode Records: 195.

John Schneider: guitars, National Steel guitar
with Just Strings -
T.J.Troy, Gene Sterling, Erin Barnes: percussion
also featuring the HMC American Gamelan on one track - Bill Alves: director
Caitlin Andrade, Jane Chen, Vicki Chen, Greg Jackson, Anna Lei, Julie Simon, Victoria Wu, Darryl Young: gamelan

Everything about this recording just drips with the sense that this was how Lou Harrison heard this music. The care taken with the all important just intonation, the clean recording that balances acoustic guitar both as soloist and with percussion along with the attention to the details and nuance of this body of music transports the ears to someplace other worldly and overwhelmingly beautiful. There is also a rare blend of the serious, the serene and the whimsical in this music. "Tandy's Tango" from Suite No. 1 draws upon a tangible sense of dance while In Honor of the Divine Mr. Handel incorporates a gamelan for a Pacific Rim inspired tribute to the Baroque master.

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