Tuesday, November 25, 2008

HurdAudio Rotation: Put Your Quarter In and Watch the Chicken Dance

Beck: Guero. 2005. Interscope Records: B0003841-02.

I drank this one in with some reservation in the last two spins in the rotation. But the party is on with this one. Working from the aesthetic school of constantly changing a groove without removing the pulsating consistency of the beat this one churns through moments of inspired high production. Beck's better-than-average lyrics and song writing is the backbone that allows this material to work from multiple angles at once. And when the brain grows weary with puzzling out the pastiche of sounds that make up this recording the party is on.

Thomas Chapin Trio: Menagerie Dreams. 1994. Re-released as disc 4 from the Alive box set in 1999. Knitting Factory Records: 35828 02482 2.

Thomas Chapin: alto saxophone, flute, baritone saxophone, mezzo soprano saxophone
Mario Pavone: bass
Michael Sarin: drums, gongs
guests -
John Zorn: alto saxophone
Vernon Frazer: poetry

There was a time when the Knitting Factory label mattered. Menagerie Dreams is squarely from that time when the New York jazz scene was well represented by a roster of creative improvisers with groups at the top of their game. Menagerie Dreams lurches with the animated qualities of the animals referenced in the titles. The squawking birds emulated on saxophones in "Bad Birdie." The lurching "Night Hog" or the unsteady, unsymmetrical gait of "A Drunken Monkey." The musing of a performer comparing himself - via poetry - to a performing animal in "Put Your Quarter in and Watch the Chicken Dance." Somewhere along the way a satisfying whole emerges from the sum of this listening experience. Imaginative play that withstands the test of time and represents Chapin's all too short legacy as an artist.

Anthony Braxton: Piano Quartet, Yoshi's 1994 [disc 3]. 1996. Music and Arts: CD 849.

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

The least jagged of the 4-disc set of standards funneled through the ragged and dynamically coarse piano playing of the multi-instrumentalist and genius that is Anthony Braxton. While this collection as a whole does not live up to the lofty expectations set by other Braxton projects, this particular disc produces a hand full of redeeming moments. The quartet's take on Billy Strayhorn's "Lush Life" in particular offers up Ehrlich's inspired playing along side a lighter touch at the keys from Anthony Braxton. While there are still waves of plodding from the ivories that leave an unsettled wake behind these achingly familiar standards there is much to be said for taking risks - and falling short - as being preferable to playing things safe.

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