Saturday, November 15, 2008

HurdAudio Rotation: Standards and Lies

Anthony Braxton: Piano Quartet, Yoshi's 1994 [disc 1]. 1996. Music & Arts: CD 849.

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

As an interpretation of jazz standards this one is a train wreck. I keep coming back to these sessions - and there is plenty to gleam from the experience - but I have to admit to finding Braxton's pianism troubling. Marty Ehrlich's playing is outstanding. One can imagine the mix of curiosity, joy and confusion present at Yoshi's as these familiar Coltrane and Gillespie tunes get churned through the brittle and plodding churn of this quartet. The old standards are open to all different kinds of interpretations, and they are an unmistakable launching point for these ruminations. There's an irreconcilable disappointment that the twin forces of tradition and free improvisation was delivered with such a heavy pair of hands on the ivories.

The Flying Luttenbachers: ...the Truth is a Fucking Lie... 1999. ugEXPLODE Records: GR61cd/ug10.

Weasel Walter: drums, trumpets, electronics, mellotron
Kurt Johnson: bass guitar
Fred Lonberg-Holm: cello
Chuck Falzone: electric guitar
William Pisarri: bass guitar, shriek
Michael Colligan: reeds, etc.
Dylan Posa: conductor, casio
Julie Pomerleau: violin

There is a clenched fist quality to this music that steers this sound - and by proxy the ears tuned to it - away from even the slightest shade of the sentimental. Sounds driven by sheer necessity and brutal allegiance to sonic textures fueled by rage and unflinching layers of dissonance. Propelled by the raw kinetic drive of drummer Weasel Walter as he draws upon the considerable forces of Chicago free jazz and hard-core musicians this is an expression that is both ugly and necessary.

Ellery Eskelin: Forms. 2004. Hat Hut: hatOLOGY 592.

Ellery Eskelin: tenor saxophone
Drew Gress: double bass
Phil Haynes: drums

This one is more of an oblique approach to the idea and ideal of jazz tradition and its "standards." Other than an interpretation of Duke Ellington's "Fleurette Africaine" and Dizzy Gillespie's "Bebop" these are Ellery Eskelin originals cast within a standard tenor saxophone trio instrumentation and titled after deep stylistic nodes of the tradition: "Blues," "In Three," "Ballad," "Latin" and "Vignettes." The sound that comes out of this trio isn't overly steeped in tradition and the overall sonic voice retains much of the fresh qualities and individuality of these three improvisers (along with the high degree of musicianship each brings to this session).

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