Saturday, March 07, 2009

HurdAudio Rotation: Improvised Hits and Misses

Curlew: Gussie. 2003. Roaratorio: Roar 05.

Recorded live at Gus Lucky's Gallery, Minneapolis, MN, July 10, 2001

George Cartwright: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone
Davey Williams: electric guitar
Chris Parker: piano
Fred Chalenor: electric bass
Bruce Golden: percussion and such

A limited edition vinyl-only release of Curlew launching into unfettered free improvisation. Part of the aural appeal of Curlew is the tight arrangements featuring aggressive smears and suggestions of what the musicians (who have morphed so much over the years, only George Cartwright is the constant) are capable of once the restraints are lifted. Unsurprisingly, under the full freedom allowed in these recording there remains the musical discipline and spatial generosity characteristic of Curlew's arrangements. Equally unsurprising is the allure of the sound of interaction between these players. While perhaps not the definitive documentation of the Curlew experience, it is a substantive one.

Don Byron: Romance With The Unseen. 1999. Blue Note Records: 7243 4 99545 2 6.

Don Byron: clarinet
Bill Frisell: guitar
Drew Gress: bass
Jack DeJohnette: drums

Ah, Don Byron. Such an effortlessly gifted sound on clarinet. Throw in a quartet that includes Bill Frisell on guitar - another figure with a sound these ears have grown hopelessly addicted to - and you come away with an understated masterpiece. The stylistic and creative sensibilities of these players is so comfortable that the revolutionary details of their playing barely makes a ripple on this recording. But focusing the ears reveals a recording worth coming back to time and again. Great melodic lines. Some find shredding from Frisell. A great take on Herbie Hancock's "One Finger Snap." And a clarinet sound that earns its place at the center of this sound with each spin.

Albert Ayler: New Grass. 1968 (re-released in 2005). Impulse: A-9175.

Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone, recitation, vocals, whistling
Bill Folwell: electric bass
Burt Collins: trumpet
Joe Newman: trumpet
Garnett Brown: trombone
Seldon Powell: flute, tenor saxophone
Buddy Lucas: baritone saxophone
Bert DeCoteaux: arrangements, conductor
Call Cobbs: electric harpsichord, piano, organ
Bernard Purdie: drums
Rose Marie McCoy: vocal
Mary Maria Parks: vocals

A cautionary tale of what happens when a great artist bends their vision in an attempt to arrive where they imagine their audience (or audience yet to be realized) wants them to arrive. Albert Ayler's insistence that this is an expression of where he was at the time he recorded it - a time different from where he had been before - his openly stated hope that "you enjoy this record" speaks toward the intent where the music should be. New Grass is a fascinating document and an artistic disappointment. The need to "rock" providing heavy chains and shackles against Ayler's soaring spirit. His vocals providing far less voice than his tenor saxophone playing.

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