Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Scale of the Day: E Pythagorean Construct No. 1 - Lydian Mode - in Triative-space


The E Pythagorean Construct #1 - Lydian Mode - in Triative-space Scale. This scale happens to consist of the first three partials of the overtone series. This sequence of intervals then repeats at the triative.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Scale of the Day: E Pythagorean Construct No. 1 - Lydian Inversion - in Square-root-of-2-space


The E Pythagorean Construct #1 - Lydian Inversion - in Square-root-of-2-space Scale.

20/20 Vision in the Left Eye

Go Left Fest @ Yoshi's, San Francisco, CA
Monday, June 22 & Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Marshall Allen: alto saxophone, evi, flute
Matthew Shipp: piano
Joe Morris: bass
Sunny Murray: drums
Oluyemi Thomas: reeds
Roswell Rudd: trombone
Myra Melford: piano
Mark Dresser: bass
Ishmael Reed: poetry
Lafayette Harris: piano
Beth Custer: bass clarinet, voice
and several others

The first ever meeting of Marshall Allen, Matthew Shipp and Joe Morris is a solid evening's worth of creative music right there. That trio has more than enough creative muscle to carry on for multiple sets. But at the first ever Go Left Festival over two consecutive night's at San Francisco's Yoshi's they were just the headlining act over a sprawling, multi-set celebration of jazz from the "outside." The Myra Melford/Mark Dresser Duo brings a similar gravity to these music chasing ears. Roswell Rudd could go all night - and clearly wanted to (with no objection from me). And clearly no jazz aficionado's concert attending experience is complete without witnessing the jaw-dropping excellence of Sunny Murray. The air was thick with substance.

In offering the same sequence of sets on both nights, the contrast between free improvisation and set composition became pronounced in interesting ways, with the free material often having more staying power. The exception to this was the short set of quirky compositions and songs by the Beth Custer Ensemble at the onset of both nights. These maintained their charm while the setting of Ishmael Reed's poetry lost all of its charm on the second go around.

The two different manifestations of Sunny Murray's Positive Knowledge was a revelation. Performing as a trio of reeds, voice and drums on the first night the middle section of their set-long performance transformed into a stunning all-percussion experience as each performer played gongs of different sizes over Murray's restless free-form improvisation on the kit. The second night was a duo of Murray and Oluyemi Thomas that explored a different sound altogether. The outspoken and irreverent Murray could easily become my new obsession.

In any other setting, the Myra Melford/Mark Dresser duo would be the highlight of the evening and festival. Dresser's extended techniques with his uniquely amplified acoustic bass have continued to expand as the pair played through Melford's Trio M compositions, offering fresh angles on each piece.

Matthew Shipp is an unbelievable force on the piano and an inspired collaborator with Marshall Allen's aggressive energies. With Joe Morris expertly holding down the bass layer, Shipp worked some of the most thundering accents I've ever heard from the ivories while Marshall Allen launched into his hyper-space sound worlds. Beth Custer's stage banter about "legends in the dressing room" playing out on stage and into this climactic set.

The range of talent on display ran so deep that nearly every set felt short-changed. Roswell Rudd in particular could have used more hours despite the Vision Festival-esque waves of exhaustion. Should there be second, third (and more) installments of Go Left in the future I hope there will be a shift toward spreading this music over more nights with longer sets focused on fewere artists - and no repeating of sets on consecutive nights. Give the ears a chance to sink deeper into the artistry and explore more combinations of performers (the addition of Sunny Murray in the Roswell Rudd set on the second night was positively inspired (and positively knowledgeable)).

HurdAudio Rotation: Cold Hearts and Blood

Cold Reading Trio: Life of Ghost. 2007. Form Function Records: f(F)0701.

John O'Brien: drums, percussion
Evan Mazunik: accordion, melodica, electric piano
Christian Pincock: laptop computer

That strange noise coming out of Brooklyn is the creative integration of live sample/playback in the service of layering within the timbral universe - and relentless impulse - of live accordion and drums. Cold Reading Trio evades the obvious traps of building upon ostinato patterns in favor of heavy, live manipulation along a low-repetition soundscape. The dynamic range of this group is particularly striking with collective phrases of all lengths that both work within an open, quiet texture or build upon layers toward full saturation. This is a collaboration that makes the case for live electronics within an improvising ensemble.

Myra Melford/Tanya Kalmanovitch: Heart Mountain. 2007. Perspicacity: PR03.

Myra Melford: piano, harmonium
Tanya Kalmanovitch: viola, violin

A much welcome return spin in the rotation for this understated gem of improvised chamber music. There's a lean responsiveness to this music. Seemingly absent of performer habit and ego. Each responds to the other with flawless technique and empathetic telepathy. The fact that Myra Melford has incredible ears is well established. The musicians she takes along in small duo outings like this one invite generous listening to her network of creative travelers.

James 'Blood' Ulmer: Birthright. 2005. Hyena Records: TMF 9335.

James 'Blood' Ulmer: vocals, guitars, flute

This stuff is raw, direct and grounded in the blues in every sense of the term. It speaks to the human condition without compromise with a musicality that is simply unmatched. It's amazing how much can be captured in recording a solo artist like this in just one take.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Scale of the Day: E Pythagorean Construct No. 2 - Lydian Mode


The E Pythagorean Construct #2, Lydian Mode - Scale. Pythagorean tuning works along a single line of just perfect fifths (in the otonal direction, or just perfect fourths in the reverse/utonal direction). Construct #2 consists of only the tonic and the pitch found two perfect fifths above (when octave-reduced, this becomes a just major second).

Saturday, June 27, 2009

HurdAudio Rotation: Cracked and Hanging By A Shoe String

Marc Ribot: Shoe String Symphonettes. 1997. Tzadik: TZ 7504.

Film scores by Marc Ribot:
Death by Unnatural Causes (1991) - directed by Karen Bellone and Lisa Rinzler
Marc Ribot: guitar, sampler
Greg Cohen: bass
Jill Jaffe: violin, viola

Landlord Blues (1987) - directed by Jacob Burkhardt
Marc Ribot: trumpet, banjo, guitar
Brad Jones: bass
Bill Ware: vibes
Curtis Fowlkes: trombone
Jim Nolet: violin
Roy Nathanson: saxophone
EJ Rodriguez: drums, percussion
Gregory Ribot: flute

Aelita Queen of Mars (1928) - directed by Yakov Protazanov
Marc Ribot: guitar
Paul Clarvis: drums, percussion
Dave Meric: keyboards
Phil Boyden: violin
Helen Thomas: cello
Mike Kearsey: trombone

Pieces From An Incomplete Project (1995 - 1996) - directed by Joe Brewster
Dave Douglas: trumpet
Vicki Bodner: oboe
Charlie Giordano: piano, keyboards
Mauro Refosco: percussion
Jill Jaffe: violin, viola
Maxine Neuman: cello
Tony Garnier: bass

Summer Salt (1993) - directed by Charlie Levi
Marc Ribot: guitar, e-flat horn
John Zorn: saxophone
Andy Haas: saxophone
Cyro Baptista: drums

An absolute gem. Often music composed for film - or any mixed media - has a tendency to feel incomplete or unnaturally malformed by the bullying exigencies of visual momentum. While many of these pieces are short, or subjected to abrupt jump cuts, these still feel like complete works. Sonic moments stretched taut with introspective beauty at one moment. Caricatures of idiomatic reference points served up with irreverence in the following moment. The focus that Marc Ribot brings to this - both as composer and guitarist - is unwavering regardless of the level of seriousness or serious mischief.

Paul Plimley Trio: Safe-Crackers. 1999. Victo: cd066.

Paul Plimley: piano
Lisle Ellis: contrabass
Scott Amendola: drums

A recorded documentation that captures exactly what makes each of these players so compelling in live performance. This disc gets a lot of spins in the rotation because it's so engaging to put it on and hear what these improvisers are doing. The complete lack of gravity in spite of the depth of musicianship is unbelievable. One of the great, under-rated piano trio recordings of all time.

Misha Mengelberg Quartet: Four In One. 2001. Songlines: SGL SA 1535-5.

Misha Mengelberg: piano
Dave Douglas: trumpet
Brad Jones: bass
Han Bennink: percussion

No recording can adequately capture the full-contact embrace of absurdity that marks Han Bennink's drumming style. What this one does preserve for aural posterity is an irreverent musicality willing to bolt scatter shot along the jazz continuum - or well outside such genre confines if need be. But when it's "inside," it's squarely in the pocket. And when it's "outside" it rarely upsets the furniture in its haste to get there. Paired with the understated humor of Misha Mengelberg's compositions this becomes a thrill ride of both virtuosity and careening "where-will-this-go-next?" dimensions. Adding the considerable improvisational chops of long-time collaborators Dave Douglas and Brad Jones (Douglas' trumpet playing being a peculiar addiction of mine) gives this quartet sound considerable personality. There's a sly mischief to this music that draws upon equal parts Thelonius Monk and Kurt Weill.

Scale of the Day: E Flat Dorian mapped to the Square-root-of-2 1% narrow


The E Flat Dorian mapped to the Square-root-of-2 1% narrow Scale. The equal tempered Dorian compressed to fit within a 594-cent interval.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Scale of the Day: E Flat Dorian 4% wide


The E Flat Dorian 4% wide Scale. Systematically de-tuned, yet retaining it's intervallic symmetry within a 1248-cent interval of harmonic equivalence.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Scale of the Day: E Flat Dorian diminished 4 mapped to the Cube-root-of-2


The E Flat Dorian diminished 4 mapped to the Cube-root-of-2 Scale. The equal tempered altered scale compressed to fit within the space of an equal tempered major third.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Scale of the Day: E Flat Pythagorean Dorian mapped to the 3/2


The E Flat Pythagorean Dorian mapped to the 3/2 Scale. The Pythagorean Dorian re-sized to fit within a just perfect fifth.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Scale of the Day: E Flat 5, 3 Dorian


The E Flat 5, 3 Dorian. The classical 5-limit tuning of the Dorian Scale. Not only balanced with 3 otonal and 3 utonal members - but also completely symmetrical with each inversion of each interval contained within the scale. Arguably a beautiful tuning of this scale.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Scale of the Day: E 3, Square-root-of-2 Construct #1, Lydian Mode


The intervallic content of the E 3, Square-root-of-2, Construct #1 - Lydian Mode - Scale. Being a 2-note scale, there isn't a whole lot of intervallic content.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Scale of the Day: A 3, Square-root-of-2, Construct #1 - Lydian Inversion


The A 3, Square-root-of-2, Construct #1 - Lydian Inversion - Scale. One could think of this as summing the intervals - the just perfect fourth (4/3, the inversion of 3/2) plus the square-root-of-2 (the 600-cent "tritone") for an interval of a major seventh 1.96-cents flat.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

HurdAudio Rotation: Expansive Forces

Don Cherry: Tibet. 1981. Piccadilly (LP): PIC 3515.

Don Cherry: piano, percussion
Christer Bothen: piano
Bernt Rosengren: taragot
Agneta Ernstrom: Tibetan bell, percussion
Bengt Berger: piano, mridangam

A great record and evidence that Don Cherry did not confine his creativity to the boundaries of genre or style. His improvisations were not confined by political borders or provincialism either. "World music" that retains an edge lurking beneath soft textures. The cyclical patterns of "Bass Figure for Ballatune" applied to a piano opens up a repetitive texture in the middle of a listening experience that can honestly be described as mind expanding. Not to mention gently persuasive.

Thomas Helton: Experimentations In Minimalism. 2006. FreeBass Productions: CD-R.

Thomas Helton: doublebass
Karl Fulbright: tenor saxophone, alto saxophone, baritone saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet
Seth Paynter: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone
Martin Langford: tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet
Josh Levy: tenor saxophone, bass saxophone
Carol Morgan: trumpet
Brad Clymer: trumpet
Brian Allen: trombone
Thomas Hulten: trombone

Like Tibet, this is an expansive exploration of the softer side of creative improvisation. With Experimentations In Minimalism the focus narrows along abstract musical lines. An ostinato line or walking bass carving a path through a few of these compositions. While the "Pious" sets explore ideas within a single instrument type. The three "Experimentations In Minimalism" draw upon the Terry Riley-esque figures in the wind instruments as a textural point of reference. These compositions leave plenty of open space that this impressive set of performers never saturates. Almost hovering within the spaces carved out by these compositional ideas.

Susie Ibarra: Flower After Flower. 2000. Tzadik: TZ 7057

Susie Ibarra: drums, kulintang, percussion
Wadada Leo Smith: trumpet, brushes
Chris Speed: clarinet
Assif Tsahar: bass clarinet
Charles Burnham: violin
Cooper-Moore: flute, piano
Pauline Oliveros: accordion
John Lindberg: bass

It's strange how listening to Don Cherry can cast a new light on everything you hear in its wake. Susie Ibarra takes a heady mix of composition and stellar improvisers for a blend of deep listening and "downtown" sensibilities. Wadada Leo Smith's sound takes on new color after hearing Cherry on the same instrument. The lineage and evolution of ideas travels favorably between these two forces. The presence of Pauline Oliveros on accordion as unaccompanied soloist on "Fractal 2" as well as ensemble member on "Human Beginnings" adds an important shading to this listening experience. An excellent set of compositions that compliment Ibarra's always impressive abilities as a drummer.

Scale of the Day: G Sharp Aeolian 2% wide


The G Sharp Aeolian 2% narrow Scale. The equal tempered Aeolian scale compressed to fit within an octave that is 24-cents flat.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

HurdAudio Rotation: Hearing from the Inside

Burnt Sugar - The Arkestra Chamber Live: If you can't dazzle them with your brilliance then baffle them with your blisluth. 2005. Trugroid: 2005.

Gregory S. Tate: conduction
Jason DiMatteo: acoustic bass
Jared Michael Nickerson: electric bass
Shahzad Ismaily: banjo, stand up electric bass
Chris Eddleton: drums
Trevor Holder: drums
Qasim Naqvi: drums
Rene Akan: guitar
Tazayarah: guitar
Julia Kent: cello
Okkyung Lee: cello
Mazz Swift: violin
Matana Roberts: alto saxophone
Petre Radu-Scafaru: tenor saxophone
Satch Hoyt: flute, percussion
Bruce Mack: synthesizer
Vijay Iyer: piano, synthesizer
Jeremiah: voice
Lisala: voice
Justice Dilla-X: voice
Omega Moon: MC

The sound of applied conduction. The history of blues, jazz and funk rolled into a flow molded by an improvising conductor. A technique that lives and breathes within live performance. This has a profound effect upon textures and genres more readily identified by the use of studio crafting. Some of the material on If you can't... is uneven. But when it's on it sears a groove deep into the ears with satisfying results. The "Himatsuri (fire festival)" in particular is a knock out. "Night in Tunisia" opens up with a generous dose of Matana Roberts on alto saxophone - which is a fine sound to set the tone for this listening experience.

AMM: Laminal. 1996. Matchless Recordings: MRCD31.

The Aarhus Sequences
Denmark, December 16, 1969
Cornelius Cardew, Chrisopher Hobbs, Lou Gare, Keith Rowe, Eddie Prevost
The Great Hall
Goldsmiths' College, London, February 20, 1982
John Tilbury, Keith Rowe, Eddie Prevost
New York, May 3rd, 1994
John Tilbury, Keith Rowe, Eddie Prevost

The 1969 performance initially has a strong attraction for these ears as there is something about Cornelius Cardew that my aural system feels strong resonance for. Yet there's much of that same resonance where the piano playing of John Tilbury is involved.

The slice of AMM free improvisation taken from three separate decades is remarkable for how much - and how little - evolution there is over the span of years. AMM has always excelled at the long-form, extended quiet improvisation. It's the recording technology more than anything else that has changed from one sampling to the next. This group sounds "closer" in the more recent recordings. Something that is oddly augmented by the radio-as-instrument that runs through the 1969 performance like a guide frozen in time.

Inordinately focused and appealing. There is something glacial about AMM. A musical idea mined at a slow, slow melt that suggests a wealth of material lurking beneath the multiple layers of restraint.

Michael Vlatkovich Quartet: Alivebuquerque. 2003. pfMentum: CD045.

Michael Vlatkovich: trombone, percussion
Christopher Garcia: drums, percussion
Jonathan Golove: electric cello
David Mott: baritone saxophone

Each one of these performers is deep inside this music. They are creating it and being molded by it in the moment as they deftly peel off stunning improvisation after stunning improvisation. A casual ear might miss the richness of what is going on within the many details of this performance. But the listener willing to crawl up into this sound canvas will find something amazing here. David Mott's solo at the onset of "Every Second of Every Minute of Every Hour" is particularly spectacular. Michael Vlatkovich's compositions bring a rare sense of poetry into the abstract space of instrumental sound.

Scale of the Day: E Flat Aeolian 1% narrow


The intervallic content of the E Flat Aeolian 1% narrow Scale.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Scale of the Day: G Sharp Aeolian 3% wide


The G Sharp Aeolian 3% wide Scale. A systematically de-tuned variant of the equal tempered "natural" minor.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Turn Up the Bass

Reuben Radding with Scott R. Looney, Phillip Greenlief and Jen Baker @ Studio 1510, Oakland, CA
Friday, May 29, 2009

First set:
Scott R. Looney: piano
Reuben Radding: bass

Second set:
Phillip Greenlief: reeds
Jen Baker: trombone
Reuben Radding: bass

Duo improvisation is often a dialogue between players. Between Reuben Radding and Scott R. Looney it is an aural dance. With metal bowels, objects and wickedly playful intent inside the piano, Looney would dart off in one direction as Radding deftly kept up with his own extended techniques. Radding's percussive forays would then be echoed in the piano as the duo managed to aggressively explore without losing track of one another. Jagged, nearly cubist turns of texture and fluctuating densities added a sense of grace that reinforced the parallels to dance and movement. The final piece in the first set opened with a slow unfolding of rich harmonies played from the keyboard that left plenty of space for the resonant harmonics of the open strings on the bass with clothes pins affixed to nodal points. A beautiful interplay reinforced by the thoughtful ears of performer and audience.

The second set refocused the collaborative energy into a trio with wind instruments adding breath to the dexterity of improvised material. Radding altered his approach to match this changed dynamic. The sense of space and conversation is different with three players in the mix as individual parts become layers of a larger sonic image. The extended techniques of each performer adding a timbral depth that allows the layers to shift focal points often. At one moment Jen Baker's vocalizations blending and beating against the tone of her instrument in turn complimenting the soft, mouthpiece-free playing of Greenlief. At the next moment Greenlief weaving in the clipped calls of the alto mouthpiece as Baker and Radding respond in their own way.

The constant running through these two sets was the remarkable tension and sounding result of collaborative improvisation between unselfish improvisers. The openness to extended and individualized vocabularies within a responsive, contextually adaptive environment. The relaxed approach to a music that careens and threatens to unravel in any number of directions. Each thread weaving together along a ragged edge. Stringing together consecutive moments into an ad hoc conversation inviting to the ears and mind.

Scale of the Day: G Sharp Aeolian diminished 4 2% wide


The G Sharp Aeolian diminished 4 2% wide Scale. Altered and stretched.