Sunday, September 27, 2009

HurdAudio Rotation: Short Distances

Ursel Schlicht/Reuben Radding: Einstein's Dreams. 2004. Konnex Records: KCD 5165.

Ursel Schlicht: piano
Reuben Radding: double bass

The distance between technique and extended technique as well as the distance between collective neurons is strikingly small as Schlicht and Radding bend the improvisational continuum into a relativity Einstein only dreamed of. This is where the artistry of working within the piano is without novelty as the sonic terrain of strings and strings offers no barrier to the free flowing ideas of these creative musicians. One can hear each player listening on this recording. The duo improvisation at a refined, deliriously musical state. Music that stands up to repeated listening.

Briggan Krauss: Descending to End. 1999. Knitting Factory Records: KFW-251.

Briggan Krauss: electronics, reeds

Music from an imaginary space populated by angst and amplification. The distance between Krauss's brain and the sonic reality on this disc reduced to a cellular exchange between idea and microscopic reality. Like so many discs in my collection it feels like this one should have been more widely heard a full 10 years after its release. Though it's a rich substance that doesn't digest easily in most ears. It is an honest music realized without compromise and a startling use of recording studio techniques.

Elliott Sharp/Soldier String Quartet: Cryptid Fragments. 1993. Extreme: XCD 020.

Elliott Sharp: computer processing, thunder, sampler
Margaret Parkins: cello
Sara Parkins: violin
Michelle Kinney: cello

Soldier String Quartet:
Laura Seaton: violin
David Soldier: violin
Ron Lawrence: viola
Mary Wooten: cello

As the ears have adjusted to the manipulations of Elliott Sharp's universe through multiple listenings to this disc (it is a staple in the HurdAudio rotation) the rough edges and sonic abrasions have become readily accepted and even actively sought out. The startling details giving way to the forms that emerge from these textures. And the forms are solid and enduring. The title work being a study of manipulating solo string sonics into something brittle and harsh and rendered beautiful through its ugliness. An urban sensibility turned toward sound. A sound that feeds an ongoing addiction.

HurdAudio Rotation: Long Views

Marty Ehrlich: The Long View. 2002. Enja: 9452 2.

Marty Ehrlich: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute, muted alto saxophone, bass clarinet
Sam Furnace: alto saxophone, flute
Ned Rothenberg: alto saxophone, bass clarinet
Robert Debellis: tenor saxophone, clarinet, soprano saxophone
JD Parran: tenor saxophone, contrabass clarinet
Andy Laster: baritone saxophone, clarinet
Eddie Allen: trumpet
James Zollar: trumpet
John Clark: french horn
Clark Gayton: trombone
Marcus Rojas: tuba
Mark Dresser: bass
Michael Sarin: drums
Mark Helias: conductor, bass
Mark Feldman: violin
Ralph Farris: viola
Erik Friedlander: cello
Eddie Bobe: bongos, cowbell
Bobby Previte: drums, bass drum, tambourine
Wayne Horvitz: piano
Ray Anderson: trombone
Pheeroan akLaff: drums

A multi-movement long-form jazz composition that is highly revered at HurdAudio. Marty Ehrlich's musical ideas are filtered through the shifting instrumentation between each movement to great effect. The all-wind (plus bass) ensemble of the third movement setting a shimmering sonic texture leading into the quartet of the fourth movement. And that fourth movement is achingly beautiful as it opens with an understated set of phrases played on the piano by Wayne Horvitz. The writing and arranging is spectacular. The performances are even more so. It's amazing to me that accomplishments such as this aren't more widely on people's radar.

Dave Douglas Quintet: Live at the Bimhuis. 2002. Greenleaf Music: GRE-P-011/GRE-P-012.

Dave Douglas: trumpet
Rick Margitza: tenor saxophone
Uri Caine: fender rhodes
James Genus: bass
Clarence Penn: drums

An earlier manifestation of a quintet that has since evolved. And a reminder at how good this group has sounded along the way. Two discs documenting two sets at Amsterdam's Bimhuis drawing upon the early Dave Douglas originals found on the first two studio releases from this group and few covers. The take on Beck's "Ramshackle" feels more like a bass feature and transition out of Bjork's "Unison" than a full on arrangement. There's generous helpings of Uri Caine solos (who sounds absolutely smokin' on the fender rhodes) on "Waverly" and "The Frisell Dream." This quintet has been a great vehicle for Dave Douglas that has been generously documented.

The Peter Brötzmann Trio: For Adolphe Sax. 1967 ("Lovingly remastered" in 2002). FMP: UMS/SLP230CD.

Peter Brötzmann: tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone
Peter Kowald: bass
Sven-Ake Johansson: drums

plus Fred Van Hove (on one track): piano

The debut recording of Peter Brötzmann and his cathartic release of aggression through the saxophone. His role in the European free jazz scene and his ability to completely unload through his instrument is a particular fascination of mine and this recording represents the necessary origin for tracing that noise arc. The bonus track offers an insight into how Fred Van Hove integrated piano improvisation into this brutal texture. It's not as forceful as Machine Gun, but that legendary session is cleanly foreshadowed here. Peter Brötzmann is a forceful argument for trusting one's intuition with musical rage.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

HurdAudio Rotation: Forces, Sparks and Magic

Thomas Chapin: Third Force. 1991. [re-released as disc 1 of the Alive box set in 1999]. Knitting Factory Records: 35828 02482.

Thomas Chapin: saxophones, flute
Mario Pavone: bass
Steve Johns: drums

The debut recording from the trio format that provided such an important vehicle for this improviser. The rhythm section of Mario Pavone and Steve Johns is outstanding as Thomas Chapin takes multiple flights throughout his compositions. This group gets a good sound and this music is a staple of the '90s Knitting Factory scene. One of the interesting qualities of Thomas Chapin's composing and improvising is the creative range he finds in this music. His aesthetic isn't boxed in by inside/outside or straight/free ideals. He was willing to vamp along with the bass line when it was called for, soar into wickedly outside territory or step back and weave a lyrical passage on flute. Beautiful and profoundly human. And like too many musicians who have come before and after, all too frail with mortality.

Annie Gosfield: Flying Sparks and Heavy Machinery. 2001. Tzadik: TZ 7069.

EWA7 (1999)
Annie Gosfield: sampling keyboard
Roger Kleier: electric guitar
Ikue Mori: electronics
Jim Pugliese: drums, percussion
Sim Cain: drums, percussion
Hans-Gunter Brodmann, Matthias Rosenbauer: metal factory percussion on cylinders and combustion chamber

Flying Sparks and Heavy Machinery (2000)
Flux Quartet:
Tom Chiu: violin
Cornelius Dufallo: violin
Kenji Bunch: viola
Darrett Adkins: cello
Talujon Percussion Quartet:
Michael Lipsey, Dominic Donato, Tom Kolor, Jim Pugliese: percussion

Annie Gosfield's aesthetic mines a balance between attraction and repulsion. The mechanical, factory inspired materials of EWA7 - a piece composed to be performed on and within a factory in Nuremberg - weave together the timbral and rhythmic qualities that are both human and de-humanized. The use of sampling along with cyclical patterns giving a sequential feel that is both attractive and repellent at the same time. Full of life while at the same time aiming toward a machine-like accuracy and indifference. At times this music transcends. But it also falls flat.

Fantastic Merlins: Look Around. 2007. Innova: 670.

Nathan Hanson: tenor saxophone, electronics
Jacqueline Ferrier-Ultan: cello, electronics
Brian Roessler: bass
Federico Ughi: drums

The Twin City music scene is filled with so many gems that something as strong as this one might be overlooked or taken for granted. Working a sound that draws upon improvisation and chamber music this material takes tightly mapped, startling turns. At times energetic and introspective. Brilliant arrangements that withstand and even call for repeated listening.

Guelph Jazz Festival & Colloquium 2009: Acoustic Orienteering

"It has been exactly one year since we last spoke," Casey Sokol greets me from a street corner as he momentarily takes one hand from his accordion. He is just over 15 minutes into a 45 minute performance that traces a path through the streets of downtown Guelph, Ontario. "I've been trying to see if I can maintain the same tempo for the full 45 minutes... but I think that idea is probably a lost cause at this point."

His assigned handler scans the sidewalk, looking for members of the public to offer programs that explain the Acoustic Orienteering composition now under way in the center of this progressive university town. Fourteen other musicians are currently walking their own independent paths as their improvisations occasionally mingle within the air across streets and crosswalks. "You might keep better time if you ignore the crossing signals," I offer, less than helpfully. The handler begins to look impatiently at the time. The Acoustic Orienteering composition will require him to round the corner of Cork and Wyndam Street soon.

"The first thing they told us at rehearsal was to not get hurt." Safety being embedded into the fabric of this public performance. Each performer shadowed by a handler to help explain the artistic intent and run interference with the unsympathetic drunks unsympathetic to free improvisation as they stumble out of the bar. Before I can reply that "good music is often fraught with danger" Casey Sokol resumes his playing and rounds the corner with his handler. Folded into the strains of the Guelph Jazz Festival activities threaded into the urban fabric.

A little later Paul Dutton comes strolling toward the same corner. The sound poet is shadowed by both handler and a television camera as he performs with his voice. Without these companions one might think he had just escaped from an asylum. Trumpeter Gordon Allen pauses late along his route to play a few impromptu choruses with a street musician strumming his acoustic guitar by a store front. Jean Derome explores the acoustic properties of buildings and concrete barriers with his saxophone all along his route. Allison Cameron adding the battery powered sounds of her curio as Tania Gill walks along the opposite side of the street with a melodica.

The experience is friendly and whimsical. Similar to the High Jinx performances that are part of Baltimore's High Zero Festival. But there is a decidedly Canadian quality to Acoustic Orienteering. While High Jinx is about exposure through confrontation - often with the intent of creating discomfort within social spaces - the Guelph approach goes to great lengths to incorporate itself within a civil society. The predetermined paths for each performer is a composition designed by Michelangelo Iaffaldano and Scott Thomson. The handlers are there to soften the interface between musician and the public. The reception ranges from curiosity, indifference and mild annoyance. While those who have been attending the concerts and panels from the rest of the festival form small pockets of audience that sometimes form into small parades. The experience is decidedly communal for those of us familiar with the players as we use the program notes to track their progress.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Guelph Jazz Festival 2009: Defying Borders with The Ex

Guelph, Ontario is a progressive college town filled with contradictions. Healthy vegan cuisine is as readily available as a smoldering cigarette. A colloquium populated with heady, intellectuals passionate about probing the academic angles of improvisation theory along with a free, 12-hour jazz tent that brings improvisational practice literally to the street. A wall of black and white portraits - many faded to brown - of Anglican priests gazing sternly into the basement of St. George's Church as a full house dances to the infectious rhythms of Ethiopian jazz great Getatchew Mekuria playing saxophone with the left-wing Dutch punk band The Ex.

The call and response of Mekuria's war chant-laced saxophone lines against the pulsating barbs of Kat Bornefeld's drumming and Arnold De Boer's vocals delivering a late night dose of hedonism on the final day of panels, round tables and keynote addresses. The smiles beaming from long-time punk practitioners embracing all the same contradictions and juxtapositions as the large, hip crowd on their feet in rapt attention for Xavier Charles' wicked clarinet solo. The outstanding - at times acrobatic and seizure-like - dancing of Malaku Belay providing a flash of movement into the multicultural spectacle. A performance that crossed many of the boundaries and borders the Guelph Jazz Festival seeks to blur as part of its mandate delivered with an added visceral punch.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Scale of the Day: F Ionian minor 2 no 5


The intervallic content of the F Ionian minor 2 no 5 Scale as one would find it on any conventionally tuned, equal tempered instrument.