Thursday, November 26, 2009

HurdAudio Rotation: Haywire and the Brain

Thomas Chapin Trio plus Strings: Haywire. 1996 (Re-released as disc 5 of the Alive box set, 1999). Knitting Factory Records: 35828 02482-2.

Thomas Chapin: alto saxophone, mezzo-soprano saxophone, baritone saxophone, flute, miscellaneous instruments
Mario Pavone: bass
Michael Sarin: drums
Mark Feldman: violin
Boris Rayskin: cello
Kiyoto Fujiwara: bass

The Thomas Chapin Trio worked with formal development like a fabric. Woven through the smart arrangements and melodic lines are a multitude of moments that allow Chapin's improvisational voice to emerge along a wide range of emotional intensity. Moments that don't come at the expense of formal connectivity to the sequential parts of the music. Moments that also allow generous room for the other members of the ensemble to shine with equal brightness. With the added string trio the ears are treated to the creative sparks that fly between Mark Feldman and Thomas Chapin throughout this disc. The ears are reminded how deceptive a simple ostinato can be as a compositional device. How a repeated pattern can lend toward a building up of texture. And how much a few well placed utterances can add to a flute solo. This music is an affirmation of Thomas Chapin's assertion that "the point is to stay awake and alive to what is going on." There is plenty going on and the rewards come in hearing them.

Anthony Braxton: Piano Quartet, Yoshi's 1994 [disc 4]. 1996. Music & Arts: CD 849.

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

This set of jazz standards as interpreted by Braxton's quartet has several endearing qualities. Marty Ehrlich's playing being prominent among its better elements. The selection of material is outstanding. But that plodding, heavy handed piano under Braxton's hands makes it clear that it is not his primary instrument. The piano solos are adventurous and full of substance. But not much for nuance or dynamic range. This is one standards project that stumbles with Braxton (many of his standards projects are wickedly good). Yet I keep dipping my ears in it. Finding trace elements that inform. As well as the object lesson of a creative endeavor that falls short.

Anthony Braxton 12+1tet: 9 Compositions (Iridium) 2006 - disc 3. Firehouse 12 Records: FH12-04-03-001.

Recorded live: March 17, 2006 at Iridium Jazz Club, New York City.

The Anthony Braxton 12+1tet
Anthony Braxton: composer, alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, sopranino saxophone, clarinet and Eb contalto clarinet
Taylor Ho Bynum: cornet, flugelhorn, trumpbone, piccolo trumpet, bass trumpet, shell
Andrew Raffo Dewar: soprano saxophone, c-melody saxophone, clarinet
James Fei: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet
Mary Halvorson: electric guitar
Stephen H. Lehman: alto saxophone, sopranino saxophone
Nicole Mitchell: flute, alto flute, bass flute, piccolo, voice
Jessica Pavone: viola, violin
Reut Regev: trombone, flugelbone
Jay Rozen: tuba, euphonium
Sara Schoenbeck: bassoon, suona
Aaron Siegel: percussion, vibraphone
Carl Testa: acoustic bass, bass clarinet

Composition No. 352 - Dedicated to the composer Sofia Gubardulina

In the body of group improvisation dynamics there are few systems that so accurately sublimate the ensemble into the functional replication of Anthony Braxton's considerable brain. Each neurological impulse firing along the ghost trance logics so meticulously crafted and imparted to these players. Yet this is a sublimation without submission. A group ensemble not falling under the dictatorship of baton and score. The pulse structures - often loosely defined and interpreted - provides the ears with the structural underpinnings that never overwhelm the individual improvisations necessary to fill in the details of this piece.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

HurdAudio Rotation: Concord, Cash and Khoom

Henry Brant: The Henry Brant Collection, Volume 7: A Concord Symphony. 2007. Innova: 414.

Henry Brant: orchestration of the Charles Ives Piano Sonata No. 2, Concord, Mass., 1840-60.

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Dennis Russell Davies: conductor

This is such a brilliant reinforcement of two major branches of American new music. The mixture of Henry Brant's profound understanding of the music and ethos of Charles Ives with the personality and levity of Brant's own personality producing an orchestration that is completely on target for the gravity and expression of Ives' monumental piano work. The instrumentation opens up new shading into the rich substance of this piece. A valuable "collaboration" that deserves its own position in any repertoire of American identity.

Johnny Cash: Love, God, Murder. 2000. Sony Music Entertainment: C3K 63809.

Compilations produced by Johnny Cash.
Co-Produced by Steve Berkowitz and Al Quaglieri

It's hard to argue with compilations hand picked by Johnny Cash constructed around the themes of Love, God and Murder (on three separate discs). Each successive collection burrowing deeper into a raw nerve of human emotional tolls. But then, it's never wise to argue with the man in black. The deceptive simplicity bolstered by conviction and understanding. A willingness to speak out for the downtrodden without becoming more or less than any of us. A sense of faith without preaching or self righteousness. Johnny Cash was a rare soul.

Giacinto Scelsi: 5 String Quartets/String Trio/Khoom. 2002. Naive: MO 782156.

Arditti String Quartet:
Irvine Arditti: violin
David Alberman: violin
Levine Andrade: viola
Rohan De Saram: cello
Michiko Hirayama: voice
Maurizio Ben Omar: percussion
Frank Lloyd: horn
Aldo Brizzi: conductor

String Quartet No. 1 (1944)
String Trio (1958)
String Quartet No. 2 (1961)
Khoom for piano 6 players (1962)
String Quartet No. 3 (1963)
String Quartet No. 4 (1964)
String Quartet No. 5 (1974/85)

Still one of my favorite narratives played out in abstract sound. The evolution of Giacinto Scelsi as he became his iconic (and eccentric) self. A progression from non-tonal ideas and aesthetic into the timbral obsessions and extreme textures that make Scelsi so important. Listening to his string writing from the first quartet through the fifth is an exercise in hearing personal growth unfold.

Monday, November 02, 2009

HurdAudio Rotation: Exiles and Lizards

Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath: Travelling Somewhere. 1973 (re-issued in 2001). Cuneiform: Rune 152.

Chris McGregor: piano
Harry Beckett: trumpet
Mark Charig: trumpet
Nick Evans: trombone
Mongezi Feza: trumpet
Malcolm Griffiths: trombone
Harry Miller: double bass
Louis Moholo: drums
Mike Osborne: alto saxophone
Evan Parker: tenor saxophone
Dudu Pukwana: alto saxophone
Gary Windo: tenor saxophone

The Brotherhood of Breath is so under-documented that every scrapbook of joyful sound is incredibly valuable. Improvisation of the highest order built upon layers of human experience, cultural reference points and exile. The unusual challenges endured by this mix of South African and European musicians pouring out with a vibration of fervent humanity. Here lie multiple avenues for large ensemble writing yet to be fully explored.

The Lounge Lizards: Queen of All Ears. 1998. Strange & Beautiful Music: SB 0015.

John Lurie: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, vocals
Michael Blake: tenor saxophone, bass clarinet
Steven Bernstein: trumpet
David Tronzo: slide guitar
Evan Lurie: piano, organ
Jane Scarpantoni: cello
Erik Sanko: bass
Ben Perowsky: percussion
Calvin Weston: drums

It's good to be reminded just how much I dig this ensemble. The layering of patterns in "The First and Royal Queen" always brings a smile at the onset of this disc and the journey continues from there. Rich with musical ideas and moments of whimsy. Particularly the mad screaming set up by the story telling in "Yak." Plenty of impressive talent in this large band.

Sun Ra: The Creator of the Universe. 1971 performances (released in 2009). Transparency: 0301.

The Lost Reel Collection:
disc 1: Warehouse, San Francisco, June 10, 1971
Sun Ra with Arkestra
disc 2: 3rd Class, UC Berkeley, May 4, 1971
Sun Ra lecture

Billed as "a Sun Ra album like no other," this release of recovered reel to reel recordings from Sun Ra's time in the Bay Area does pry open the persona of Le Sony'r Ra to reveal the street preacher of his Chicago days expounding upon his concepts of racial inequality against his cosmic orientation. Disc one offering a long declamation over arkestral accompaniment while the course lecture on the second disc (from his year in residence at UC Berkeley) is accompanied by the sound of nervous laughter and chalk on blackboard. The wordplay and ability to turn concepts upside down paired with his oddly charismatic voice of prophecy. The sense of a body of music born out of relentless questioning and a willingness to dismiss accepted conventions in all matters. A documentation of thought more so than music. Beautiful, frustrating, engaging and troubling all at the same time.