Sunday, January 31, 2010

HurdAudio Rotation: Resonant Spirits

Albert Ayler: Holy Ghost [disc 2]. 2004. Revenant Records: 213.

Albert Ayler Trio, June 14, 1964 @ The Cellar Cafe, New York City
Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone
Gary Peacock: bass
Sunny Murray: drums

Albert Ayler Quartet, September 3, 1964 @ Cafe Montmartre, Copenhagen, Denmark
Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone
Don Cherry: cornet
Gary Peacock: bass
Sunny Murray: drums

Burton Greene Quintet, February 1966 @ Slugs', New York City
Burton Greene: piano
Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone
Frank Smith: tenor saxohpone
Steve Tintweiss: bass
Rashid Ali: drums

This disc appeals to both the archivist and the mind hungry to hear how these musicians played together back at a time when Albert Ayler was still birthing his music. The multiple takes on "Spirits" and "Children" gives an invaluable glimpse into how these tunes evolved in his personal repertoire while the roughness of the recordings leave equal traces of regret that the session wasn't better engineered and gratitude that this documentation exists at all.

Arnold Dreyblatt: Resonant Relations. 2008. Cantaloupe Music: CA 21046.

Resonant Relations
performed by the Crash Ensemble
Susan Doyle: flutes
Roderick O'Keeffe: trombone
Deirdre Moynihan: violin
Lisa Grosman: viola
Kate Ellis: cello
Malachy Robinson: bass
David Adams: harpsichord, keyboards
Steve Kelly: percussion

Twentyfive Chords In Twentyfive In Ninety Four Variations
Arnold Dreyblatt: miniature princess pianoforte, excited strings bass
Konrad Sprenger: sinewaves

A welcome chance to revisit one of the highlights of the Bang on a Can marathon concert a couple of years back as the Crash Ensemble delivers a crisp interpretation of the obsessively driven Resonant Relations. Blocks of repetitive textures spun from an ensemble that has been re-tuned to realize this work. There is little to no transition as parts follow one another in a succession of episodic moments. The ear is invited into its teaming sonic undercurrent but not forcefully so. Twentyfive Chords In Twentyfive In Ninety Four Variations steps back into sparse textures that expose an even further methodical obsession. Music that is both exquisitely beautiful and painfully sterile at the same time. Irresistible and cold. Familiar and alien.

John Cage: The Freeman Etudes. 1995. Newport Classic: 85616/2.

Janos Negyesy: violin

Solo violin writing that stretches the boundaries of what is possible - both through notation and virtuosic playing. Occupying more than two hours without recourse to narrative form. Each moment falling within an even tapestry of indeterminately generated fragility. Layered over the top of this singular instrument scratching and plucking my ears begin to impose human cries and expressive gestures of solitude. The sound of honesty within a seemingly rigid aesthetic of a music free from want and desire. The interpretation offered by Negyesy is polished and relaxed despite the prolonged (and often severe) demands the score places upon the performer.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

HurdAudio Rotation: Boxing Edition - Box Sets of Braxton and Beethoven

Anthony Braxton 12+1tet: 9 Compositions (Iridium) 2006 - disc 5. Firehouse 12 Records: FH12-04-03-001.

Recorded live: March 18, 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

Disc 5 = Composition 354 - dedicated to the composer Charles Wuorinen

These hour long slices of Braxtonian textures do manage to induce a ghost trance state. The layers of pulse, of composed line meeting up with the intensity of long form group improvisation. The unison passages that emerge between different members of the 12+1 ensemble revealing startling compositional support structures within a music that is willfully non-hierarchical. Slabs of sound that invite an intense creativity from the individuals of this ensemble while still remaining completely consistent with the sonic universe of Anthony Braxton. Braxton's own solos operating in a world apart through the depth of his voice and ideas. Box sets such as this offer up an improbable wealth of his music that retains a consistency that may take generations to completely absorb and appreciate.

Ludwig van Beethoven: The Symphonies [disc 4]. Recorded in 1993. The International Music Company: 305298-305.

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Mark Ermler: conductor

Symphony No. 6 in F major (op.68) "Pastorale"

An early example of program music from a composer not normally associated with spinning narrative through the abstract voices of a symphony. And it only barely hints at the excesses (and heavy handedness) that would follow as the Romantic Era picked up in earnest. Even a casual listening to this work makes it clear that this symphony lives within a major root of Western music traditions. Within the details of this tranquil visit to the countryside through sound lurk the formal sensibilities that are so strongly associated with Beethoven. The formal construction (and his willingness to deviate from conventional practice) along with the unerring ability to develop themes over time. For these ears it is the arrangement of these themes and the manner that they unfold that gives this piece its longevity.

Ludwig van Beethoven: The Complete Quartets, Vol. III. 1986-1994. Delos International: DE 3033.

The Orford String Quartet
Andrew Dawes: violin
Kenneth Perkins: violin
Terence Helmer: viola
Denis Brott: cello

String Quartet in F Major, Op. 59, No. 1 ("Razumovsky")
String Quartet in A Major, Op. 18, No. 5

The Razumovsky quartets may be more deserving of the fetish poured down upon all nine symphonies. Thankfully, they are not. Leaving these ears to hear them fresh in a way not possible with the over-exposed symphonic works that require a zen mind to hear past the crushing familiarity. It is through these string quartets that the intimidating accomplishments of Beethoven can be appreciated, approached and savored (if not completely digested).

Sunday, January 24, 2010

HurdAudio Rotation: From A Baroque Window

Wayne Horvitz/Four Plus One Ensemble: From A Window. 2001. Disk Union: Avan 080.

Wayne Horvitz: piano, prepared piano, hammond B-3, pump organ, synthesizers, toy piano
Eyvind Kang: violin, viola
Tucker Martine: live electronic processing, live drum machine
Julian Priester: trombone
Reggie Watts: keyboards, vocals, live drum machine, piano
special guest - Skerik: baritone saxophone

A shimmering set of compositions that do so much without doing too much. Deceptively simple pieces that swing, groove and touch upon a slice of chamber jazz, funk and blues within the deceptive brilliance of melodic and harmonic construction. The "plus one" of Tucker Martine's real-time processing combined with the improvisational prowess of the band breathes an organic life into this music that occasionally dances and paints the air with its lush and delicate textures. A good example of the Wayne Horvitz sound and knack for arranging that is so important to these ears.

Andrew Hill: A Beautiful Day. 2002. Palmetto Records: PM 2085.

Andrew Hill : piano
Scott Colley: bass
Nasheet Waits: drums
Aaron Stewart: tenor saxophone
John Savage: alto saxophone, flute
Marty Ehrlich: alto saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet, flute
Greg Tardy: tenor saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet
J.D. Parran: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet
Ron Horton: trumpet
Dave Ballou: trumpet
Laurie Frink: trumpet
Bruce Staalens: trumpet
Charlie Gordon: trombone
Joe Fiedler: trombone
Mike Fahn: trombone
Jose D'avila: tuba

Like many of Andrew Hill's recordings, this one withstands repeated listenings with an unbelievable barrage of new details that emerge with each new aural acquaintance. The immediate impression of just how impressive the horn arrangements are gives way to the beauty of the compositional forms. Then comes the realization of how intense the individual solos are followed by the thread of piano material from the composer and band leader of this ensemble. Then the ears step back and hear how all those parts work together. It's enough to make one hit play again and again with this disc. This is good stuff.

Johann Sebastian Bach: Back Edition [disc 1-2]. Recorded in May 2006: Brilliant Classics: 93102/2.

Musica Amphion,
Pieter-Jan Belder
Remy Baudet: leader

Concerto no. 4 in G Major BWV 1049
Remy Baudet: violin
Pieter-Jan Belder: recorder
Saskia Coolen: recorder

Concerto no. 5 in D Major BWV 1050
Wilbert Hazelzet: traverso
Remy Baudet: violin
Pieter-Jan Belder: harpsichord

Concerto no. 6 in B flat Major BWV 1051
Staas Swierstra: viola
Sayuri Yamagata: viola
Mieneke van der Velden: viola da gamba
Johannes Boer: viola da gamba
Lucia Swarts: cello

The Brandenburg Concertos are some of the most passively known works around. I know these pieces well and I've almost never listened to them directly. They are the background music for so many public spaces and public media that one may never even know who or what they are. A sure sign of durability. As my own perspective expands to take in the long continuum between early and contemporary music I'm finding the Baroque period particularly interesting. And these pieces are well worth a direct listening.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

HurdAudio Rotation: Resonant Bodies, Resonant Souls

John Luther Adams: The Mathematics of Resonant Bodies. 2006. Cantaloupe Music: CA21034.

The Mathematics of Resonant Bodies


Steven Schick: percussion

A work of incredibly austere purity. Each movement focusing on the layering of a single percussive instrument to reveal the complex beauty and interplay of enharmonic partials piled up over time. A complexity made aural through a simplicity of execution. This is music that builds upon James Tenney's Having Never Written A Note For Percussion and Steve Reich's Drumming to add an impressive strain of thought into the percussion repertoire. It also builds upon a sensibility of ritual and meditative trance as the textures are presented over a long period of time. Sonically and conceptually impressive.

Tom Ze: Fabrication Defect: Com Defeito De Fabricacao. 1998. Luaka Bop/Warner Brothers: 946953-2.

Tom Ze: lead vocals, acoustic guitar, bochexaxado (cheek xaxado), rubber balloon on tooth
Dino Barioni: guitar
Marcos Di Santis: trombone
Gilberto Assis: bass, acoustic guitar, mandolin, vocals, rabe ca (Hill Billy violin), baixolao
Jarbas Mariz: percussion, 12-string guitar, mandolin, bottles, vocals
Marco Prado: bongo, 10-string guitar
Lauro Lellis: drums
Cristina Carneiro: vocal, keyboards, bottles
Luanda: vocals
Nilza Maria: vocals
+ many guest musicians

A message from the people outside the circle of wealthy and "developed" nations that they have rich lives not bound by the service and identities of the powerful. A concept album expressing the determination to dance and dream in defiance of serving external interests along with a healthy disrespect for the ownership class of copyrights and property. World music without the nauseating packaging associated with that label. A concept album that continues to stand up and deliver.

Giacinto Scelsi: Natura Renovatur. 2006. ECM Records: ECM New Series 1963 476 3106.

Frances-Marie Uitti: cello
Munchener Kammerorchester
Christoph Poppen: conductor

(1966) for 16 strings
Ave Maria (1970) for violoncello solo
Anagamin (1965) for 11 strings
Ygghur (1961) for violoncello solo
Natura renovatur (1967) for 11 strings
Alleluja (1970) for violoncello solo

Francis-Marie Uitti's solo cello performances of the Three Latin Prayers for solo voice is one of the more sensual attractions of this collection of Scelsi works. It is a curious programming choice to split the three prayers between works for larger string ensembles. A sequencing choice that reveals two parallel tracks to Scelsi's aesthetic voice that are incredibly attractive at an aural level. This particular recording of Natura renovatur is exquisite. It is clearly an important work in the Scelsi catalogue worthy of multiple interpretations. At the same time, the three prayers remain separated from each other as a voice of spiritual (and at times achingly lyrical) expression that deserves to be performed and programmed into a cohesive whole. Leaving the ears hungry for a full disc of solo cello works performed by the incomparable Uitti as a way of immersing in that one, singular dimension of Scelsi's music with an artist and collaborator most qualified to present it.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

HurdAudio Rotation: 3 Reedsmen

Anthony Braxton Sextet: (Victoriaville) 2005. 2005. Victo: cd 098.

Anthony Braxton: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, f soprano saxophone
Taylor Ho Bynum: trumpet
Jay Rozen: tuba
Jessica Pavone: violin
Chris Dahlgren: double bass
Aaron Siegel: drums, percussion, vibraphone

The creative direction and influence upon this sound is unmistakeably Braxton's as this Sextet of improvisers interprets Composition No. 345. And yet it remains a platform for hearing multiple angles from each of these players over this hour long experience. The lines of communication and interaction between players is taut as it crackles with a reserved, collaborative energy. Braxton's own saxophone lines drive home just how much of a master he is at the art of improvised music. The structural underpinnings that make this long form experience possible is also yet another testament to the systems and integrity of Braxton's deeply thought out approach to this music. One can hear these individuals listening just as much as one can hear them performing faithfully within the parameters of Braxton's vision. Beyond the considerable layers of intellect running throughout this music there is also the sonic beauty of it. Which is perhaps the strongest argument of all. An impressive slab from the prolific artistry of Anthony Braxton.

Ellery Eskelin: Vanishing Point. 2001. Hat Hut Records: hatOLOGY 577.

Ellery Eskelin: tenor saxophone
Mat Maneri: violin
Erik Friedlander: cello
Mark Dresser: bass
Matt Moran: vibraphone

This disc bolts into the air with one of Eskelin's signature tenor saxophone lines. And before long the string section and vibraphone are not far behind him as the individuals of this quintet weave around and respond to Eskelin's playing. Eventually a collective sound emerges that is more collective than individually driven. Unlike the Braxton Sextet - which is undeniably Braxton at every aesthetic turn - this one is a playground of five musicians of equal creative stature. The timbral combination of strings, vibraphone and tenor saxophone is incredibly pleasant. The extended techniques emanating from the string section offering a sharp contrast to the notion of "strings" as a lush backdrop for saxophone solo. The degree of attention at work behind the spontaneity of this sound is deceptive. This is music that finds a form through collective memory that is impressive to hear.

Ornette Coleman: Sound Grammar. 2006. Sound Grammar: SG 11593.

Ornette Coleman: saxophones, violin, trumpet
Denardo Coleman: drums, percussion
Gregory Cohen: bass
Tony Falanga: bass

A representative sampling of the current Ornette Coleman quartet at this late point in his career. By now the Ornette songbook is overflowing with compositions and the practice of harmolodics is a refined (if still not widely understood) philosophy and improvisational approach. Coleman's voice on saxophone is as strong and personal as it ever was. There's a feeling of effortlessness now with a sound that took a lifetime of struggle to forge. The two-bass quartet manages to find a sonic territory that encompasses the full breadth of Ornette's journey into a sound that is at once joy and a recapitulation of an impressive life in music. A worthy addition to any jazz collection.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

HurdAudio Rotation: Bands, Ensembles and Secret Societies

Peggy Lee Band: Worlds Apart. 2004. Spool: SPL124.

Peggy Lee: cello
Brad Turner: trumpet, cornet, flugelhorn
Jeremy Berkman: trombone
Tony Wilson: electric guitar, acoustic guitar
Andre Lechance: electric bass, acoustic bass
Dylan van der Schyff: drums
with guest Ron Samworth: electric guitar, acoustic guitar

About as forceful a reminder of just how good the Vancouver improvised music scene is as these ears have heard. Peggy Lee's cello is only occasionally at the focal point of this sound. The collaborative sound of the full band along with the taut lines traced between improvised and artfully arranged textures is the substance of this music. The balance of shape and form from the long gesture of "Worlds Apart" transitioning into "Soft Scrape" to the short bursts of creative play of "Old One Knows" or "First Spin" give this disc a delicious asymmetry filled with plenty of variation within its various layers. The qualities of this music draw the ears in deeper with each additional listening.

Joe Lovano Ensemble: Streams of Expression. 2006. Blue Note Records: 0946 3 41092 2 2.

Joe Lovano: tenor saxophone, alto clarinet, aulochrome
Tim Hagans: trumpet
Barry Ries: trumpet
Larry Farrell: trombone
Steve Slagle: alto saxophone, flute
George Garzone: tenor saxophone
Ralph Lalama: tenor saxophone, clarinet
Gary Smulyan: baritone saxophone
John Hicks: piano
Dennis Irwin: bass
Lewis Nash: drums
Charles Russo: clarinet, bass clarinet
Michael Parloff: flute
James Weidman: piano

Music that covers a deceptively wide swath of jazz history, composition and performance that touches upon the innovative traditions and innovative contemporary practices with equal force. Gunther Schuller's arrangements mine the Gil Evans and Miles Davis collaborations in a manner that sounds vibrant and alive while still holding strong roots to a bygone era. And in many ways Joe Lovano's abilities make him an ideal performer for music that holds the entire history of jazz practice within every breath. The sequence of tracks interrupts the Streams of Expression suite by inserting the complete The Birth of the Cool Suite along with a pair of other pieces (one for small ensemble) between the second and third movement. This ordering actually helps attach the title work into the overall fabric. The extensive use of aulochrome (essentially a soprano saxophone with two horns) in the final movement of Streams of Expression and into the final track Big Ben highlights the innovative, forward looking direction of Lovano's playing on the heels of a convincing sonic argument for his place in the Blue Note catalogue and tradition.

Darcy James Argue's Secret Society: Infernal Machines. 2009. New Amsterdam Records: NW AM 017.

Darcy James Argue: composer, conductor
Erica von Kleist: winds
Sam Sadigursky: winds
Rob Wilkerson: winds
Mark Small: winds
Josh Sinton: winds
Seneca Black: trumpet, fluegel horn
Laurie Frink: trumpet, fluegal horn
Tom Goehring: trumpet, fluegal horn
Nadje Noordhuis: trumpet, fluegal horn
Ingrid Jensen: trumpet, fluegal horn
Mike Fahie: trombone
James Hirschfeld: trombone
Ryan Keberle: trombone
Jennifer Wharton: trombone
Sebastian Noelle: acoustic guitar, electric guitar
Mike Holober: piano, rhodes piano
Matt Clohesy: acoustic bass, electric bass
Jon Wikan: drums, percussion

Polished and always forward looking big band music from the steam punk machinations of Darcy James Argue. Electric guitars, electric piano and processed percussion are woven into a texture of brass and reeds as the Infernal Machine of this ensemble churns out lush, progressive textures. The result is an infernal beauty. It's the ensemble writing that shines here with extensive attention to details and innovative sonic beds running underneath some great solo work. This one deserves its many accolades and more importantly deserves to be heard and savored. Highly recommended.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

HurdAudio Rotation: Knife and Voice

Shonen Knife: Brand New Knife. 1997. MCA Victor/Big Deal: 9035-2.

Naoko Yamano: vocals, guitar, melotron
Michie Nakatani: vocals, bass
Atsuko Yamano: vocals, drums, percussion

Guilty pleasure. The addition of the Japanese originals for many of these tracks reveals that some of these songs are sung with a different kind of conviction in their native language. Though the strangely accented syllables and quirky subject matter are a gift. A means of shattering poetic pretense while still taking side alleys toward life's truths. But mostly a guilty pleasure.

Brian Sacawa: American Voices. 2007. Innova: 675.

Brian Sacawa: saxophones
Erik Spangler: turntables, electronics
Wenli Zhou: piano

Piece in the Shape of a Square by Philip Glass
Pre-Amnesia by Lee Hyla
pastlife laptops and attic instruments by Erik Spangler
Netherland by Chris Theofanidis
Bacchanalia Skiapodorum by Derek Hurst
Voice Within Voice by Keeril Makan
The Low Quartet by Michael Gordon

The static, minimalist works of Glass and Gordon book end this recital of works for saxophones. Each work presented with an equal attention to the details and demands of a wide ranging sampling of contemporary aesthetics. Equal respect is offered to the thorny lines of Hyla's Pre-Amnesia and the groove textures of Spanglers's pastlife laptops and attic instruments. The contrasts between selections giving an honest voice to the American Voices offered up on this disc. The details lurking within each individual piece revealing themselves in unexpected ways with repeat listenings. The soundtrack of my brief years in Baltimore.

Morton Subotnick: and the butterflies begin to sing. 1997. New World Records: 80514-2.

and the butterflies begin to sing (1988) for string quartet, bass, midi keyboard and computer
The Amernet String Quartet:
Kyoko Kashiwagi: violin
Marcia Littley de Arias: violin
Malcolm Johnson: viola
Javier Arias-Flores: cello

Bleda Elibal: double bass
James Tocco: keyboard

All my hummingbirds have alibis (1991) for flute, cello, midi keyboard, midi mallets, and computer
California EAR Unit:
Gloria Cheng: keyboard
Erika Duke: cello
Amy Knoles: percussion
Dorothy Stone: flute
Joan La Barbara: voice
Gene Youngblood: voice
Morton Subotnick: voice

These Morton Subotnick works from the late '80s and early '90s stand out sonically and aesthetically from his early works. There's a mixture of attraction and repulsion to these pieces for me that often requires gazing directly into them from time to time. Many of the textures assembled from live and electronic sound sources are incredibly appealing. Even if many of the midi sourced timbres have not aged particularly well. The tight, sequenced rhythms and impossible fills are also enormously attractive and off putting at the same time. It's a music that draws the listener in (with plenty of substance) while leaving one suspicious that they are gorging on a sonic, sticky substance like too much candy. Over the span of this listening I come away with a mixed bag. and the butterflies begin to sing is a fantastic composition that overcomes much of my qualms about the sweetness of this music. While All my hummingbirds have alibis leaves me disappointed. The mixture of voice with live instruments and electronics creating an uneasy sonic terrain. These are works that need to be revisited and reevaluated within the overall (and impressive) Morton Subotnick oeuvre.