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.

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