Saturday, April 10, 2010

HurdAudio Rotation: Passion and Poetry

Bill Frisell: Floratone. 2007. Blue Note Records: 0946 3 93879 2 2.

Bill Frisell: electric guitar, acoustic guitar, loops, vocals
Matt Chamberlain: drums, percussion, loops
Tucker Martine: production
Lee Townsend: production
with guests -
Viktor Krauss: acoustic bass, electric bass
Ron Miles: cornet
Eyvind Kang: viola

A Bill Frisell project that allows the production talents of Tucker Martine and Lee Townsend to flex their chops as all manner of overdubbing and processing is mixed in with some of the heaviest jazz chops on the planet. It's not easy to balance the qualities that make a good studio record out of players who can rip things pretty hard in a live setting. Jazz has traditionally stood on its own through recordings of the live experience that bring out the real time interaction between master players. The resulting sound on Floratone doesn't exactly invite the listener to get their freak on out on the dance floor. But the sense of time that unfolds in these gritty, layered pieces is a revelation in these textures. The "in the pocket" feel these musicians bring to the stage is expertly preserved and built upon.

McCoy Tyner: The Real McCoy. 1967 (re-issued in 1999). Blue Note Records: 7243 4 97807 2 9.

McCoy Tyner: piano
Joe Henderson: tenor saxophone
Ron Carter: bass
Elvin Jones: drums

There are few things that equal the hook and groove of "Passion Dance." The joyous appeal of that track alone is enough to mark The Real McCoy as a must have in any serious jazz collection. Followed up by four other outstanding tracks this is simply one of those Blue Note recordings where four outstanding musicians went into a session and came out with a great album. Though there is the heart break that comes from the unfortunate fade out at the end of "Passion Dance" that leaves the ears hungry for the unfettered, non-duration limited jam that is suggested underneath as the levels pull down artificially.

Harry Partch: 17 Lyrics of Li Po. 1995. Tzadik: TZ 7012.

Stephen Kalm: intoning voice
Ted Mook: tenor violin

The intoning voice was Partch's elegant solution for vocal music that remained true to the natural, spoken inflections of speech and its rhythms. Allowing for melodic contours to coalesce around the substance of poetry as well as the character of its narrator. This particular set of songs ranks as one of my personal favorites. An example of how to adapt the voice. And more importantly, how to not adapt the voice to a musical setting. One can almost picture Harry Partch quietly composing these revolutionary songs in the evenings in New Orleans as he toiled as a dish washer by day. Humble origins from a celebrated maverick.

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