Saturday, July 31, 2010

HurdAudio Rotation: Chasing Beauty

Ornette Coleman: Beauty is a Rare Thing: The Complete Atlantic Recordings [disc 1]. 1993. Rhino Records: R1-71410.

Ornette Coleman: alto saxophone
Don Cherry: cornet, pocket trumpet
Charlie Haden: bass
Billy Higgins: drums

Few recordings capture the birth of a new movement like the sessions found on this first disc. Hitting with a burst of quartet before settling into a long improvisation from Charlie Haden. This the sound of Ornette Coleman hitting upon a nearly ideal format for realizing his musical vision and completely altering the way improvisation would be practiced from that day forward. This music works on so many different layers it is nearly overwhelming. Beyond the great melodies forged for this session ("Lonely Woman," "Focus on Sanity," Una Muy Bonita" and so many more that have taken on a life force of their own well beyond these first recordings) there is what these four players do with this material and an early glimpse of harmolodics in practice. Things rarely fall into place so completely as this - even for Ornette Coleman in his later recording dates. Some of the most enduring and haunting expressions ever captured on record.

Jon Hassell: Last night the moon came dropping its clothes in the street. 2009. ECM: 2077.

Jon Hassell: trumpet, keyboard
Peter Freeman: bass, percussion, guitar
Jan Bang: live sampling
Jamie Muhoberac: keyboard, drums
Rick Cox: guitar
Kheir Eddine M'Kachiche: violin
Eivind Aarset: guitar
Helge Norbakken: drums
Pete Lockett: drums
Dino J.A. Deane: live sampling
Steve Shehan: percussion

The Fourth World sound pioneered by Jon Hassell gets the full Manfred Eicher production treatment with lush, luminous textures filled with spacious reverberation, real-time sample manipulation and plenty of space for the intricate details of this music to unfold at slow to moderate tempos. With all the attention to sonic detail afforded by the recording process this music never loses its "live" qualities. Sounding more like a band than a highly skilled session players laying down parallel tracks. Peter Freeman's electric bass providing a lyrical grounding point for music that careens with the slightest breeze. The ambiguous forms and slow grooves makes for a beautiful music that nearly suspends time as it bends toward Hassell's unique, vocal-like trumpet tone.

Michael Gordon/Alarm Will Sound: Van Gogh. 2007. Cantaloupe Music: CA21044.

Alarm Will Sound
Alan Pierson: conductor
Sarah Chalfy: soprano
Matthew Hensrud: tenor
Clay Greenberg: bass
Elisabeth Stimpert: clarinet, bass clarinet
Payton MacDonald: percussion
Dennis DeSantis: percussion
Courtney Orlando: piano
Ryan Ferreira: electric guitar
Caleb Burhans: violin
John Pickford Richards: viola
Stefan Freund: cello
Miles Brown: double bass

Sonic arrangements with all the gruesome ugliness and anatomical beauty of a severed human ear. A loud, pulse-heavy setting of letters written by Van Gogh that eloquently depict the stresses, punishments and timeless anxiety of the thoughtful artist. The stubborn dedication to one's own inner demons and drive despite the total lack of external support or encouragement. The brash sonic lines mirroring the brush strokes of the master painter. The relentlessness of the musical texture drawing the listener into the madness of the solitary mind that penned these words. Michael Gordon has painted a tribute to the accomplishments that outlive the pressures they survive by drawing out the words and allowing the struggles and joys to hang and dance in the air along some brilliantly composed music. The words of self doubt and frustrations with society felt by one of the greatest painters to have picked up a brush speaks volumes about the human condition.

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