Saturday, July 03, 2010

HurdAudio Rotation: Studies in Intensity

Elliott Sharp/Soldier String Quartet: Hammer, Anvil, Stirrup. 1989. SST Records: SST CD 232.

Hammer, Anvil, Stirrup (take 1)
Tessalation Row
Hammer, Anvil, Stirrup
(take 4)

Elliott Sharp: guitar, composer
Ratso B. Harris: bass (on Re/Iterations)

Soldier String Quartet
Laura Seaton: violin
David Soldier: violin
Ron Lawrence: viola
Mary Wooten: cello

This one has been in my ears off and on since 1987. I can practically reconstruct every detail and nuance of this particular performance of Tessalation Row from memory. That piece changed so much about how I hear things and it is often lurking in my own textural creations. Beyond featuring the outstanding Fibonacci driven Tessalation Row this collection of string quartet compositions offer an earful of Sharp's organic growth from New York's lower east side hard-core music scene to chamber music composer. This music retains an aggressive edge that finds noise within the harmonic frequencies of open strings that mirror the saturation of multiple amplified guitars. The rhythmic precision and unison attacks in the suite extending of Digital, Diurnal and Ringtoss is remarkable. This is some of my favorite music of all time in one concentrated dose.

Cecil Taylor: The Great Paris Concert. 1966 (re-issued in 1994). Black Lion Records: BLCD 60201.

Cecil Taylor: piano
Jimmy Lyons: alto saxophone
Alan Silva: bass
Andrew Cyrille: drums

A documentation of a late November 1966 concert that lives every bit to its "great" connotation. The 20-minute Andrew Cyrille feature "Amplitude" alone is a jaw dropping excursion through this incredible era of the free jazz movement. Cecil Taylor just seems to pour gasoline onto a sound that is already burning up with this great quartet. An important reminder that cerebral can also be fierce. This one is a significant reference point in the free jazz tradition.

Mary Halvorson and Weasel Walter: Opulence. 2008. ugEXPLODE: UG 26.

Live at The Stone, NYC
February 15, 2007
Mary Halvorson: guitar
Weasel Walter: drums, clarinet mouthpiece

This one hits my expectation for these two improvising talents while still delivering more than a few surprises along the way. Mary Halvorson has internalized a lot of different music, distilled it and she brings out a sound that reflects well upon her wide ranging influences. Weasel Walter is a spark plug with a lot of energy as he blends the kinetic forces of punk and free jazz (and "brutal prog"). Both players have a hand in noise and aren't afraid to go there. What is surprising in this particular set is how controlled and conversant this rough material can be when filtered through ears that are squarely in the moment. Weasel Walter bends toward many of Halvorson's stylistic quirks while she in turn has little difficulty turning the intensity level up to eleven. Though many of the best moments on this disc come when they both dial it all the way back in near sympathetic unison.

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