Monday, July 05, 2010

HurdAudio Rotation: Three Faces of the Piano

Thelonious Monk: The Complete Riverside Recordings [disc 2]. 1986. Riverside: RCD-022-2.

Thelonious Monk: piano
Art Blakey: drums
Ernie Henry: alto saxophone
Sonny Rollins: tenor saxophone
Oscar Pettiford: bass
Max Roach: drums
Clark Terry: trumpet
Paul Chambers: bass

A devastating document of this incredibly important slice of jazz history (much of this material recorded in 1956-7). On a box set that includes many alternate takes and "mistakes" there is only the one "false start" on this disc on the opening of "Pannonica," and even as one hears how this body of music was being birthed in the studio it essentially arrived fully formed. So much so that it's hard to imagine the jazz landscape without a "Bemsha Swing" or "Brilliant Corners." With recordings so strong that the ears naturally refer to these versions if they've ever encountered them before. Equally devastating is the way Monk's hands shaped the very sound of the jazz piano in his wake. His sturdy bridge between stride and bop that continues to color how improvisers approach the ivories. Also, Oscar Pettiford's solo on "Ba-Lue Bolivar Ba-Lues-Are" got my attention. I need to hear more of his playing.

Olivier Messiaen: Messiaen Edition [disc 1]. 1963, 1966, 1968, 1970, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1988, 1996, 2000. Warner Classics: 2564-62162-2.

Petites esquisses d'oiseaux (1985)
Quatre Etudes de rhthme (1949-1950)

Yvonne Loriod: piano

Time extracted its continual erosion upon of musical history when Yvonne Loriod passed away last May. She was the widow of Olivier Messiaen and the leading interpreter of his piano works, some of which are documented on this disc. These are intense, difficult pieces that she executes with such grace that the tension rests entirely within the music and not in the feats of playing them. Her fingers passionately grasp the dissonances of Petites esquisses d'oiseaux while coaxing out the lyrical impressionist colors of the Preludes. Quatre Edudes de rythme makes surprising use of serial processes in the evocation of ritual. The considerable forces of intellect and heart brought into pitch-perfect balance for this recording. This direct connection to the composer and irreplaceable pianistic talent will be missed while recordings such as this are treasured.

Vijay Iyer & Mike Ladd: In What Language? 2003. Pi Recordings: 08713-0092.

Vijay Iyer: piano, keyboards, electronics, compositions
Mike Ladd: voice, electronics, lyrics
Latasha N. Nevada Diggs: voice, electronics
Allison Easter: voice
Ajay Naidu: voice
Ambrose Akinmusire: trumpet
Rudresh Mahanthappa: alto saxophone
Dana Leong: cello, trombone, flugelbone
Liberty Ellman: guitar
Stephan Crump: bass
Trevor Holder: drums

Music theater using multiple narrators to tell the modern day mythology (and terribly true tales) of airport security. The collision of global culture with anxiety and prejudice. "The airport is not a neutral place. It serves as a contact zone for those empowered or subjugated by globalization." The music crossing over several stylistic borders as the spoken voice and electronics with a hip hop sensibility. The sound is often unpleasant in exactly the same way that air travel is also unpleasant. Complimenting the uneasy truth of travel "with an uneasy proximity of tan." The individual elements of this piece work extremely well. The lyrics are smart. The music is polished and thought through. The visual theater of the experience in conspicuously absent. And this may account for my own reluctance to embrace this work. I'm left strangely unsatisfied even if I can't identify where this piece falls short.

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