Saturday, August 07, 2010

HurdAudio Rotation: Interpretation and Improvisation

Erik Friedlander: Topaz. 1998. Siam Records: SMD-50003.

Erik Friedlander: cello
Andy Laster: alto saxophone
Stomu Takeishi: bass
Satoshi Takeshi: percussion

Erik Friedlander's highly developed technique and rich grasp of improvisation rarely gets nearly the credit that it deserves. He's been excellent for some time and his discography is well worth many listens. With this quartet his cello timbre weaves a vivid territory between the elastic electric bass of Stomu Takeishi (another player with mad technique deserving more attention) and Andy Laster's alto saxophone. And once again Andy Laster leaves these ears deeply impressed. He has been a standout talent on everything I've ever heard him on. The way this material balances against the rhythm section of Takeshi and Takeishi is another draw.

Ellery Eskelin/Andrea Parkins/Jim Black: Five Other Pieces (+2). 1999. Hat Hut Records: hatOLOGY 533.

Ellery Eskelin: tenor saxophone
Andrea Parkins: accordion, sampler
Jim Black: percussion

The Dance of Maya by John McLaughlin
April by Lennie Tristano
India by John Coltrane
Song for Che by Charlie Haden
Prelude II by George Gershwin
Cause and Effect by Ellery Eskelin
Ways and Means by Ellery Eskelin

I've been living with this recording in my life for some time now and still find startling details around every turn as this great trio anchors their fantastic flights to a handful of "covers" before launching back into the stratosphere inhabited by tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelin. This particular take on "The Dance of Maya," with Andrea Parkins pumping out its iconic harmonic changes on accordion, is as thrilling as any take on the McLaughlin classic as you will ever hear. What follows is a wide ranging journey that shows off the collective sound this unique ensemble has forged. The reference points of Tristano, Coltrane, Haden and Gershwin showing off an inventiveness that pulls the ear deeper into this music. "India" develops along a large arcing form long before the melody reveals itself. The sensitivity reserved for "Song for Che" fits both the reverence of its subject along with a faithfulness to the beauty of the composition. The "+2" compositions from Eskelin mark the point this trio drops all anchors and takes the listener into fresh territory. This is one disc that endures and documents this remarkable combination of players.

John Coltrane: Giant Steps. 1960 (re-released in 1998). Atlantic Records: 1311-2.

John Coltrane: tenor saxophone
Tommy Flanagan: piano
Cedar Walton: piano
Wynton Kelly: piano
Paul Chambers: bass
Jimmy Cobb: drums
Lex Humphries: drums
Art Taylor: drums

There are any number of reasons why this is one of the great jazz albums of all time. And all of them point toward John Coltrane as a creative musical force. More than half a century later the sheets of sound that cascade from his horn retain their spark. While "Giant Steps" has taken on a life of its own as the standard for wood shedding musicians looking to master the rapid fire bebop changes it is followed by so many great Coltrane compositions that have also endured multiple interpretations and tributes. Especially the beautiful "Naima" or my personal favorite; "Syeeda's Song Flute." The alternate takes on so many of these classics providing insight into John Coltranes improvisational approach with these great tunes. Each performance on this recording is definitive while these pieces feel open. The itch to work out one's own interpretation of these pieces is felt throughout this classic record.

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