Sunday, October 31, 2010

HurdAudio Rotation: Three Faces of Rare Beauty

Muhal Richard Abrams/George Lewis/Roscoe Mitchell: Streaming. 2006. Pi Recordings: 22.

Muhal Richard Abrams: piano, bell, bamboo flute, taxi horn, percussion
George Lewis: trombone, laptop
Roscoe Mitchell: soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, percussion

Three legends with a lifetime of achievement in creative improvised music collide for a long set of spontaneous dialogue. It's no surprise that Streaming is excellent. The surprise is the calm reactions that develop between these players. The astonishing maturity of George Lewis' electronic vocabulary on the laptop combined with the ways Abrams and Mitchell weave their own textures into that sound. My own ambivalence toward George Lewis' computer music work eroding completely away as it emerges with all the nuance and creative verve of his trombone playing. The sensitivity of Muhal Abrams' touch at the piano combined with his sense of when to insert himself into the real-time composition. Roscoe Mitchell bringing an expansive sense of timbre - particularly his mouthpiece work - in ways that reveals how his ears are interpreting these fleeting moments. I look forward to each time this one comes up in the rotation.

Miles Davis: The Complete On The Corner Sessions [disc 4]. 2007. Sony BMG Music Entertainment: 88697 06239 2.

Miles Davis: trumpet, electric piano, organ
Dave Liebman: tenor saxophone, flute
John Stubblefield: soprano saxophone
Reggie Lucas: guitar
Pete Cosey: guitar
Michael Henderson: electric bass
Al Foster: drums
Mtume: congas, percussion
Dominique Gaumont: guitar

Disc 4 takes the thick, funky stew and breaks it down into two half hour studies of restraint. The invisible hand of Miles Davis can be detected directing this stripping down after the initial burst of energy on "Calypso Frelimo." The Michael Henderson fueled groove holds steady with a rhythmic bed while shards of trumpet and saxophone improvisations emerge and disappear into the salty mist. The overall impression is an admiration of what is possible when time is allowed to recede into the distance without the confines of form. An oddly urban expansiveness in sound.

Ornette Coleman: Beauty is a Rare Thing [disc 3]. 1993. Rhino/Atlantic Jazz: R2 71410.

Ornette Coleman: alto saxophone
Don Cherry: pocket trumpet
Charlie Haden: bass
Ed Blackwell: drums

The third disc in this box focuses squarely upon the threads spun by this quartet that continues to reside at the roots of free jazz. This time with Ed Blackwell sitting in for the original Billy Higgins - with just a noticeable ripple along the fabric of this sound with the change in drummers. The spontaneity of this ensemble retains the forceful turns and intervallic contours that made this sound such a spark half a century ago. Cascading sheets of melodic material that continue to be such an important part of Ornette Coleman's sound. The value of abundance that this box set offers allows the ears to alternate between the wonder of Don Cherry's improvisation, Charlie Haden's unerring instincts and the raw beauty of the performances offered on such pieces as "Some Other" or "The Legend of Bebop."

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