Sunday, November 07, 2010

HurdAudio Rotation: Three Live Crews

Thomas Chapin Trio: Anima. (re-issued as disc 2 of Thomas Chapin: Alive box set in 1999). 1991. Knitting Factory Records: 35828-02482-2.

Thomas Chapin: alto saxophone, flute, alto flute, voice changer, laff box
Mario Pavone: bass
Steve Johns: drums
with Michael Sarin: drums, cowbells, whistles, ray gun (on selected tracks)

A live documentation of why this explosive trio was such a favored vehicle for Thomas Chapin's compositions and improvisational energies. Each member propels this sound further while still circling around back to its funky underpinnings. Mario Pavone has several moments of jaw dropping excellence on this set.

Anthony Braxton: Piano Quartet, Yoshi's 1994 [disc 1]. 1996. Music and Arts: CD 849.

Anthony Braxton: piano
Marty Ehrlich: alto saxophone, sporano saxophone, clarinet
Joe Fonda: bass
Arthur Fuller: percussion

I have some of the most Braxton sympathetic ears to be found anywhere and generally regard him to be a genius with an improbable number of recordings that support such high regard. This one really isn't one of those recordings. And yet I can't stop listening to and obsessing over this enormously flawed outing. Aside from the focus on jazz standards - which is an important dimension of Braxton's abilities as a performer and an improviser - there is also the oddity of Braxton as a pianist. He is much better as a reed player. The ten-thumbs approach to the instrument can become troubling at time. Particularly through long, fortissimo solos. But the way the outstanding musicians play through this material, even during the onslaught of heavy handed piano pounding, is fascinating. Anyone as prolific as Anthony Braxton is going to have a few duds out there. But even his duds are worth listening to.

Grex: Live at Home. 2010. SUA: 003.

Karl A. D. Evangelista: guitar, voice, etc.
M. Rei Scampavia: keyboards, winds, voice, etc.

The decision to record the pieces on this disc live preserves the fragility of this music to a startling extent. All the more surprising given the more obvious temptation to realize fully over-dubbed and polished realizations of this material. Karl Evangelista and M. Rei Scampavia deserve credit for recognizing the the qualities that emerge from the rehearsed effort of getting these down in a single take along with the vibrancy of this music as a live experience. Hearing this music live has built up an interest in taking it home and living with it that this recording addresses nicely. It's a body of works that has a life of its own, with a connecting tissue that links it to Erik Satie, the Bloodhound Gang and jazz standards in a way that gently consumes (or is consumed) by the way it veers beyond mere reference at unexpected turns.

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