Saturday, April 24, 2010

HurdAudio Rotation: Hunter Gatherer

Charlie Hunter: Charlie Hunter. 2000. Blue Note Records: 7243 5 25450 2 5.

Charlie Hunter: 8-string guitar
Peter Apfelbaum: tenor saxophone
Josh Roseman: trombone
Leon Parker: drums, percussion
Stephen Chopek: percussion
Robert Perkins: percussion

Right from the first notes of "Rendezvous Avec La Verite" this music cooks with a feel more than worthy of its Blue Note pedigree. And then it never lets up as the groove transforms itself through these nine short tracks - including a devastating take on Thelonius Monk's "Epistrophy." Josh Roseman offers up some excellent solos, particularly on "Flau Flau," that mine the same "in the pocket" feel that gives this recording so much life. Charlie Hunter's chops and musicianship border upon sounding like a graduate of the Berkeley jazz factory - but with a lot more heart. The effortlessness of his double duty of bass and guitar on the 8-strings are both terrifying and beautiful to behold. Truly an artist who has wood shedded his way into the tradition while adding something intoxicating and groove ready to the sound.

Andrew Hill: Point of Departure. 1964 (Rudy Van Gelder Edition released in 1999). Blue Note Records: 7243 4 99007 2 1.

Andrew Hill: piano
Kenny Dorham: trumpet
Eric Dolphy: alto saxophone, flute, bass clarinet
Joe Henderson: tenor saxophone
Richard Davis: bass
Tony Williams: drums

Each spin of Point of Departure reveals more layers of the many qualities that make this recording so enduring. So many things lined up exactly right to make this one of the great recordings of Blue Note's golden era. Each one of these Andrew Hill original compositions is an absolute gem. And then there's the ensemble that got together to realize this music and send it into a completely different aural dimension. There are moments when Eric Dolphy's role as an absolute innovator couldn't be any clearer. Balanced against Joe Henderson's steady sense of melody on the tenor saxophone. There's also enough Kenny Dorham on here to feed my obsession with his sound and sensibility. And all of this is on top of so many outstanding moments featuring Andrew Hill's improvisation and role as band leader. Possibly the very definition of a "must have" for any serious jazz collector.

3081: Baltimore 2008. 2008. Limited run, independently released.

Dave Ballou: trumpet
John Dierker: reeds
Mike Formanek: bass
Will Redman: drums

This is one of the things I miss about Baltimore. These four musicians are plugged deep into the free jazz tradition and they consistently bring something engaging to every incarnation they put on a stage. As 3081, this quartet quickly taps into an electricity between these players. Dave Ballou's playing in particular is reason enough to focus on this sound. Interplay that crackles and arcs at creative angles. Well worth seeking this group out.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

HurdAudio Rotation: Steeped in the Jazz Tradition

Dave Douglas/Brass Ecstasy: Spirit Moves. 2008. Greenleaf Music: GRE-1010.

Dave Douglas: trumpet
Vincent Chancey: french horn
Luis Bonilla: trombone
Marcus Rojas: tuba
Nasheet Waits: drums

Music spun out of brass and drums that carries with it the infectious joy and introspection of the artists forcing air through brass tubes and dragging sticks over cymbals. Like a New Orleans marching ensemble that takes several detours through the downtown of North American culture. Brass Ecstasy is a brilliant vehicle for Dave Douglas' considerable writing chops (to say nothing of his playing chops) that also manages to convey a deep love for the music and personality of Lester Bowie. Bowie's inspiration is never far from the surface of Spirit Moves and it frequently comes bubbling out into the open with sly turns at whimsy and stylistic mash-ups. It's hard to imagine a cast of players more capable of animating the legacy of Bowie into such a vibrant affair. A great recording - as all Dave Douglas projects tend to be. The accompanying DVD in the "deluxe edition" providing a sense of time and place for this December 2008 recording session.

Charlie Haden/Liberation Music Orchestra: The Ballad of the Fallen. 1983. ECM: 1248.

Charlie Haden: bass
Carla Bley: piano, glockenspiel, arrangements
Don Cherry: pocket trumpet
Sharon Freeman: french horn
Mick Goodrick: guitar
Jack Jeffers: tuba
Michael Mantler: trumpet
Paul Motian: drums, percussion
Jim Pepper: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute
Dewey Redman: tenor saxophone
Steve Slagle: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, clarinet, flute
Gary Valente: trombone

There are few things as stirring as what the Liberation Orchestra performs. Protest music focused on humanity, dignity and resolve in the face of injustice and indifference. And Ballad of the Fallen delivers an overwhelming display of compositional, arrangement and performance excellence. Particularly the great Haden original "Silence," which received its debut recording with this release. The presence of Latin themes and music drawing its political dimension from the inhumane policies of the Reagan administration toward South and Central America. Speaking out for people over ideologues and violence. Passion in the form of a big band with Carla Bley as its heart and Charlie Haden as its conscience.

Art Blakey/The Jazz Messengers: The Jazz Messengers at the Cafe Bohemia volumes 1 & 2. 1955 (Rudy Van Gelder Edition, 2001). Blue Note Records: 7243 5 32148 2 1 and 7243 5 32149 2 0.

Art Blakey: drums
Kenny Dorham: trumpet
Hank Mobley: tenor saxophone
Horace Silver: piano
Doug Watkins: bass

Mono recording has never sounded so good. The feel running throughout this music is so vibrant, so alive and so clear (a testament to both Rudy Van Gelder's remastering skills as well as his initial engineering at the original 1955 date). One can hear the spark of hard bop as the "new thing" with all the pioneering vitality and improvisational wits applied in the moment. My ears continue to be drawn to the Kenny Dorham arrangements, his original compositions and that trumpet playing of his. Documentation like this is a gift.

HurdAudio Rotation: Bones, Kingdoms and Wings

Bone: Uses Wrist Grab. 2003. Cuneiform Records: rune 176.

Nick Didkovsky: guitar
Hugh Hopper: bass
John Roulat: drums

Remote multi-tracking (Didkovsky and Hopper still had not shared the physical proximity of playing with one another at the time of this release) that reconciles a brainiac restlessness with a hard edge. The collaborative sound that ultimately emerges from Uses Wrist Grab is an updated take on progressive rock impulse. And it's one that absolutely requires taking the whole thing in in one sitting. Perhaps a couple of times through just to get the ears acquainted with the jagged edges and sharp corners of these compositions. It says something that hearing such rigorous composition that rocks this hard is so disorienting. Plenty of guitar front and center in this one.

Cristian Amigo: Kingdom of Jones. 2007. Innova: 671.

Cristian Amigo: composer, acoustic guitars, electric guitars, lap steel, prepared tiple, pianos, synthesizers, beats, loops, processes, programming, soda cans, miscellaneous percussion, soundscapes, voice, lyrics
Izzi Ramkissoon: bass, laptop, processes
Guillermo Cardenas: percussion, trance
Wojciech Kosma: samples
Philip Blackburn: samples
Jeff Schwartz: upright bass
David Martinelli: drums
Andy Connell: clarinet
Robert Reigle: alto saxophone
Jonathan Grasse: electric guitar
Manoocher Sadeghi: santur
Nikos Brisco: guitar, Tibetan prayer bowl

Guitar is occasionally front and center in this one. Or off to the side or completely submerged beneath the wide ranging stylistic textures Cristian Amigo is willing to fashion. When the acoustic guitar comes to the foreground for the "Guitar Gestures" pieces one is treated to the mad chops of this sound artist when focused upon his instrument. These are embedded within a larger frame of sounds that embrace dance even as grooves come and go fleetingly at times. At each turn the sonic space is thoughtfully devised as it steers well clear of predictable turns. A sonic language without borders that carves out its own sense of form. And a thoughtful creative voice clearly operating beneath all of it.

Killick Erik Hinds/Dennis Palmer/Bob Stagner: A.S.A.P. Wings. 2007. Solponticello: SP-019/SRR CD-005.

Killick Erik Hinds: h'arpeggione
Dennis Palmer: synthesizers, drum samples, moogerfoogers
Bob Stagner: drums, found objects

This trio marks an incarnation - and recorded documentation - of the Shaking Levis collective. Which pulls together improbable strains of American sounds to arrive at a folksy free improvisation. The raw materials of sound folded into an inviting concoction that compromises neither the challenging quality of experimental music or the approachability of roots-based music. In short, these guys are having fun and it sounds like it.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

HurdAudio Rotation: Bach, Beethoven, Ayler

Johann Sebastian Bach: Bach Edition [disc III - I]. 2006. Brilliant Classics: 93102/47.

Holland Boys Choir
Pieter Jan Leusink: conductor
Ruth Holton: soprano
Sytse Buwalda: alto
Knut Schoch: tenor
Bas Ramselaar: bass

John Wilson Meyer: violin
Peter Frankenberg: oboe
Frank Wakelkamp: cello
Martin Mans: church organ

Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott BWV 80
Ich habe genug BVW 82
Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland BVW 61

Just in case it has been a while since you've indulged in a Bach cantata or two (or three) here is a reminder of the beautiful materials he was working with: early tonal language influenced by the Renaissance composers, voices doing breath taking things over a churning Baroque harmonic landscape and an expression of faith that is almost impossible to reconcile with contemporary beliefs. This is pretty awe inspiring music that is well performed and recorded. The sensation of how strong this musical root is is pretty hard to ignore. It's audible and it fills my secular space nicely.

Ludwig Van Beethoven: The Complete Quartets [volume VII]. 1994. Delos: DE 3037.

The Orford String Quartet
Andrew Dawes: violin
Kenneth Perkins: violin
Terence Helmer: viola
Denis Brott: cello

String Quartet in C Minor, Op. 18, No. 4
String Quartet in A Minor, Op. 132

The Opus 18 is a polite, classical number that would barely cause a ripple through the genteel class while the later Opus 132 offers a glimpse into the introspective soul searching of Beethoven. The gap in time, discipline and intention between the early and late works is particularly pronounced here. The terrifying ability to compose a theme and develop it in increasingly inventive ways takes a turn toward expansive formal considerations that thankfully erode at the genteel sensibilities. Beethoven found a way to make music far more important than just pleasant. An emphatic argument against music for the purpose of mood.

Albert Ayler: Holy Ghost [disc 6]. 2004. Revenant Records: 213.

Albert Ayler Quintet - June 30 - July 1, 1967 at Freebody Park, Newport, Rhode Island

Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, vocals
Don Ayler: trumpet
Michel Samson: violin
Bill Folwell: bass
Milford Graves: drums

Albert Ayler Quartet - July 21, 1967 at St. Peter's Lutheran Church, New York City - John Coltrane's funeral

Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone, vocals
Don Ayler: trumpet
Richard Davis: bass
Milford Graves: drums

Pharoah Sanders - January 21, 1968 at the Renaissance Ballroom, New York City

Pharoah Sanders: tenor saxophone
Chris Capers: trumpet
unknwon: alto saxophone
Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone
unknown: tenor saxophone
Dave Burrell: piano
Sirone: bass
Roger Blank: drums

Albert Ayler - late August, 1968. New York City

Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone, vocal, solo recitation
Call Cobbs: piano, rocksichord
Bill Folwell: electric bass
Bernard Purdie: drums
Mary Parks: vocal, tambourine
Vivian Bostic: vocal

The sixth disc in this box set is such a mixed bag. Representing much of the passion, love and blind alleys Albert Ayler pursued in his far too short time in this dimension. The quintet set from Newport features plenty of Michel Samson's free improvising violin sound that compliments Ayler's creative world so well. Milford Grave's drum work makes this archival recording well worth the time spent listening. From there we move to the passionate expression of love and loss at John Coltrane's funeral and a rough, yet fascinating, run through Pharoah Sander's "Venus" and "Upper and Lower Egypt." Then this disc seems to step off a cliff into the New Grass territory with some out takes and rough takes (and even a sermon) from his collaborations with Mary Parks to meld Ayler's sound with rhythm and blues. Ayler throws himself at this material with plenty of verve. Even when he fronts the group as a vocalist (he's a much better on saxophone). In the end, these last tracks provoke a sadness and a cautionary example of what can happen when one takes an honest voice and works to make it artificially "accessible."

HurdAudio Rotation: Passion and Poetry

Bill Frisell: Floratone. 2007. Blue Note Records: 0946 3 93879 2 2.

Bill Frisell: electric guitar, acoustic guitar, loops, vocals
Matt Chamberlain: drums, percussion, loops
Tucker Martine: production
Lee Townsend: production
with guests -
Viktor Krauss: acoustic bass, electric bass
Ron Miles: cornet
Eyvind Kang: viola

A Bill Frisell project that allows the production talents of Tucker Martine and Lee Townsend to flex their chops as all manner of overdubbing and processing is mixed in with some of the heaviest jazz chops on the planet. It's not easy to balance the qualities that make a good studio record out of players who can rip things pretty hard in a live setting. Jazz has traditionally stood on its own through recordings of the live experience that bring out the real time interaction between master players. The resulting sound on Floratone doesn't exactly invite the listener to get their freak on out on the dance floor. But the sense of time that unfolds in these gritty, layered pieces is a revelation in these textures. The "in the pocket" feel these musicians bring to the stage is expertly preserved and built upon.

McCoy Tyner: The Real McCoy. 1967 (re-issued in 1999). Blue Note Records: 7243 4 97807 2 9.

McCoy Tyner: piano
Joe Henderson: tenor saxophone
Ron Carter: bass
Elvin Jones: drums

There are few things that equal the hook and groove of "Passion Dance." The joyous appeal of that track alone is enough to mark The Real McCoy as a must have in any serious jazz collection. Followed up by four other outstanding tracks this is simply one of those Blue Note recordings where four outstanding musicians went into a session and came out with a great album. Though there is the heart break that comes from the unfortunate fade out at the end of "Passion Dance" that leaves the ears hungry for the unfettered, non-duration limited jam that is suggested underneath as the levels pull down artificially.

Harry Partch: 17 Lyrics of Li Po. 1995. Tzadik: TZ 7012.

Stephen Kalm: intoning voice
Ted Mook: tenor violin

The intoning voice was Partch's elegant solution for vocal music that remained true to the natural, spoken inflections of speech and its rhythms. Allowing for melodic contours to coalesce around the substance of poetry as well as the character of its narrator. This particular set of songs ranks as one of my personal favorites. An example of how to adapt the voice. And more importantly, how to not adapt the voice to a musical setting. One can almost picture Harry Partch quietly composing these revolutionary songs in the evenings in New Orleans as he toiled as a dish washer by day. Humble origins from a celebrated maverick.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

HurdAudio Rotation: Watermoons

Derek Bailey/Cyro Baptista: Derek. 2006. Amulet Records: AMT 023.

Derek Bailey: guitar
Cyro Baptista: percussion, voice

There was a purity to Derek Bailey's approach to free improvisation. And with it certain seriousness running underneath the variety of non-premeditated angles his fingers would find on the guitar. With Cyro Baptista there's a sense of whimsy and play as he darts through a vast array of sonic sources at hand and in his voice. As a duo these disparate talents compliment each other well. The cultural and spoken language differences dissolving away once the music begins to fly.

Gunda Gottschalk: Wassermonde. 2002. Elephant: 002.

Gunda Gottschalk: violin, viola

The sounding timbral terrain of Gunda Gottschalk is vast. There are any number of ways to draw music out of the sounding board of the violin and viola. But the striking thing is how she doesn't skip around this expended sonic space too quickly. Instead, she follows her own improvisational instinct to focus upon singular patches of ideas and allow them to develop under their own force of duration. Guided by her ears, what results is an hour of severely good taste. This one is a sonic gem.

Iannis Xenakis
: Electronic Music. 1997. Electronic Music Foundation: EMF CD 003.

Iannis Xenakis: composer, electronics

Diamorphoses (1957)
Concret PH (1958)
Orient-Occident (1960)
Bohor (1962)
Hibiki-Hana-Ma (1970)
S.709 (1992)

To be honest, most musique concrete leaves me cold. My listening diet is spare in this medium. Audio editing software has made so much sonic manipulation so easy to do that there's already a ready fluency with the basics elements of amplification and signal processing. Many early works of musique concrete sound like dated oddities to these ears. Iannis Xenakis is a significant exception to these reservations. His sensibilities as a composer of major orchestral and chamber works contributed to his uncanny sense of form. Not to mention his background in architecture. The steadfast consistency in all media toward hyper rational structures and stochastic generative process makes each medium into a different glimpse into a vibrant aesthetic soul. One can hear how his ideas feed upon the materials at hand. There is also the relentless abrasive quality of his music that is difficult to turn away from.

is the main attraction in this collection. A piece that nearly pealed the peeling of Easter morning church bells as it systematically transformed into a howling wind pouring out of my speakers. The use of instrumental source material in Hibiki-Hana-Ma gave it a sense of gravity and allowed these ears to connect with it at an immediate and intuitive level.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

HurdAudio Rotation: Restrained Noise

Carla Bley: The Lost Chords find Paolo Fresu. 2007. Watt Works/ECM: WATT794/B0010120-02.

Carla Bley: piano
Paolo Fresu: trumpet, flugelhorn
Andy Sheppard: soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone
Steve Swallow: bass
Billy Drummond: drums

Clearly the same mind and creative impulse behind the arrangements performed by Charlie Haden and the Liberation Music Orchestra. Carla Bley takes the beautiful - and in the case of Paolo Fresu's tone and phrasing there is no shortage of beauty - and deftly prevents it from sliding into pretty. Carla Bley is so good, the results so slippery with gentle quirks and ideas that she tends to be underrated. She is the genuine article with compositions reinforced by her remarkable arranging prowess. "The Banana Quintet" makes for an excellent showcase for her ideas along with the Fresu lines woven throughout its bluesy appeal.

The Zs: 4 Systemz: Brown 1951. 2007. Planaria: PR029.

Sam Hillmer: tenor saxophone
Matthew Hough: electric guitar
Charlie Looker: electric guitar, baritone guitar
Ian Antonion: drumset, percussion
Brad Wentworth: drumset, percussion

The graphic scores of Earle Brown allow for enormous flexibility in instrumentation and interpretation. Like any form of notation, the sonic quality depends upon the ability of the performer. Graphic notation calling for an improvisation that reflects the visuals. The Zs find an intriguing sense of Brown's 4 Systems with a taut performance that is nearly transparent with everything operating at low dynamic levels. The sparse layers of drums against electric guitars played acoustically and soft held tones on the saxophone comes through the speakers with the gentle ferocity of a summer breeze through an open window.

Michele Rabbia/Marilyn Crispell/Vincent Courtois: Shifting Grace. 2006. Cam Jazz: CAMJ 7791-2.

Michele Rabbia: percussion
Marilyn Crispell: piano
Vincent Courtois: cello

Three musicians, six ears and a singular, lyrical sound that passes through. Sometimes as a trio, duo or solo. The tension of hearing master musicians applying so much restraint combined with the blurring between free improvisation and composed music (there are elements of each here) leaving no sign where one leaves off and the other begins. At times the ideas and lines pass seamlessly through piano, percussion and cello. The prolonged understatement standing as evidence of the profound listening ability shared between these performers.