Sunday, December 19, 2010

HurdAudio Rotation: The Persistence of Dissonance

Dave Douglas with Jim McNeely & Frankfurt Radio Bigband: A Single Sky. 2009. Greenleaf: Gre-1011.

Dave Douglas: trumpet
Frankfurt Radio Bigband
Jim McNeely: conductor
Oliver Leicht: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute, alto flute, clarinet
Stefan Pfeifer-Galilea: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute, clarinet
Rony Lakatos: tenor saxophone, flute
Steffen Weber: tenor saxophone, flute, clarinet
Rainer Heute: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet
Chad Shoopman: trumpet
Thomas Vogel: trumpet
Martin Auer: trumpet, flugel horn
Axel Schlosser: trumpet
Gunter Bollmann: trombone
Peter Feil: trombone
Christian Jakasjo: trombone
Manfred Honetschlager: bass trombone
Martine Scales: guitar
Peter Reiter: piano
Thomas Heidepriem: bass
Jean Paul Hochstadter: drums

"The Persistence of Memory" is an iconic Dave Douglas tune originally recorded on In Our Lifetime in 1995. The bass line, the languid melodic groove and its great harmonies left me wondering why it isn't covered by jazz players all over the world. The arrangement by Jim McNeely caught me by surprise and immediately transported me to that same awe I felt when I first discovered that tune. The Frankfurt Radio Bigband perform "The Persistence of Memory" with more than enough verve to help vaunt that tune toward a world without sufficient bandwidth to properly celebrate such excellence.

A Single Sky is a Dave Douglas record with a split identity. There is the glimpse of three movements from Douglas' own Delighted States suite. Leaving the ears hungry to experience the complete work along with the insight into Dave Douglas' arranging techniques. Then there are the Jim McNeely arrangements of Dave Douglas tunes that show off this incredible big band. Not to mention McNeely's exquisite arranging instincts. These also hint at something much larger than can be contained on this single disc. I hope there are more collaborations like this. Because this is already one of the great Douglas recordings. Highly recommended.

The Sun Ra All Stars Band: Hiroshima. 2007. Art Yard: LP 2007.

Sun Ra: piano, pipe organ
John Gilmore: tenor saxophone
Marshall Allen: alto saxophone
Archie Shepp: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone
Don Cherry: pocket trumpet
Lester Bowie: trumpet
Philly Joe Jones: drums
Richard Davis: bass
Don Moye: drums, percussion
Clifford Jarvis: drums

The 'A' side of this LP deserves to be played at a healthy volume as Sun Ra's psychedelic pipe organ solo transmits its stern messages from outer space to all living creatures of Earth. It is a performance that draws upon the devastating shock waves of an atomic device. The fade at the end suggesting that this music could (and probably did) go on for an eternity. The 'B' side offers up some free association improvisation between a collection of giants. Hearing it is like chancing upon a conversation between artists still realizing their collective voice. Raw, unpolished and utterly beautiful.

Dane Rudhyar: Works for Piano. 2004. Hat Hut Records: hat[now]ART 140.

Steffen Schleiermacher: piano

Granites (1929)
Three Paeans (1927)
Tetragrams 1st Serie (1920-27)
Third Pentagram (1926)

Steffen Schleiermacher understands the fortissimo that this music calls for. The bombastic lyricism delivered like a fist to a wall of granite. The draw of Dane Rudhyar's piano works is that so much tenderness and mysticism can lurk within such passages of density and exquisite dissonance. Melodies surviving (and even thriving) within these pounding, modern textures. Recordings such as this allow me to subsist and scratch that Rudhyar itch until the inevitable Dane Rudhyar revival festivals begin. An important and under appreciated voice from the American compositional tapestry.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

HurdAudio Rotation: Monkey Mind and Human Ears

Zeitgeist: In Bone-Colored Light. 2010. Innova: 774.

Heather Barringer: percussion
Patti Cudd: percussion
Pat O'Keefe: woodwinds
Shannon Wettstein: piano
with Jerome Kitzke: vocals and whistle on title track

Anthony Gatto
: Lucky Dreams
Ivo Medek: Into The Same River
Jerome Kitzke: In Bone-Colored Light
Kathy Jackanich: Polarity
Ethan Wickman: Angles of Repose

Zeitgeist is a St. Paul based new music ensemble that features works with a spiritual bent. Music of healing and rooted-ness that draws out my monkey mind long before I can settle into the calm tranquility that these sounds require. Once that mental zone is realized this disc becomes an enormously rewarding journey. But it takes a few spins before that initial resistance wears away. Beautifully recorded with a deceptively clean sense of rhythmic precision. The unison lines that trickle through Into The Same River are executed with jaw dropping exactness. The sense of ensemble balance is also stunning. Lucky Dreams opens this disc with an invocation that is unfolded sequentially. Angels of Repose concludes with a symmetrically similar sense of sequential arrangement. In between there are works that touch upon story telling, texturally vivid arranging and flights of whimsy.

Alban Berg: Wozzeck. (Recorded in 1998). EMI Classics: 7243 5 56865 2 7.

Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Hamburg
Ingo Metzmacher: conductor
Chor der Hamburgischen Staatsoper
Steffen Kammler: chorus master

Bo Skovhus: Wozzeck

Jan Blinkhoff: Tambourmajor
Jurgen Sacher: Andres
Chris Merritt: Hauptmann
Frode Olsen: Doktor
Konrad Ruff: Handerwerksbursch 1
Kay Stiefermann: Handerwerksbursch 2
Frieder Stricker: Der Narr
Angela Denoke: Marie
Renate Spingler: Margret
Daniel Michel: Mariens Knabe
Findlay A. Johnstone: Soldat

Still one of the high water marks of operatic achievement that could easily endure another century of listening (and stagings). Alban Berg's thick textures paint the air with a vivid Germanic expressionism. Each listening exposes new threads and ideas that give this work enormous vitality. The use of stylistic idioms within the larger canvas - ensembles from within the orchestra - is fascinating. The marching band, the waltz and the out of tune piano that provide a sense of place within this rich and atonal universe. Then there is the orchestration and the inventive use of vocal lines along with the formal construction of this work. It is one of the greats.

Now Orchestra & Marilyn Crispell: Pola. 2005. Victo: cd 097.

Marilyn Crispell: piano
Coat Cooke: baritone saxophone, tenor saxophone, flute
Kate Hammett-Vaughan: voice
Bruce Freedman: alto saxophone
Graham Ord: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute
Saul Berson: alto saxophone, clarinet, flute
John Korsrud: trumpet, bugle
Kevin Elaschuk: trumpet, bugle
Rod Murray: trombone
Brad Muirhead: bass trombone
Ron Samworth: guitar
Paul Blaney: bass
Clyde Reed: bass
Dylan van der Schyff: drums

Two forces of creative improvised music that I am enormously fond of assembled for a collaborative session. Compositionally, there is more material here by Coat Cooke than there is from Marilyn Crispell. But her Ying Yang offers up a tantalizing glimpse of what a world with more big band charts by Crispell would be like (and I want to live that world). For most of this disc she is a guest performer functioning as an equal part of the overall soundscape. Exchanging the Paul Plimley sound (also another force of creative improvised music worthy of great enthusiasm) for Marilyn Crispell on the piano makes this a unique NOW Orchestra experience. Though my ears greedily wonder what hearing both pianists working together would sound like. A captivating glimpse into the sounds coming out of the Vancouver scene that more than piques the curiosity.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

HurdAudio Rotation: Three Shamans

Terry Riley: Atlantis Nath. 2002. Sri Moonshine: SMM 001.

Terry Riley: voice, synthesizers, piano
Luc Martinez: recording, sound design
Frederic Lepee: acoustic fretless guitar
John Deaderick: spoken text
Thee Nice Opera String Quartet (individuals uncredited)

Atlantis Nath is the first disc ever featured in the HurdAudio Rotation. Each return to this disc affirms a full orbit through a rotation, marking both a conclusion and a new beginning. A suitable position for an artist willing to tread into spiritual waters with the fearless verve of a California hippie. Atlantis Nath in particular encapsulates the full breadth of Terry Riley's composing and recording career. It touches upon so many of his scattered stylistic signatures as it turns from maddening to profound within a short span of time. The MIDI realizations of "Derveshum Carnivalis" or "Even Your Beloved Wife" fall into the maddening side while his piano solo "Ascencion" provides a wealth of substance. Through all of it the uncanny instinct for arrangement and a willingness to spin fantastic yarns through sound is clearly evident. Making this experience a staple and a go-to disc in my collection.

Myra Melford's Be Bread: The Whole Tree Gone. 2009. Firehouse 12: FH12-04-01-012.

Myra Melford: piano
Cuong Vu: trumpet
Ben Goldberg: clarinet, contra-alto clarinet
Brandon Ross: guitar, soprano guitar
Stomu Takeishi: acoustic bass guitar
Matt Wilson: drums

The music on The Whole Tree Gone was realized with financial support from Chamber Music America's New Works: Creation and Presentation Program. And it sits in that delicious territory between chamber music and improvised music. Delicately balanced between the excesses of each. The elements of composition and improvisation fused together so neatly that it's unclear where one begins and the other ends. Much of this is because these players are such talented improvisers in their own right as well. Myra Melford leaves plenty of space for the personalities in this ensemble to work within these surprisingly refined structures. Some, like this sextet version of "Night" and "A Generation Comes and Another Goes," strike these ears as familiar works from the Melford oeuvre that have been reworked for this ensemble. While the newer pieces here offer up the same level of rehearsed familiarity that showcase Melford's impressive talent for composition, arranging and improvising.

Pauline Oliveros: The Roots Of The Moment. 2006. Hat Hut Records: hatOLOGY 591.

Pauline Oliveros: accordion (in just intonation)
Electronic environment created by David Ward

A combination of sympathetic resonance and the harmonic just intonation that Pauline Oliveros gravitates toward as part of her lifelong commitment to deep listening. Depth is a significant element of this texture. Of accordion that washes over and submerges the ear with its breath and drone. Improvisation that expands to fill out the hour with an exploration of natural phenomenon. The invitation to travel these harmonic contours is like an early evening walk through the woods. A journey into an expansive wilderness filled with promise that remains lightly tread upon.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

HurdAudio Rotation: Dance in Thy Soul

Anthony Braxton/Taylor Ho Bynum: Duets (Wesleyan) 2002. 2002. Innova: 576.

Anthony Braxton: sopranino saxophone, soprano saxophone, F alto saxophone, E-flat alto saxophone, baritone saxophone, E-flat clarinet, B-flat clarinet, contalto clarinet
Taylor Ho Bynum: cornet, trumpbone, shell, mutes

Getting lost within an Anthony Braxton improvisation is one of life's great indulgences. His long and astonishingly prolific recording career offers up enormous opportunities to indulge. Getting lost within his compositional constructions offers up yet another dimension for plunging into the maze of Braxtonian logic. With these duets we have the addition of hearing a sonic dialogue between a mentor and one of his clear musical progeny. Taylor Ho Bynum as student has already graduated through the conceptual hurdles with his own voice intact. Leaving this impressive and at times stunning recording in his wake. These duets are well worth revisiting time and again.

Dave Douglas: Charms of the Night Sky. 1998. Winter & Winter: 910 015-2.

Dave Douglas: trumpet
Guy Klucevsek: accordion
Mark Feldman: violin
Greg Cohen: bass

From the opening notes of the title track this CD sweeps in like an old friend that sits squarely in the category of discs I can't imagine not having in this life. The most striking thing about this collection of eastern European tinged material is how much Dave Douglas alters his tone with this quartet. His playing is so delicate and fragile while never sounding tentative. Weaving seamlessly between the lines of accordion and violin. Mark Feldman's cadenza at the opening of "Dance in They Soul" is a jaw dropper.

Elliott Sharp/Terraplane: Blues for Next. 2000. Knitting Factory Records: KFW-285.

Elliott Sharp: electric guitars, console steel guitar, National steel guitar, tenor saxophone
Sim Cain: drums, electronic percussion
Sam Furnace: alto saxophone, baritone saxophone
David Hofstra: electric bass, acoustic bass
Dean Bowman: vocals
Eric Mingus: vocals
Hubert Sumlin: electric guitar

This one is another familiar friend in the rotation. The Blues for Next has its roots deep in the blues tradition as it grows outward from it with a disc featuring guest vocals and guitar and a disc focused just on the quartet itself. And through it all on this listening these ears are drawn to the drumming of Sim Cain. What a great force on skins, membranes and cymbals.