Sunday, January 16, 2011

HurdAudio Rotation: Richter Scale

Bill Frisell: Richter 858. 2005. Songlines: SGL 2551-2.

Bill Frisell: guitars, electronics
Hank Roberts: cello
Jenny Scheinman: violin
Eyvind Kang: viola

Eight compositions for an electric guitar variant of the string quartet that draw upon Gerhard Richter's Abstract Pictures as the trigger for the formal, textural and substantive material of these works. Improvisation plays an important role, as it does in the paintings themselves. The strong sense of horizontal line and vibrant colors are beautifully captured. The fluidity of paint and brush stroke finding a strong parallel in bows and strings. Recorded live without overdubs, these performances hang in the air to be savored in the same manner the paintings hang on the wall. This recording is a small detour away from the Americana sound that Frisell has made into his signature style. Yet it is also a return to his earlier sound (and collaborations, in the case of Hank Roberts) as well as the kind of record long time fans of this guitarist have been hoping he would make. Much of the sound retains that familiar Frisell sound, in much the same way even the most abstract brush stroke of Gerhard Richter retains the DNA of its creator.

Marty Ehrlich: News On the Rail. 2005. Palmetto Records: PM 2113.

Marty Ehrlich: alto saxophone, clarinet
James Zollar: trumpet, flugelhorn
Howard Johnson: tuba, baritone saxophone, bass clarinet
James Weidman: piano, melodica
Greg Cohen: bass
Allison Miller: drums

Marty Ehrlich explores his brilliance as both composer and performer within the medium of the "large small" ensemble. Weaving material through the sextet as it alternates between big band type writing to smaller combinations of players that show off the considerable talents of the individuals involved. This material is focused, melodic and tight. There isn't a spare moment that doesn't propel toward the next on this set. Allison Miller's drum work in particular is a revelation.

Donkey Monkey: Ouature. 2007. Umlaut Records: UMCD 0005.

Yuko Oshima: drums, voice, sampler
Eve Risser: piano, voice, turntables

Oshima and Risser pack a lot into the 32-minutes of music found here. Along the way they don't forget to pack in a lot of fun. The first two tracks kick this adventure off with an aggressive dose of fun as this duo rocks things out with equal doses of whimsy and brutally intense playing. The feeling that exudes from this pair makes for a bright spot along the rotation. Highly recommended. It will make you want to get up and dance and put new wrinkles in the brain along the way.

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