Saturday, January 15, 2011

HurdAudio Rotation: Standards and Opuses

Anthony Braxton: Piano Quartet, Yoshi's 1994 [disc 3]. 1996. Music and Arts: CD 849.

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

I've returned to this recording more than a few times now and it's finally possible to hear beyond my disappointment with this music. The Braxton recordings of jazz standards have always been a mixed bag from an artist who is normally brilliant beyond belief in his composing and recording life. Having the master reeds player playing the ivories for this outing adds a new wrinkle to the experience. While this isn't one of his better projects, he does clearly state the case that his own creative endeavors are part of the same wellspring of music found along the full jazz continuum. These interpretations are jarring, surprising and performed with enormous passion and musicality. And Marty Ehrlich does an impressive take on Strayhorn's "Lush Life."

Anthony Braxton: 9 Compositions (Iridium) 2006 [disc 2]. 2006. Firehouse 12 Records: FH12-04-03-001.

Composition 351 - dedicated to the composer/scholar Harvey Sollberger.

Anthony Braxton: composer, conductor, alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, sopranino saxophone, clarinet, E-flat contralto clarinet
Mary Halvorson: electric guitar
Nicole Mitchell: flute, alto flute, bass flute, piccolo, voice
Sara Schoenbeck: bassoon, suona
Reut Regev: trombone, flugelbone
Carl Testa: acoustic bass, bass clarinet
James Fei: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet
Andrew Raffo Dewar: soprano saxophone, c-melody saxophone, clarinet
Jay Rozen: tuba, euphonium
Stephen H. Lehman: alto saxophone, sopranino saxophone
Jessica Pavone: viola, violin
Aaron Siegel: percussion, vibraphone
Taylor Ho Bynum: cornet, flugelhorn, trumpbone, piccolo trumpet, bass trumpet, shell

This box set is practically an infinite opportunity to take in the brilliance of Braxton's ghost trance musical structures combined with an outstanding ensemble of creative improvisers. The totality of this offering (as with the totality of Braxton's recorded output) nearly shatters human dimensions. The hourglass measures out the temporal dimensions of a sonic texture that could easily expand indefinitely. The hour long slice provided on this disc representing the second set of the 12+1tet's week long residency at the Iridium in 2006. The gentle direction of Anthony Braxton's direction is barely audible even as the musical language is clearly his own. The fact that such a large collection of musicians fluent in the sounding universe that has taken a lifetime to realize is a testament to both the staying power of Braxton's ideas and his abilities as a mentor.

Ludwig van Beethoven: The Symphonies [disc 1]. Recorded in 1994. The International Music Company: 205294-305.

Symphony No. 1 in C major (op. 21)
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Barry Wordsworth: conductor

Symphony No. 2 in D major (op. 36)
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
James Lockhart: conductor

It's difficult to imagine these works having tweaked the sensibilities of their day. Historical accounts indicate that they did. Even these tame, deeply Haydn inspired classical works were already creating friction with the established formal constraints of the turn of the nineteenth century. The second symphony featuring a Scherzo movement where the Minuet would be. The cadences that stretch on and on (okay, it's not difficult to hear how his endless cadences would strike the ears of any era). It's even more difficult to imagine these works as being new and unfamiliar. Ingrained as they are in the symphonic repertoire and even passively as copyright free "background" music for so much media and public space. Though a focused listening does reveal that the durability of this music is no accident. I'm struck by how aggressive the writing is for the wind instruments.

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