Sunday, February 27, 2011

Boring Like a Sunset

International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) performing the music of John Luther Adams, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL
Saturday, February 26, 2011

In the White Silence (1998)
Steven Schick: conductor

Members of ICE:
David Bowlin: violin
Erik Carlson: violin
Doyle Armbrust: viola
Michael Nicolas: cello
Nathan Davis: percussion
Doug Perkins: percussion
Cory Smythe: celesta
Nuiko Wadden: harp

Musicians from The Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University:
Austin Wulliman: violin
Rodolfo Vieira: violin
Peter Povey: violin
Elliot Cless: violin
Alisa Seavey: viola
Catherine Price: viola
Russell Rolen: cello
Mira Luxion: cello
Mark Buchner: bass
Samuel Suggs: bass

The Mathematics of Resonant Bodies (2002)

Steven Schick: percussion
Ryan Ingebritsen: sound engineer

In a pair of sequential concerts the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago exhibited the contrasting subversive inclinations of Alaska based and inspired composer John Luther Adams. In the White Silence uses a large ensemble of musicians to produce a mere ripple of delicately tranquil sound. While The Mathematics of Resonant Bodies uses a soloist to produce an enormous din of noise. Each work striving to convey the impossible, natural expansiveness of the remote environment of the Arctic North.

In Winter Music: Composing the North, John Luther Adams includes diary excerpts from the period of time he spent composing In the White Silence. Stating "the longer we stay in one place the more we notice change." The suspended counterpoint of this concert length work reveals the rich detail found within a desolate stasis. Limited to the "white" keys of a C-major diatonic scale this work gently expands time until it takes on the expanse of a horizon. The aesthetic sparsity that Morton Feldman used to make audible the abstract paintings of Mark Rothko or Philip Guston become the raw material of a shimmering landscape. It is a music that reveals a wind swept beauty without dramatic intent.

The Mathematics of Resonant Bodies is the spiritual offspring of James Tenney's Having Never Written A Note for Percussion as an expansion of the drawing out of enharmonic counterpoint and timbral study teased out by that work. Each movement focusing upon a singular class of percussion instrument using well engineered amplification to tease out the dancing tones that hover in the air within the mass of percussive tremolo. Again, John Luther Adams makes use of an expansive sense of time to compose a music with the expansive density and grandeur of a slowly melting glacier. Freed from the constraints of human drama, the ears are drawn to an aurora borealis of acoustic dimensions. Steven Schick's performance was perfectly tuned to the meditative discipline demanded from a work composed specifically for him. The use of lights and staging expanded upon an already transparent formal construction as Schick moved between formations of snares, triangles, cymbals, a gong, a bass drum and a crank driven siren.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

HurdAudio Rotation: Sonic Monuments

Johann Sebastian Bach: Bach Edition [disc I-1]. Recorded in 2006. Brilliant Classics: 93102/1.

Concerto no. 1 in F major BWV 1046 (Brandenburg Concerto 1)
Musica Amphion
Remy Baudet: violin, piccolo, leader
Frank de Bruine: oboe
Tennis van der Zwart: horn
Erwin Wieringa: horn

Concerto no. 2 in F major BWV 1047 (Brandenburg Concerto 2)
Musica Amphion
Remy Baudet: violin, leader
William Wroth: trumpet
Frand de Bruine: oboe
Pieter-Jan Belder: recorder

Concerto no. 3 in G major BWV 1048 (Brandenburg Concerto 3)
Musica Amphion
Remy Baudet: violin, leader
Sayuri Yamagata: violin
Irmgard Schaller: violin
Staas Swierstra: viola
Marten Boeken: viola
Mariette Holtrop: viola
Rainer Zipperling: cello
Richte van der Meer: cello
Albert Bruggen: cello

I'm sure nearly every sentient being has been exposed to the Brandenburg Concertos at some point either consciously or unconsciously (or both) at some point. They project an aura of sophistication and are frequently used as such as accompaniment. As works of art experienced as their own focal point the enduring qualities of this music is nearly overwhelming. In particular, my ears became fascinated with the use of repetition in this music. The carefully measured dosages and harmonic sequencing that gives this music such an organic quality. These are propelled by the pulsating, music-box like rhythmic quality of these Baroque gems. One can hear the enlightenment coursing through the veins of this music. Beyond that, the harmonic sequences jump out at me. So much contemporary music has this material at its roots. I can hear traces of punk and minimalism in this material. This music is a genuine wonder.

Anthony Braxton: 9 Compositions (Iridium) 2006 [disc 4]. 2007. Firehouse 12 Records: FH12-04-03-001.

Composition No. 353 - Dedicated to the composer Butch Morris
The Anthony Braxton 12+1tet
Anthony Braxton: 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, sporanino saxophone
Jessica Pavone: viola, violin
Aaron Siegel: percussion, vibraphone
Taylor Ho Bynum: cornet, flugelhorn, trumpbone, piccolo trumpet, bass trumpet, shell

The dedication to Lawrence D. "Butch" Morris is fitting. The art of "conduction" - or conducted group improvisation - is very much within the DNA of Composition 353 as well as much of Anthony Braxton's ghost trance musics. Part sublimation of creative effort into a communal whole and part social/spiritual ritual, this music soars through multiple dimensions. Leaving behind hour-long slices of a brilliant eternity. A sonic glimpse of the impossible.

The more I listen to these 9 Compositions (Iridium), the more I am struck by the intense qualities of this ensemble. The individuality that emerges as I get to know these players both within and outside of this music. This is a music that is democratically shaped even as it shapes everyone involved (listeners included). These 12+1 players represent a creative village of 26 active ears. A village I am lucky to inhabit one hour at a time.

Ludwig van Beethoven: The Symphonies [disc 3]. Recorded in 1995 and 1994. The International Music Company: 205298-305.

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Symphony No. 4 in B flat major (op. 60)
Barry Wordsworth: conductor

Symphony No. 5 in C minor (op. 67)
Claire Gibault: conductor

Why listen to the Beethoven symphonies? Perhaps because they are transcendent. The first movement of the fourth symphony was particularly so for me this time. Reasons not to listen to the Beethoven symphonies? They've been pounded into the ground. I was less than thrilled with the fourth movement of the fifth symphony simply because it is both too familiar and such an obvious point of reference for much of the worst excesses of film scoring of the last half century. But it is unfair to attribute such sins to their obvious source. These are both amazing works and there is much to learn from each of them even if so many have over learned their thematic qualities. Beethoven had the distinction of perfecting formal progression. He could compose an introduction, a theme and development and a coda like no one else. Contemporaries who have borrowed from Beethoven have stripped this music of its formal qualities. It's good to have an aural reminder of how this music works when it's composed with a sense of time to go along with its arrangements.

HurdAudio Rotation: The Sound of Creative Inevitability

Olivier Messiaen: Turangalila Symphony. 2004 release of the 1967 performance. BMG Classics: 82876-59418-2.

Toronto Symphony Orchestra
Seiji Ozawa: conductor
Yvonne Loriod: piano
Jeanne Loriod: ondes Martenot

If the Turangalilia Symphony didn't already exist, it would have to be written. Olivier Messiaen took on a massive scale and scope and realized its full advantage. The work is a kaleidoscope of textures made available with a large orchestra augmented by the exquisite modern piano chops of Yvonne Loriod and the technological wonder of the ondes Martenot. A work featuring soloists who were both married to the composer at separate times adds yet another layer to a piece already saturated with passion. Filled with fire and aggression, this one hits like a meteor determined to reset the evolution tables.

Jenny Scheinman: 12 Songs. 2005. Cryptogramophone: 125.

Jenny Scheinman: violin
Ron Miles: cornet
Doug Wieselman: clarinets
Bill Frisell: guitar
Rachelle Garniez: accordion, piano, claviola
Tim Luntzel: bass
Dan Rieser: drums

Faced with an embarrassing abundance of talent with a band stacked with ridiculous musicianship and talent, Jenny Scheinmann does the sensible thing in crafting a CD that balances sophistication and folksy simplicity. Melodically focused without losing sight of twists in the arrangements. The sonic fabric shimmering with the multiple strands of strong improvisers in full restraint mode in the service of realizing tunes. This one is deserving of many ears. A rewarding listen.

Thomas Chapin Trio: Sky Piece [disc 6 of the Alive box set]. 1996/1999. Knitting Factory Works: 35828-02482-2.

Thomas Chapin: alto saxophone, sopranino saxophone, flute, bass flute, pinkullo, bells, whistles, alarm clock
Mario Pavone: bass
Michael Sarin: drums, percussion

Sky Piece opens up with the exquisitely sublime, soft interplay between the bass, drums and flute. Setting sail on a delicate note before effortlessly launching into the staggering diversity of the journey ahead over the next hour. Each moment along the way bears a unique relationship to groove, form and active dialogue between three master improvisers. While there are many composers and performers in the HurdAudio Rotation that have moved on from this mortal coil and are sorely missed. There is an extra pang for those who left far too soon. Recorded just two years before Thomas Chapin was lost to cancer. This release bears the spirit of one deeply at peace with himself, his musical muse and this incredible trio of wide expressive range.

Monday, February 21, 2011

HurdAudio Rotation: Time Does Not Exist

Wadada Leo Smith and Ed Blackwell: The Blue Mountain's Sun Drummer. 1020. Kabell Records: 111.

Wadada Leo Smith: trumpet, flugel-horn, flute, mbira, voice
Ed Blackwell: drums, percussion

Duo collaboration at its finest as two improvisers with a direct link to divine musical flow deliver a complete expression despite minimal contact prior to this 1986 performance. The multi-instrumentalism of Wadada Leo Smith works along a spiritual logic as he is at the peak of his linear, melodic abilities for this recording. Music as unquestioned as mighty river carving its path toward the sea. To listen to this session is to behold a natural wonder.

Kyle Gann: Private Dances. 2007. New Albion: NA 137.

Kyle Gann: composer

Private Dances
Sarah Cahill: piano

Da Capo Chamber Players
Patricia Spencer: flute
Meighan Stoops: clarinet
David Bowlin: violin
Andre Emelianoff: cello
Blair McMillen: piano

Time Does Not Exist
Sarah Cahill: piano

The Day Revisited
Patricia Spencer: flute
Meighan Stoops: clarinet
Blair McMillen: keyboard sampler
Kyle Gann: keyboard sampler
Bernard Gann: fretless bass

On Reading Emerson
Sarah Cahill: piano

Those of us who care deeply about the tradition of American art music that extends through the music of Charles Ives, Henry Cowell and Conlon Nancarrow recognize the good fortune of having the music and ideas of Kyle Gann available to the ears and mind. The music on Private Dances make audible - with breath taking clarity - the conceptual worlds that Gann has long advocated for as a writer and composer. And on this disc he is a composer first and foremost. Experienced as a solo piano experience with a pair of chamber works that blossom from within this program. The Day Revisited is a wonderful ensemble work focused upon the harmonic potential found in creative intonational approaches. Hovenweep takes on an unknowable mysticism and succeeds. Private Dances, Time Does Not Exist and On Reading Emerson benefits enormously from Sarah Cahill's incredible attention to detail. Sophisticated simplicity in concept, while rhythmically diabolical in practice. Cahill makes the unplayable poly rhythm sound smooth and effortless. It has been far too long between listenings to this wonderful recording.

Radiohead: OK Computer. 1997. Parlophone: 7243-8-55229-2-5.

Thom Yorke: vocals, guitar, piano
Jonny Greenwood: guitar, synthesizer, string arrangements
Phil Selway: drums
Ed O'Brien: guitar, backing vocals
Colin Greenwood: bass guitar

Listening to OK Computer is my penance for completely ignoring this album (and this band) back when this phenomenon was current. Shaded by the passage of time, the adulation that this recording received is puzzling. Much of this music sounds dull by current standards and for this particular listening I am struggling to connect with it.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

HurdAudio Rotation: Heavy Improvisation

London Improvisers Orchestra/Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra: Separately & Together. 2008. Emanem: 4219.

London Improvisers Orchestra:
Harry Beckett, Roland Ramanan, Ian Smith: trumpets
Robert Jarvis: trombone
Catherine Pluygers: oboe
Terry Day: bamboo pipes
John Rangecroft: clarinet
Chefa Alonso, Lol Coxhill, Adrian Northover: soprano saxophones
Caroline Kraabel: alto saxophone
Evan Parker: tenor saxophone
Alison Blunt, Susanna Ferrar, Sylvia Hallett, Philipp Wachsmann: violins
Ivor Kallin: violin, viola
Hannah Marshall, Marcio Mattos, Barbara Meyer: cellos
Dominic Lash, David Leahy: double basses
John Bisset, Dave Tucker: electric guitars
Veryan Weston: piano
Jackie Walduck: vibraphone
Javier Carmona: percussion

Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra:
Aileen Campbell: voice
Matthew Cairns, Robert Henderson: trumpets
George Murray: trombone
Emma Roche, Matthew Studdert-Kennedy: flutes
John Burgess: bass clarinet
Raymond MacDonald: alto saxophone
Graeme Wilson: baritone saxophone
Peter Nicholson: cello
Una MacGlone, Armin Sturm: double basses
George Burt: guitar
Neil Davidson: electric guitar
Chris Hladowski: bouzouki
Rick Bamford, Stuart Brown: percussion

A fascinating showcase of the large improvising ensemble sound as practiced on the other side of the pond. A live meeting of conduction inspired musics and creative collectivism. The London Improvisers Orchestra featuring shorter pieces showcasing compositional approaches toward improvisation. With "Too Late, Too Late, It's Ever So Late" offering up literary whimsical touches. Performing separately and as one double improvisers orchestra this collection reveals the richness of creative improvised music on a massive scale as a tremendous medium with limitless potential. And only a fraction of what is possible was explored on this double disc. It does fuel the compositional and improvisational mind.

Skerik's Syncopated Taint Septet: Skerik's Syncopated Taint Septet. 2003. Ropeadope Records: 0-7567-93183-2-9.

Skerik: tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone
Joe Doria: hammond organ
John Wicks: drums
Steve Moore: trombone, wurlitzer electric piano
Hans Teuber: alto saxophone, flute
Dave Carter: trumpet
Craig Flory: baritone saxophone

Like a dose of Critters Buggin with a horn section on a long march from New Orleans to Seattle. It's hard to resist the pulsating gravity of the grooves accompanied by the strong horn writing that makes this collection tick. Skerik fearlessly lays down some thick rhythm baritone parts that propel things pretty hard. The live recording offers up plenty of evidence that the heavy punches thrown on this disc are entirely real. This band is a true heavyweight in the ring.

Steve Lacy Quintet: Esteem. 2004 release of the 1975 recording. Atavistic: ALP260CD.

Steve Lacy: soprano saxophone
Steve Potts: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone
Irene Aebi: cello, violin
Kent Carter: bass
Kenneth Tyler: percussion

An almost relentless sampling of the live Steve Lacy experience. The incredible chemistry built up within this long running quintet and the continual refining and reinvention of their relationships with these compositions. It makes me very sad to have missed my chance to see Lacy perform during his lifetime. He was a master. A truly invaluable documentation.

Singing Despots

John Adams: Nixon in China live HD broadcast from The Metropolitan
Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Metropolitan Opera is a world class institution that produces opera at the highest caliber. An institution with impressive resources and talent applied to every detail of their productions. I doubt they serve popcorn at their productions.

The "Live in HD" season of the Metropolitan Opera brings their large scale productions into the popcorn soaked corners of multiplexes and movie houses across the country. Offering an oasis within an environment of mainstream Hollywood fare. Posing the questions: does it make sense to applaud an aria within a movie theater? Would the maestro be slighted if I don't participate in a standing ovation?

The decision to conduct interviews with the star performers, the composer/conductor, the choreographer and director over the course of the two intermissions reduced the experience to a sporting event. Such interviews felt out of place within the normally introspective spaces within a performance. I couldn't help feeling that such external reflections belonged at the end of the experience as opposed to adding to an already four-hours sensory bombardment. That said, the quality of the interviews ranged from insightful to awkward.

The production itself was world class. The sets and costumes were outstanding. And the dance choreography was fantastic. It was the composition of Nixon in China that fell flat for me. I've noticed that John Adams has built a career upon taking compositional ideas from other composers (borrowing heavily from the language and sound of Philip Glass's Einstein on the Beach for Nixon in China or lifting from Charles Ives's Central Park in the Dark in My Father Knew Charles Ives) and heavily diluting the sound. Gone were the additive processes and static elaborations of Glass. All the sharp corners and dissonances filed down to a consonant sheen. To be fair, even Glass himself has diluted his own ideas in the wake of Einstein on the Beach. It is clear that the watered down versions of this material does make it more widely accessible. But it leaves these ears hungry for the less compromised originals with the spices left in.

With Nixon in China, the diluted material wears out its welcome long before the incredibly disappointing third act. Once the set was reduced to a set of six beds and the principle characters were left to ponder what they had done, the "substance" of the music itself was unable to sustain the dramatic energy. I also think that the real world characters of Richard Nixon, Chairman Mao and Henry Kissinger require a far less sympathetic portrayal as figures who were ultimately on the wrong side of humanity. The interviewees of the two intermissions declared Nixon in China to be a modern masterpiece. I disagree. It is an opera that strikes a nerve with the here and now. And then gets on those nerves with its sticky sweetness.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Flock of Blackbirds

Eighth Blackbird: PowerLESS @ Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL
Saturday, February 5, 2011

Chaconne from the Partita in D minor BWV 1004 by J.S. Bach
Arranged by Matt Albert for 19 players

Music for 18 Musicians by Steve Reich

Eighth Blackbird
Tim Munro: flutes, piano
Michael J. Maccaferri: clarinets
Matt Albert: violin, viola
Nicholas Photinos: cello
Matthew Duvall: percussion
Lisa Kaplan: piano

Third Coast Percussion
Owen Clayton Condon: percussion
Robert Dillon: percussion
Peter Martin: percussion
David Skidmore: percussion

Meehan/Perkins Duo
Todd Meehan: percussion
Doug Perkins: percussion

Guest Artists
Sunshine Simmons: clarinets
Adam Marks: piano
Amy Briggs: piano
Amy Conn: soprano
Kirsten Hedegaard: soprano
Susan Nelson: soprano
Nina Heebink: mezzo soprano

Eighth Blackbird turned to a steady-state, sequential performance of Bach's Chaconne leading into Steve Reich's monumental Music for 18 Musicians without a pause in between for the "PowerLESS" side of the concert pair of PowerFUL/LESS. "Powerless" in the sense of a music that isn't about anything outside of the music itself. Music as abstraction. In the case of Music for 18 Musicians, a music that operates within its own sonic universe. A piece utterly contained within its mesmerizing continuity and gradual harmonic transitions.

The performance was a knock out. Tight and well rehearsed. With subtle lighting changes that allowed the visual spectacle of the four Steinway grand pianos, four marimbas, vibraphone, vocalists and instrumentalists against the black brick wall of the stage to shimmer against the steady metric pulse. The redundancy of doubled parts and phasing sequences added another dimension of obscuring the relationship between the actions perceived visually and aurally. Each member of the 18 musicians becoming sublimated into a looming sonic tapestry. It's a work of intricate choreography as percussionists move around (occasionally featuring sequences of three percussionists playing a single marimba or two pianists playing on two of the four pianos) and vocalists realizing the swelling crescendo/decrescendo by sweeping the microphone across the space in front of their mouths. There are many reasons why this pleasantly pulsating, tonal work will continue to endure as an enthralling minimalist work.

The decision to tack on the Bach arrangement as a prelude was an interesting one. The setting oscillated between feeling thin as the solo material was stretched out between so many players to moments of lush harmonic development. Juxtaposing the similarities and contrast between the Baroque and Minimalist aesthetics. The mechanized rhythmic qualities and tonal progressions fitting neatly side by side while the Chaccone clearly favored a melodic focal point over Music for 18 Musicians sense of rhythmic phasing. Ultimately, the Bach piece dissolved quickly as the powerful haze of Reich rolled in.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

HurdAudio Rotation: Disperate Cultural Artifacts

Alireza Mashayekhi & Ata Ebtekar/Sote: Persian Electronic Music: Yesterday and Today 1966-2006. 2007. Sub Rosa: SR 277.

Alireza Mashayekhi: electronics
Ata Ebtekar (aka Sote): electronics

So much of the music that I actively seek out exists on the margins of the mainstream that the addition of further marginalizing geopolitical realities feels like a further, unnecessary stratification of seedlings so deserving to bloom. Such is the case with this offering of two generations of electronic music from Iran. Add this double-CD to the substantial evidence of Iran's rich cultural offerings that would overwhelm the stupid allusions to evil empires. Alireza Mashayekhi and Ata Ebtkkar weave a rich tapestry informed by their own sense of identity and how it relates to their position within the larger art music world. Mashayekhi's music presents richly developed landscapes of sound with a sense of place. Often imbued with aching beauty. Ebtekar, on the other hand, presents imaginative sonic portraits that often feature a strong melodic line with an interesting relationship to the quarter-tone harmonic language of Persian Classical music. In a more intelligent world, cultural expressions like this would dwarf petty holy wars.

Jason Kao Hwang: Edge. 2006. Asian Improv Records: AIR 0067.

Jason Kao Hwang: composer, violin
Taylor Ho Bynum: cornet, flugelhorn
Andrew Drury: percussion
Ken Filiano: bass

The lineup of improvisers alone is reason enough to listen to this disc. Each one is an individually strong presence in any setting and they do not disappoint in this outing. But added to that considerable quality are the extraordinary compositions of Jason Kao Hwang. Each unfolds in a flowing sequence of unsuspecting beauty with a startling mix of jazz idiomatic language and Chinese musical materials. His deep intellect and ear for detail is vividly present throughout.

Edgard Varese: Ionisation/Ameriques/Density 21.5/Offrandes/Arcana/Octandre/Integrales. 1977, 1984, 1990. Sony Music: SMK 45-844.

Pierre Boulez: conductor

Ionisation for 13 percussionists
performed by members of the New York Philharmonic

Ameriques for full orchestra
New York Philharmonic

Density 21.5 for solo flute
Lawrence Beauregard: flute

Offrandes for soprano and chamber orchestra
Rachei Yakar: soprano
Ensemble InterContemporain

Arcana for full orchestra
New York Philharmonic

Octandre for flute, clarinet, oboe, bassoon, trumpet, trombone, double-bass
Ensemble InterContemporain

Integrales for small orchestra
Ensemble InterContemporain

When it comes to the art music of the twentieth century, Pierre Boulez has been conducting the better part of it. Often drawing out definitive performances from orchestras and ensembles around the world. His efforts with these key pieces of the Varese catalogue are no exception. The New York Philharmonic brings a breath taking aggressiveness to Ameriques that in and of itself makes this disc worth spinning on repeat. Boulez manages to balance the biting brass section while maintaining a healthy contrast between blistering loud and retreating softness until this major work writhes and attacks like a mighty beast from the deep. If that isn't enough, these interpretations of Arcana and Integrales are world class as well. Also worth noting is the exceptional solo flute performance of Density 21.5 given by Lawrence Beauregard. Easily one of the best I've heard. This disc hints at the thrills a full on Varese Festival would deliver. This is mandatory listening.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

HurdAudio Rotation: Soundtrack for a Blizzard

Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath: Bremen to Bridgwater. 1971, 1975 (re-issued in 2004). Cuneiform Records: Rune 182/183.

Chris McGregor: piano
Keith Bailey: drums
Harry Beckett: trumpet
Marc Charig: trumpet
Elton Dean: alto saxophone
Nick Evans: trombone
Mongezi Feza: trumpet
Bruce Grant: baritone saxophone
Malcolm Griffiths: trombone
Radu Malfatti: trombone
Harry Miller: double bass
Louis Moholo-Moholo: drums
Mike Osborne: alto saxophone, clarinet
Evan Parker: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone
Dudu Pukwana: alto saxophone
Alan Skidmore: tenor saxophone
Gary Windo: tenor saxophone

The field tape recordings of these performances may a little rough, but the musical material soars. Dual meanings of "freedom" in an ensemble of improvisers willfully practicing the kind of mixed collaboration that forced the South African members of this ensemble to live in exile. A sonic document for ears that hear that shimmers with a tragic radiance. Combined with a sorrow that this period of creative explosiveness wasn't documented more thoroughly. But also a celebration that Apartheid policy was (and always will be) too frail to extinguish the resonance of true humanity.

Forbes Graham: Another Return. 2006. Polyrhythmatics: 3/25 limited edition CD-R.

Forbes Graham: trumpet, laptop computer

Recorded in Providence, Rhode Island and Marlboro, Vermont during the winter, these quiet electronic textures now fill the air as a dramatic blizzard rages beyond my window. It is a sound of interior space insulated against the elements. Particularly in "You're Here With Us Now" as it vanishes into abrupt silence just as it treads toward distortion. Then returns at its own unhurried pace. The timbral space of trumpet appears only as an amplification of the instrument's subtle interiors. It is a sound that unfolds with its own logic without becoming untethered from the human qualities of breath and introspection.

Jason Adasiewicz: Sun Rooms. 2010. Delmark: DE 593.

Jason Adasiewicz: vibraphone
Nate McBride: bass
Mike Reed: drums

Jason Adasiewicz brings a refreshing physicality to the vibraphone. Performing live with multiple groups within the vibrant Chicago scene, the sweat and deliberation he brings to his performances reveals the range of previously untapped potential lurking within the instrument when one is willing to explore the extremes of its harmonic and rhythmic dimensions. And Adasiewicz is willing to strike the metal bars pretty hard. There is also a softer side to his playing as well as a strikingly rhythmic approach to bowing the instrument. At his heart, he is a drummer and the precision and variation in rhythm is unwavering. The deft and fluid approach toward harmony makes Sun Rooms a solid trio outing that can hold its own compared to any piano trio. The music on this disc extends indefinitely in two directions. Drawing upon a deep sense of jazz history while still propelling toward an aggressively new improvised music. It's hard to imagine a rhythm section more suited toward this journey than the always excellent Nate McBride and Mike Reed. Sun Rooms blows the "cool, detached" vibe off of the vibraphone and pulls forcefully at the ears to hear its timbral range in a new light.