Wednesday, March 30, 2011

HurdAudio Rotation: Anomalous Soul

Herbie Hancock: Empyrean Isles. 1964 (1998 Rudy Van Gelder Edition). Blue Note Records: 7243-4-98796-2-1.

Herbie Hancock: piano
Freddie Hubbard: cornet
Ron Carter: bass
Tony Williams: drums

If the qualities of this Blue Note classic could be bottled up and drunk like champagne then we would all be living on Empyrean Isles. This one is a real high point creatively for Herbie Hancock. Especially the formally ambiguous "The Egg" with its evolutionary meanderings. Then there are the hook-heavy grooves of "Cantaloupe Island" and "One Finger Snap" drawing the ears toward the intoxicating effects of this energy. It's a little disappointing that too many of these tracks simply fade out - an artificial, studio driven device - rather than unfolding these layered patterns toward a more organic ending. But the quality of these compositions and top-form solos more than make up for that unfortunate decision. This remains one of the records that justifies enthusiasm for Herbie Hancock and any one of his partners in crime from this session.

Michael Moore Trio: Chicoutimi. 1993. Ramboy: 06.

Michael Moore: clarinet
Fred Hersch: piano
Mark Helias: bass

This disc continues to be a pleasant surprise each time it cycles back around in the rotation. As a quiet, understated outing it leaves an increasing impression each time it catches the ears off guard with its outstanding interplay and unerring sense of melodic material. Each player is stretching out in spite of the incredible restraint that forms the foundation of this sound. The brevity of each piece allows for complete gems to form without overstating or over-developing each thematic turn. And this brevity always feels exactly proportional as the set of sixteen pieces forms a complete whole. This is how great musicians show off without being showy.

James Tenney/The Barton Workshop: Spectrum Pieces. 2009. New World Records: 80692-2.

The Barton Workshop
James Fulkerson: co-director
Frank Denyer: co-director
Jos Zwaanenburg: flute, bass flute
Ned McGowan: flute, bass flute
Eduardo Olloqui: oboe
Alexander van Eerdewyk: cor anglais
John Anderson: clarinet, bass clarinet
Ymke Broers: also saxophone
Krijn van Arnhem: bassoon
James Aylward: bassoon
Joeri de Vente: horn
Emmanouil Ventouras: horn
Reijer Dorresteijn: trumpet
Gertjan Loot: trumpet
Koen Kaptijn: trombone
Arne Visser: tuba
Tobias Liebezeit: percussion
Paula Chico Martinez: percussion
Frank Denyer: piano
Nora Mulder: piano
Mirjam Rietberg: harp
Martin Kaaij: guitar
Marieke Keser: violin
Boris M. Visser: violin
Max Knigge: viola
Manuel Visser: viola
Anne Magda de Geus: cello
Stefan Pliquett: bass

Spectrum 1 (1995) - violin, trumpet, bass clarinet, 2 percussion, piano, bass
Spectrum 2 (1995) - flute, cor anglais, clarinet, bassoon, horn
Spectrum 3 (1995) - chamber orchestra
Spectrum 4 (1995) - violin, alto recorder, vibraphone, guitar, piano, bass clarinet, trombone, bass
Spectrum 5 (1995) - flute, oboe, bass clarinet, bassoon, vibraphone/percussion, harp, piano, viola
Spectrum 6 (2001) - flute, clarinet, percussion, piano, violin, cello
Spectrum 7 (2001) - flute, cello, piano, and tape delay system
Spectrum 8 (2001) - viola obbligato and flute, clarinet, percussion, piano, violin, cello

These late works of James Tenney are a revelation. My ears came into these pieces with the expectation of his earlier works exploring the harmonic series: Saxony, Septet for Electric Guitars and Spectral Canon for Conlon Nancarrow. Works that methodically unfold the harmonic frequencies of the harmonic series into a shimmering aural image of psycho acoustic beauty. These Spectrum pieces are startling in the shift away from emphasizing the strong tonal harmonies of the lower partials of the series and hover within a surprisingly rich territory within a field of tones within the series. The use of computer assisted algorithmic technique allows for Tenney to step back from this sound as its composer and gently guide the fabric of acoustic phenomena. Revealing that the harmonic series as compositional inspiration is not limited to a singular sonic fingerprint. The reinforcing just intervals offering up an image of both stasis and movement. This is some profoundly beautiful chamber music.

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