Saturday, April 16, 2011

HurdAudio Rotation: Improvisation and Restraint

Albert Ayler: Holy Ghost [disc 3]. 2004. Revenant Records: 213.
Albert Ayler Quintet @ La Cave, Cleveland, Ohio. April 16-17, 1966
Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone
Don Ayler: trumpet
Michel Samson: violin
Mutawef Shaheed: bass
Ronald Shannon Jackson: drums

To my ears, these La Cave performances are the most substance rich part of the Holy Ghost box set in terms of capturing this amazing quintet at a particularly explosive point of their creativity. Michel Samson in particular is a blistering part of this sound. These sets play like a suite of familiar Albert Ayler compositions and themes that weave in and through a texture of free improvisation. "Spirits Rejoice," "Our Prayer" and "Ghosts" making multiple appearances within this performance. Leading the ears through a tight sense of how this material lived and breathed within the collective space of these performers. And how it developed and balanced within a dialogue between deeply introspective players. These are sets that overcome the technical failings of the recording by sheer brute force of content.

Dawn of Midi: First. 2010. Accretions: ALP048CD.

Qasim Naqvi: drums, toys
Aakaash Israni: contrabass
Amino Belyamani: piano

Dawn of Midi hit upon a sound so naturally, so instinctively and so intellectually taut that it triggers multiple "why didn't I think of that?" moments. The trio of Nqavi, Israni and Belyamani are a pure collective. Free improvisation with an egalitarian sense of each member making an equal contribution. No single player emerges into the foreground. But even more striking is the incredible restraint employed in crafting these real-time compositions. Restraint that not only leaves room for three collaborators, but also leaves enormous open space within these composition/performances. Even more striking that that is the deliberate restrictions of harmonic materials. This music is a new minimalism employing free improvisational means. The image of this trio rehearsing and recording in the dark (a practice going back to Dawn of Midi's origins as students at CalArts) speaks of a sense of communication through focused and restricted means. What emerges is a sparse and lyrical music that hints at a startlingly accessible avenue for drawing more ears toward improvised music. This is a sound with an incredibly promising future.

Curlew: Gussie. 2003. Roaratorio: roar 05 (LP).

George Cartwright: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone
Davey Williams: electric guitar
Chris Parker: piano
Fred Chalenor: electric bass
Bruce Golden: percussion and such

Curlew has undergone many transformations over the decades. Bending to the compositional and improvising impulses of George Cartwright. In this live set recorded in Minneapolis in 2001 (Cartwright's home base at that juncture) we hear several strands and wisps of the Curlew sound and energy dissipating through extended free improvisation. The relatively late addition of a piano to the group sound balancing against the familiar antics and extended techniques of Davey Williams on guitar. Part of the sense of "dissipation" or expansive quality to the sound is the focus upon smaller subgroups and the complete absence of charts being performed by the full group. Within the individual players there remains the kinetic, frenetic energy that has long marked the Curlew sound. A persistent resiliency to forge ahead along the same creative impulse after so much change. This LP release is one for the fans already steeped with the spirit of Curlew that may hear this set as a long echo extending both forward and back. Free improvisation that embraces an expansive sense of possibility and a restrained sense of dipping sparingly into such vast musicianship.

No comments: