Sunday, April 17, 2011

HurdAudio Rotation: The Sound of One Finger Snapping

Don Byron: Romance with the Unseen. 1999. Blue Note Records: 7243-4-99545-26.Link

Don Byron: clarinet
Bill Frisell: guitar
Drew Gress: bass
Jack DeJohnette: drums

Boasting a lineup that easily puts this disc into the "must hear" camp, the impressive musicians collected together for this session deliver a surprisingly understated effort. Though there are pockets here and there where Bill Frisell cuts loose with his ridiculous chops. As a group, their deeply original take on Herbie Hancock's "One Finger Snap" makes this listening experience entirely worthwhile. Don Byron drills new holes into that tune that exposes something entirely original within a familiar piece. Likewise, the collaborative interpretation of Byron's "Basquiat" is filled with revelations not found in the earlier version recorded by the talented clarinetist. Like so many great jazz records, the deep qualities of this music do not leap out of the speakers or attempt to impressive the passive, casual listener with any kind of gimmick. This is a music that patiently waits for an active listener ready to draw the connections between this performance and the jazz tradition writ large before leaving an impression. It is entirely worth the effort.

Albert Ayler: New Grass. 1968 (re-released in 2005). Impulse: A-9175.

Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone, recitation, vocals, whistling
Bill Folwell: electric bass
Burt Collins: trumpet
Joe Newman: trumpet
Garnett Brown: trombone
Seldon Powell: flute
Buddy Lucas: baritone saxophone
Bert De Coteaux: arranger, conductor
Call Cobbs: electric harpsichord
Bernard Purdie: drums
Rose Marie McCoy: vocals
Mary Maria Parks: vocals

The fact that this set opens with Ayler's recitative imploring the listener to accept, or possibly even dig this new direction is a tacit acknowledgement by Ayler that this music fails to speak for itself. Beyond that heartfelt plea, this music is a pure train wreck. One can't help wondering what could have been if Albert Ayler had simply written off the American audience and pursued his course in Europe where his creative force was better understood. Then perhaps he would not have poured his creative energy and heart into the creative cesspool that is New Grass. An obvious pandering to the American rock and roll audience of the late '60s that has aged poorly. It fails as rock and roll and it fails as free jazz. The fact that it emanated from the otherwise profound creative wellspring of Albert Ayler less than a handful of years before his untimely demise is heart wrenching.

Gregorio, Roebke, Labycz Trio: Colectivos. 2010. Peira: 04.

Guillermo Gregorio: clarinet
Jason Roebke: contrabass
Brian Labycz: electronics

The striking thing about Colectivos is the dialogue that forms between these three players as each bends their individual voice, register and timbral qualities toward the other. Brian Labycz's modular electronics unfolding as a sonic film of controlled bands of noise and tone that weaves delicately at times around and within the acoustic instruments. At times complementing the almost square-tone qualities of the clarinet. At other times offering up an enharmonic texture along side Jason Roebke's bowed tones and scrapes on the bass. Colectivos is a collective approach toward improvisation. Each role within this trio is an equal coexistence between contrasting instruments. Featuring eleven short sonic canvases - alternating between free improvisation and interpretations of compositions (that invite improvisation) by Roebke and Gregorio. Beautifully recorded to reveal a range of brush strokes of varying density. These are austere studies of abstraction that gently pull the ears toward an inviting and otherworldly sonic territory.

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