Sunday, October 23, 2011

HurdAudio Rotation: Songs of Travel and Growth

Louis Moholo-Moholo/Marilyn Crispell: Sibanye (We Are One). 2007. Intakt: 145.

Louis Moholo-Moholo: drums
Marilyn Crispell: piano

I've listened to a lot of Marilyn Crispell over the years and she never fails to puncture the familiarity of her sound with elements within her improvisations that are completely new to me. This happens every time. Here is a live recording from 2008 where I was in the audience. At the time I was blown away by the kind of voice leading she was doing. It was something new in her playing I hadn't noticed before. Now as I come back to this recording for the third time or so I'm struck by the resonant spiritual connection that these two players share. Even though this is their first (and only documented) performance together.

Marilyn Crispell has mastered the almost Zen-like quality of stepping back within a performance and finding an improvised path that exists in balance with the present state of the music. Hers is a finely honed intuition that allows her to draw upon her considerable technique without smothering the creative moment. Louis

Moholo-Moholo has carved a path out of Apartheid era South Africa, through the explosive free improvisation movements of Europe and back to South Africa. That sense of returning home after a long and valuable journey comes through in his music. The connection these two master musicians made was something to behold live. This document of that meeting retains much of the glow of that performance.

Ellery Eskelin: tenor saxophone

In 1993, Ellery Eskelin was well on his way to becoming the most interesting improvising musician on the tenor saxophone. The material on Premonition is outstanding on its own. But if you've heard him play lately it is clear that he has grown exponentially as an artist since that time. Premonition does make a clear, declarative case for the multiple tendrils of jazz tradition that feed into his astonishingly original voice. Three original works - part of Eskelin's own "Song Cycle" followed by two by Monk and a lighter excursion through a Torres Velazquez tune. Deep roots that hardly keep Eskelin from reaching into the stratosphere with his own ideas. Premonition is a snapshot of an artist in mid growth that stands on its own as a solo recital worth revisiting.

Sanda: vocal
Shoko Nagai: piano, accordion, farfisa
Stomu Takeishi: electric bass
Satoshi Takeishi: percussion
Douglas Wieselman: guitar, clarinet
Ben Stapp: tuba

There aren't many vocalist led disc in the HurdAudio Rotation. Partly out of oversight and partly because these ears gravitate toward the instrumentalists. And frankly, I was attracted to this disc because of the Takeishi brothers in the rhythm section. So I have Stomu and Satoshi to thank for pushing me out of my comfort zone and into the gypsy songs so brilliantly realized by Sanda. Sanda Weigl has an amazing voice and an innate sense for how these songs breathe and dance. Combining her voice with this outstanding band is simply a winning concept that rewards the ears that stop to take it in. This is music with unbelievable sonic and emotional texture delivered by serious players.

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