Monday, December 12, 2011

HurdAudio Rotation: Letting Go

Interplay: Apology to the Atonists/Tritone Suite. 1990, 2006. Porter Records: 4009.

Elliott Levin: poetry, flutes, saxophones
Rick Iannacone: guitars, electronics
Keno Speller: flute, vocals, percussion
Ron Howerton: cuica, percussion
Ed Watkins: percussion

The extended, improvisation driven Tritone Suite is the focus of this collection. Taking up all but the opening five minute Apology to the Atonists. The two performances separated by sixteen years retain a remarkable continuity. With Levin's poetry drifting well out of the foreground it occupied in the shorter work and allowing for the free form materials to evolve along more abstract lines. The longer movements of the Tritone Suite develop along remarkable lines and are the most interesting of the set. While the percussion heavy sound does meander a little bit, the performance as a whole holds together even as it drifts into some decidedly psychedelic territory. This disc did not leave a particularly deep impression on its first time through the rotation. But on this return listen I'm finding plenty to like about this music.

Tom Rainey: drums, percussion
Tony Malaby: tenor saxophone
guest Ellery Eskelin: tenor saxophone

There's a lot going on with this incredibly solid free jazz outing from Mark Helias' Open Loose. First off, it's a saxophone trio with the bassist leading the group. Giving this music a slightly different focus even as Tony Malaby's chops and improvisations are focal points at many times along this recording. But the pulse and compositional force of this trio is clearly with the bassist. There is also the often remarked upon (in this blog) "Tom Rainey effect." The two laws of the "Tom Rainey effect" are 1) there are no bad recordings with Tom Rainey, and 2) Tom Rainey makes every group exceed expectations (which are already high, it is Tom Rainey in the group after all). The Tom Rainey effect is in full force on this set. The fact that the guest tenor saxophone for one of these tracks is Ellery Eskelin (one of the best, in my opinion) indicates what kind of talent pool Mark Helias is swimming in. All of this quality shows up on Atomic Clock. But the real gem of this listening experience is the original compositions that Helias brings to the set. Many of these pieces practically beg to be interpreted many different ways. Leaving me wondering of any attentive ears have caught on to a track like "Chavez" or "Momentum Interrupted" and felt the tug to realize their own performance of this music. I'm contemplating working up a piano interpretation of "Chavez" myself.

Stephen Drury: piano, toy piano, prepared piano, electronics, organ

In a Landscape (1948)
Music for Marcel Duchamp (1947)
Souvenir (1983)
A Valentine Out of Season (1944)
Suite for Toy Piano (1948)
Bacchanale (1938)
Prelude for Meditation (1944)
Dream (1948)

At some point the music of In a Landscape entered into my bloodstream. It became a deeply familiar piano work from an earlier Cage obsession. Stephen Drury gives this tranquil work an exquisite interpretation. One that reaches the through the veins and arteries to find the pulsating heart of the music. A similar quality found in all of the performances on this disc. Some of them are familiar works. Some of them are revelations. I was less familiar with Souvenir - a solo organ piece of haunting, introspective beauty that traces a continuous line between the serene pieces of John Cage in the 1930s and 1940s and into the 1980s. Also remarkable is how the temporal distance between the Bacchanale and Prelude for Meditation is surprisingly small. That the alluded act of wild abandon and meditative contemplation both reference the same qualities of letting one's self go. All told, this is a fantastic set of keyboard works given just the right balance of discipline, dedication and love that allows this music to resonate.

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