Sunday, November 18, 2012

HurdAudio Rotation: Lean, Loud and Lovely

Ursel Schlicht / Reuben Radding: Einstein's Dreams. 2005. Konnex: KCD 5165.

Ursel Schlicht: piano
Reuben Radding: double bass

Einstein's Dreams manages to paint a blurring line that dissolves the supposed divide between non-idiomatic free improvisation and jazz.  Providing an artful argument for the common roles that listening plays in improvised music of all persuasions.  Here it is the intimate dialog between piano and double bass shared between improvisers who instinctively know how to develop the tension and overlapping timbres of their respective instruments.  The sonic worlds explored within the piano pulling the sound of piano strings closer to the territory of extended techniques that Reuben Radding employs on the bass.  This duo then also takes flights that allow their independent sounds to flourish, feeding upon the energy of their conversant musicality.  The reverberations of jazz and European music that informs this dialog is readily felt as an animating force behind this music as Ursel Schlicht provides glimpses of harmonic changes that Reuben Radding seamlessly adapts to.  Giving this music a strong sense of hearing the spontaneity through these particular sets of ears.

Briggan Krauss: Descending to End. 1999. Knitting Factory Records: KFW-251.

Briggan Krauss: reeds, guitar, electronics

Descending to End plunges into a corner of temporal reality completely its own.  A place that balances the desolate with the wonder of having so many elements in constant flux.  The humanity of this sound stemming from the creative restlessness of Briggan Krauss's sensibilities.  This is a relentlessly challenging and musical experience that brings a much needed improviser's take on musique concrete.  The poetry of the pieces title offering an unusually descriptive insight into the forces at play in the sonic soup; "Last Gasp Extraction Of The World," "Lean Loud & Lovely," "Encumbrance Essence" and so on.  The timbral essence of saxophones and guitars blurred and processed into a blurred version of its sonic content.  These are stark landscapes done in sound and there aren't nearly enough of them on this collection.

Elliott Sharp & The Soldier String Quartet: Cryptid Fragments. 1993. Extreme: XCD: 020.

Elliott Sharp: computer processing, Thunder, sampler
Margaret Parkins: cello
Sara Parkins: violin
Michelle Kinney: cello
The Soldier String Quartet -
Laura Seaton: violin
David Soldier: violin
Ron Lawrence: viola
Mary Wooten: cello

Cryptid Fragments is a long-standing staple of HurdAudio aural consumption.  So many of the contours of this recording have entered into a rare familiarity as the initial shock of the jagged timbral edges have aged to reveal a solid collection of string-based chamber works featuring electronic manipulation or electronic accompaniment.  The four movement "Cryptid Fragments" is a study of digitally processed violin and cello samples.  The finite set of polished gestures providing a sense of unified structure that provides a compositional framework for the sequence of moments that pass by.  Following the delicately abrasive textures of this computer manipulated experience are three works for string quartet plus electronics: "Shapeshifters," "Twistmap" and "Umbra."  Each fashioned within the ir/rational aesthetic developed by Elliott Sharp.  A sound that is identifiable through its consistency and a sound that has become a point of fixation for a long time with these ears.  The contrast of relatively "unstable" textures set against a clearly structured form gives this music something worth coming back for.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

HurdAudio Rotation: Even Birds Have Homes (To Return To)

Dave Douglas Quintet: Live at the Bimhuis: October 24, 2002. 2003. Greenleaf Music: GRE-P-011/012

Dave Douglas: trumpet
Rick Margitza: tenor saxophone
Uri Caine: fender rhodes
James Genus: bass
Clarence Penn: drums

It is just a few days past the ten year anniversary of this live recording and it still sounds like lightning captured in a bottle.  This particular vintage of the Dave Douglas Quintet (which has evolved into other amazing things since) is a body of music that inspires enormous enthusiasm with each listening.  And these "paperback series" collections offer incredible insight into the live manifestation of this fusing together of absurdly intelligent musicians.  Only on these live sets can one hear the sprawling, 20+ minute versions of "Penelope" and "Deluge."  It also gives the ears a chance to hear the brilliant segues between "Unison" by Bjork, "Ramshackle" by Beck and "Deluge."  The slide into each piece, often with elements of the previous and next overlapping, is fantastic.  The quotations of other great jazz tunes and sudden appearance of other forms within forms makes for rewarding listening for the alert ears.  I especially enjoyed the emergence of "Giant Steps" for a brief moment in the middle of "Deluge."  And the quick, thoughtfully realized interpretation of Douglas' thorny "Caterwaul" was a particularly engaging moment.  This is one of the great quintets operating at the top of their game and these Dave Douglas compositions are pieces to be savored and reckoned with.

Trio M: The Guest House. 2011. Enja: yeb-7721-2.

Myra Melford: piano
Mark Dresser: bass
Matt Wilson: drums

One of the unique things about Trio M is the role and stature of collaboration in realizing this music.  Each individual in this trio brings such a strong personality and presence that the sense of "shared leadership" takes on a tangible quality rarely found in piano trio projects.  One could easily regard this as a piano/bass/drums trio given the pedigree behind the collaborators involved.  Which is not to say that this music takes on a static quality.  Leaders emerge as the individual composers behind each piece and part of the fun of listening to The Guest House is hearing the clear personality that emerges as the composer for a given piece.  Even so, these players climb deep inside the music regardless of the penmanship behind the sounds.

In the linear notes, Myra Melford describes the composition of this music as a collaboration with chef Paul Canales.  Alluding to the creative impulse that is shared between concocting music and food.  Which is a fair analogy given the spice and flavor that wafts through so much of this set.  The biggest treat of all turns out to be the dessert course of Mark Dresser's "Ekoneni" realized by this ensemble.  With plenty of clarity in the unique amplification of Dresser's bass and the spirited performance that explodes as the full ensemble joins together into an infectious groove.

The Guest House is a solid jazz album first and foremost and the presence of such distinct players in rare form is hardly subtle.  Each brings a deep, mature voice and a strong sense of their own musical identity into this mix and the combination that forms is astonishing.  The mix of serious thematic materials and levity makes for a recording of rare scope that combines immediacy with lasting appeal.  Highly recommended.

The Peter Brötzmann Trio: For Adolphe Sax. 1967. FMP: UMS/ALP230CD.

Peter Brötzmann: tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone
Peter Kowald: drums
Sven-ake Johansson: drums
Fred van Hove: piano

When confronted with the music of Peter Brötzmann for the first time (and "confrontation" is certainly a word that travels well with his sound) I was immediately in the thrall of its visceral, uncompromising quality and needed to know where this sound came from.  For Adolphe Sax is Brötzmann's first record.  And it appears that this sound arrived fully formed.  This is a trio of improvisers leaving angry splashes of color along a grand canvas.  And it's the spontaneity of their brash strokes of color that allows for unexpected details to emerge between the layers of dense materials.  Brötzmann's music comes with a surprising range of contrast and it's often the canyons just between his blistering sheets of sound that are the most attractive moments of his performance.  On For Adolphe Sax it's the quiet moments where Peter Kowald's bass comes through that are incredible.  Kowald and Johansson were a rhythm section capable of holding their own within this music and bringing plenty of creative energy to match.  This one is a forceful argument for why the European improvisation scene became a phenomenon that continues to influence players internationally.