Sunday, July 24, 2011

HurdAudio Rotation: Shards of Surmountability

Susie Ibarra: Flower After Flower. 2000. Tzadik: TZ 7057.

Wadada Leo Smith: trumpet, brushes
Chris Speed: clarinet
Assif Tsahar: bass clarinet
Charles Burnham: violin
Cooper-Moore: flute, piano
Pauline Oliveros: accordion
John Lindberg: bass
Susie Ibarra: drums, kulintang, percussion

Music of transparent sophistication and primitivism. Susie Ibarra provides a compositional form that invites deep listening based improvisation from an outstanding ensemble. Sequentially, these eight pieces alternate between solo "Fractal" performances and larger scale compositions for various instrumental configurations. "The Ancients" covers a surprising range of territory with Ibarra's solo material on temple bells as its unifying motif. "Fractal 3," performed by Cooper-Moore as a solo piano piece is outstanding. The decision to fade out the ending of "Human Beginnings" is the only point of disappointment on this disc. There had to be a better way out of that piece. But overall it is the skilled listening that lurks behind each of these performers that shines through Flower After Flower.

Marc Ribot: Shoe String Symphonettes. 1997. Tzadik: TZ 7504.

Death by Unnatural Causes (1991) directed by Karen Bellone and LinkLisa Rinzler
Greg Cohen: bass
Jill Jaffe: violin, viola
Marc Ribot: guitar, sampler

Landlord Blues (1987) directed by Jacob Burkhardt
Marc Ribot: trumpet, banjo, guitar
Brad Jones: bass
Bill Ware: vibes
Curtis Fowlkes: trombone
Jim Nolet: violin
Roy Nathanson: saxophone
EJ Rodriguez: drums, percussion
Gregory Ribot: flute

Alita Queen of Mars (1928) directed by Yakov Protazanov
Paul Clarvis: drums, percussion
Dave Meric: keyboards
Phil Boyden: violin
Marc Ribot: guitar
Helen Thomas: cello
Mike Kearsey: trombone

Pieces From An Incomplete Project (1995-1996) directed by Joe Brewster
Dave Douglas: trumpet
Vicki Bodner: oboe
Charlie Giordano: piano, keyboards
Mauro Refosco: percussion
Jill Jaffe: violin, viola
Maxine Neuman: cello
Tony Garnier: bass

Summer Salt (1993) directed by Charlie Levi
John Zorn: saxophone
Andy Haas: saxophone
Cyro Baptista: drums
Marc Ribot: guitar, e-flat horn

Film scores tend to be a mixed bag. Without the linear visuals present we are left with a music that is formally subverted by unseen forces. Rather than building or transitioning by the internal, compositional logic, we have music that darts around and frequently leaves many ideas undeveloped and incomplete. Shoe String Symphonettes ranges wildly from atmospheric material to idiomatically grounded music ranging from surf guitar rock to blues to Latin and swing. While nearly everything on this disc is entirely too short, it is overwhelmingly pleasant. With sounding combinations that stick with the ears and invite further listening.

Paul Plimley Trio: Safe-Crackers. 1999. Victo: cd066.

Paul Plimley: piano
Lisle Ellis: contrabass
Scott Amendola: drums

I would put this recording up against any piano trio set in the history of jazz. The humor and taut transparency of this music is astonishing given the sheer density of these pieces and the deep roots that touch upon a full range of music history. This set gives so much to the listener upon each encounter with this disc. The richness of detail keeps the music fresh no matter how familiar the ears become with it. The effortless dialog that passes through these players is remarkable. The chemistry they bring is incredible. Easily one of my top ten discs.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

HurdAudio Rotation: Hypo Christmas Treefuzz

Benjamin Herman: Hypo Christmas Treefuzz: More Mengelberg. 2010. Roach Records: DOX096.

Benjamin Herman: alto saxophoneLinkErnst Glerum: bass, philicorda
Joost Patocka: drums
Anton Goudsmit: guitar
Willem Friede: mellotron
Ruben Hein: vocals

Misha Mengelberg looms large over the frenetically active Dutch jazz scene. His sense of humor and avant garde leanings have inspired a wave of expatriates and Europeans to build upon an improvised music with roots that span continents. Alto saxophonist Benjamin Herman takes the music of Mengelberg as a point of departure as he deftly spans multiple stylistic interpretations of the material. Revealing a body of work that is not limited by its avant garde origins and with an accessibility that is startling. Building a compelling case for Mengelberg as Amsterdam's answer to Thelonius Monk. The bonus disc features the Benjamin Herman Quartet playing a live set at the North Sea Jazz Festival with a music that follows the familiar contours of an ensemble feeding upon the energy of its audience. Guitarist Anton Goudsmit is startlingly good throughout these discs and clearly has the potential to be widely influential. Herman is wickedly talented and these are polished performances that could stand to veer a little harder "outside" for my tastes.

LinkDon Cherry: Tibet. 1981. Piccadilly: PIC 3515 (LP).

Don Cherry: pocket trumpet, piano, percussion
Christer Bothen: piano
Bernt Rosengren: taragot
Agnetha Ernstrom: tibetan bell, etc.
Bengt Berger: piano, mridangam, etc.

Just one of the reasons why Don Cherry achieved such a transcendent state as a creative musician was his ability to draw upon a global music without losing sight of the cultural strengths each brings to the sound. Tibet offers up a collection of pieces rooted in ritual and a spiritually grounded regard for place and sound. Qualities that Western music is notoriously poor at replicating. And the danger with fusing jazz, classical or any commercially viable genre with this kind of music tends to run the risk of treating the spirituality with superficial regard. Here, Don Cherry has created a record that draws the ears into the ritual and sense of suspended time that marks this sonic territory. There is very little trumpet and zero cliches of any given genre. The essence of improvisation is the only baggage he brings to this music and it succeeds with the grounded humility and honest listening that marks his approach. The role of repetition is particularly interesting here. As it bypasses the formal trappings of minimalism and presents a sense of reflecting the cycles found in nature.

Thomas Helton: Experimentations In Minimalism. 2006. FreeBass Productions: limited run CD-R.Link

Karl Fulbright: tenor saxophone, alto saxophone, baritone saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet
Seth Paynter: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone
Martin Langford: tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet
Josh Levy: tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, bass saxophone
Carol Morgan: trumpet
Brad Clymer: trumpet
Brian Allen: trombone
Thomas Hulten: trombone
Thomas Helton: double bass

Experimentations in Minimalism is a showcase for Thomas Helton's compositional writing. Particularly his writing for wind instruments. With just a couple of tracks hinting at his substantial playing chops on the bass. The sequencing of tracks on this disc is interesting. Opening up with the bass front and center with "Selfish Shellfish" before giving way to the first of three "Pious" tracks found scattered through this set. Each "Pious" focuses on an ensemble made up of a single instrument type. The first featuring clarinets, the second trombones and the final track is a short "Pious" for multiple trumpets. "Experimentations in Minimalism" is a three movement suite for wind instruments that builds upon a delicate mix of short phrases and improvisation. These explore different ranges of the instruments with the final movement working within the bass to baritone range. The writing fits the instruments well and the piece thrives upon the simplicity of its internal logic. "FU&THYRIO" offers up a longer track that allows the full ensemble - and particularly the bass - to cut loose. Cathartic in the wake of the restraint found on the rest of this disc. If anything, these pieces could be a bit longer. But leaving the ears wanting more is hardly an unpleasant quality. Clearly Thomas Helton and the Houston improvised music scene that swirls around him deserves much more exposure.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

HurdAudio Rotation: Every Second of Every Minute of Every Hour

AMM: Laminal. 1996. Matchless Recordings: MRCD31.

The Aarhus Sequences
December 16, 1969. Denmark
Cornelius Cardew, Chrisopher Hobbs, Lou Gare, Keith Rowe, Eddie Prevost

The Great Hall
February 20, 1982. London, England
John Tilbury, Keith Rowe, Eddie Prevost

May 3, 1994. New York, New York
John Tilbury, Keith Rowe, Eddie Prevost

Over this sampling of three full concerts taken from three different decades one can hear the relative stasis and evolution of the AMM sound. The collective restraint that allows the individual instruments to sublimate themselves into a singular aural presence. The extended durations that pull the mind toward a trance state. The technology used to record and produce this music shifts subtly beneath the singular intention that informs each of these performances. Taking these three discs in one sitting drives home the sense of continuity that informs AMM practice. While this music is not without its forceful moments, for the most part it is the restraint that allows things to breathe over the stretch of hours, years and decades.

Dave Rempis/Tim Daisy: Back to the Circle. 2004. Okka Disk: ODL10008.

Dave Rempis: saxophones
Tim Daisy: drums

Listening to this set of sonic dialogues between these creative musicians on the heels of AMM is a clear reminder that improvisation is many things. Dave Rempis and Tim Daisy draw upon a fabric of jazz linguistics and free improvisation on this mix of compositions from each as individuals and a collaborative track. Their impressive musicality is enhanced by a willingness to lay back and let the other fill the foreground. At times one can hear the performers actively listening before bringing their own sound into the mix. Their sense of time gives this music its innate momentum as they play within and against the pulse. "Alexandria" offers up a clear form that allows Dave Rempis to develop from a breathy lyricism toward a more aggressive sound that sweeps the ears along its crescendo before settling back toward its natural coda. Building along a beautiful melody of sustained tones along the way and exemplifying the manner each of the pieces in this set develops and grows along its own inner logic. The unison shapes crafted between single notes and cymbals on the opening of "Huff" before moving toward an organic exploration of independence between players offers another glimpse into the intuitive forms that make up these intelligent compositions. This is a music of textural changes that could easily sustain beyond the forty minutes offered here.

Michael Vlatkovich Quartet: Alivebuquerque. 2003. pfMentum: PFMCD045.

Christopher Garcia: drums, percussion
Jonathan Golove: electric cello
David Mott: baritone saxophone
Michael Vlatkovich: trombone, percussion

Early on with Alivebuquerque it is abundantly clear just how "on" this quartet is as this unusual instrumentation plumbs a rare musical intuition that shows off both the compositional material and the improvisation of the moment in an ideal light. The electric cello in particular cuts through this percussion plus low brass and reed texture with razor sharp precision. Deftly allowing its amplification to alternate between blending within the overall sound and carving out moments of serious contrast. But it is the subtle pull and drag at the collective sense of time that makes this set so engaging for the full hour. That and the ability to hang spontaneous detail along its aurally poetic lines.

Monday, July 04, 2011

HurdAudio Rotation: Texturologie

Albert Ayler: Holy Ghost [disc 5]. 2004. Revenant Records: 213.

November 3, 1966 @ Berlin Philharmonie: Berlin, Germany &
November 8, 1966 @ De Doelen: Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone
Don Ayler: trumpet
Michel Samson: violin
Bill Folwell: bass
Beaver Harris: drums

The exquisite, sensational performance of these live sets hits against the low ceiling of the badly deteriorated master tapes of these sessions. The renditions of the classic Ayler compositions; "Ghosts," "Bells," "Truth is Marching In" etc. are given outstanding takes here with Michel Samson's violin adding an intriguing layer. Don Ayler is in rare form for these sessions. But the production value will render this particular disc as one for true Ayler fans as it's unlikely to convert the uninitiated.

Sylvie Courvoisier: Lonelyville. 2007. Intakt: CD 120.

Sylvie Courvoisier: piano, composition
Mark Feldman: violin
Vincent Courtois: cello
Ikue Mori: electronics
Gerald Cleaver: drums

This one is as highly recommended as they come. A near perfect blend of disparate elements realized by an outstanding ensemble. The blend between improvisation and composed material is completely seamless. Save that the compositional elements clearly bookend the beginnings and endings of pieces and often feature intriguing formal elements in between. The presence of Ikue Mori's nearly liquid electronic sound is balanced just right with the acoustic instruments. Often giving the piano, cello and drums a sense of occupying a similarly software driven space. Everything about Lonelyville is practically pitch perfect and well worth repeated listening.

Burnt Sugar: If You Can't Dazzle Them With Your Brilliance Then Baffle Them With Your Blisluth. 2005. Burnt Sugar Index Publishing.

Gregory S. Tate: conduction
Jason DiMatteo: acoustic bass
Jared Michael Nickerson: electric bass
Shahzad Ismaily: banjo, stand up electric bass
Chris Eddleton, Trevor Holder, Qasim Naqvi: drums
Rene Akan, Tazayarah: guitar
Julia Kent, Okkyung Lee: cello
Mazz Swift: violin
Matana Roberts: alto saxophone
Petre Radu-Scafaru: tenor saxophone
Satch Hoyt: flute, percussion
Bruce Mack: synth
Vijay Iyer: piano, synth
Jeremiah, Lisala, Justice Dilla-X: voice
Omega Moon: MC

As clear an indication that the vibrations of Sun Ra and Butch Morris will have an unexpected resonance for some time to come. Gregory S. Tate has taken the Arkestra model and applied conduction to a multiplicity of groove and melodic sources and found his way to Saturn and back to bring us this noise. "A Night In Tunisia" gets deconstructed and reassembled with the outstanding talents of Matana Roberts front and center much of the time. Conduction breathing new life into a war horse of a standard. "Himatsuri (Fire Festival)" and "Ostinato for Octavia Estelle Butler" add a sense of ritual as patterns are drawn out to allow for a large canvas of conduction. These are live performances that do an end run around studio realization even as they freely use the sonic materials of studio technique.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

HurdAudio Rotation: The B's

Anthony Braxton: 9 Compositions (Iridium) 2006 [disc 8]. 2007. Firehouse 12 Records: FH12-04-03-001.

Composition No. 357 dedicated to the composer Galina Ustvolskaya
The Anthony Braxton 12+1tet
Mary Halvorson: electric guitar
Nicole Mitchell: flute, alto flute, bass flute, piccolo, voice
Sara Schoenbeck: bassoon, suona
Reut Regev: trombone, flugelbone
Carl Testa: acoustic bass, bass clarinet
Anthony Braxton: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, sopranino saxophone, clarinet, e-flat contralto clarinet
James Fei: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet
Andrew Raffo Dewar: soprano saxophone, c-melody saxophone, clarinet
Jay Rozen: tuba, euphonium
Stephen H. Lehman: alto saxophone, sopranino saxophone
Jessica Pavone: viola, violin
Aaron Siegel: percussion, vibraphone
Taylor Ho Bynum: cornet, flugelhorn, trumpbone, piccolo trumpet, bass trumpet, shell

Technically, these ghost trance music are focused upon pulse and the relationship between a large ensemble with pulse. It's a relationship that includes operating both within and without the pulse. Beyond that theoretical level, ghost trance music is also about realizing a flat hierarchy between players. Which in and of itself is about playing within and without sublimation. The openness to trance states (which is aided through performing for extended periods of time) this music forms a beautiful tapestry of timbral and improvisational range. The appearance of percussion at the focal point during part 3 of Composition No. 357 is both remarkable and augmented by the absence (or non-reliance upon) percussive elements before and after this point in time. A fabric that moves effortlessly between multiple sub-groupings of the 12+1tet. This music is high achievement and listening to it is pure Braxtonian bliss.

Johann Sebastian Bach: Bach Edition [disc II-1]. 1999. Brilliant Classics: 93102/24.

The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1
- Prelude & Fugue No. 1 - 12

Leon Berben: harpsichord

The Well-Tempered Clavier is a known, and understandable obsession. Offered here on harpsichord. An important timbre for Baroque keyboard music and one that reveals the startling clarity of lines and fugue in this performance. The systematic exploration of each major and minor tonality with a prelude and fugue is deeply appealing and speaks of an exercise in creative play. Here J.S. Bach demonstrates both his mastery of tonal language and his obsession with key centers and what each one suggests on a melodic and harmonic level. This is listening that has withstood the test of centuries.

Ludwig van Beethoven: The Complete Quartets [disc 6]. 1994. Delos: DE 3036.

Orford String Quartet
Andrew Dawes: violin
Kenneth Perkins: violin
Terence Helmer: viola
Denis Brott: cello

String Quartet in D Major, Op. 17, no. 3
String Quartet in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 131

The pairings on these discs highlights the transition Beethoven's style underwent over the span of his career. Rendering an audible demonstration of the student of Joseph Haydn expanding outward from his classical roots. The C-sharp minor quartet exploring a much larger range of materials than the politely classical Opus 17. The variation in movement durations in the later work is striking with one movement lasting just forty-five seconds compared to the fourteen minute movement that follows it. The use of pizzicato, sul ponticello and mutes in the late work shows a compositional pallet that includes timbral considerations of the string quartet medium that was a bit more advanced than I would have assumed from Beethoven. The use of rhythmic propulsion is also startlingly contemporary sounding. The evolution of the string quartet clearly passed through these works.