Monday, January 28, 2008
I may have mentioned before, but when I began listening to jazz in 1972, my collecting efforts were largely confined to contemporary or near-contemporary releases. There were a few exceptions, of course. I went back and bought everything I could by musicians like Mingus, Ornette, Cecil. But having the luxury of WKCR at hand, I could pretty much hear "classic" and much more recent stuff day in and day out. So for a long time I had very little Ellington, Coltrane, Miles--the music was in almost constant rotation on the radio. To this day, I don't own a Charlie Parker album, largely since I had Phil Schaap shoving it down my ears every morning.
So there are enormous gaps in my collection and, to some extent, in my working knowledge of important areas since often the occasional catch on the dial doesn't really suffice for getting to know a piece deeply.
Clifford Brown's one of those areas. Not that there's so much to hear, unfortunately, but I'm only shallowly aware of his work, I'm afraid, something I should rectify. I have a CD of the Brown/Roach group, the Basin Street recording, which is (obviously) pretty spectacular but aside from this one, that's it.
What I'll do, when the opportunity arises, is flip through old LP bins and pick out things by musicians I know I should be better versed in. I'm pretty sure what happened in this case, probably at one of the vinyl stands you come across in those NYC street fairs whose main purpose is to kill a sizable segment of the local population by inducing mass funnel cake ingestion. It's a reissue of a 1953 session that came out on Prestige, probably in 1971. It's a somewhat staid date, everyone behaving rather politely (the pieces are largely with French rhythms sections), though Brown sounds as sparkling and strong as ever. Nice, bloopy guitar break by one Jimmy Gourley on "Bum's Rush". [Just Googled ol' Gourley and seems he's pretty well known--entirely new to me! See what I mean?] Brown's own "All Weird" has a fine, slippery theme; Gigi Gryce gets totally lost in the thicket and Brown himself has a tough time negotiating it at first but then spirals up into some wonderful playing.
My mental list of Jazz Musicians Who Died Too Young is always, forever headed by Dolphy, but I imagine Brown (26) and Booker Little are up there pretty close.
Did Brown never play with Mingus? Seems odd, especially considering the Roach connection. Am I missing something?
Saturday, January 26, 2008
More new listening:
Thomasz Krakowiak - la ciutat est tu (Etude) Seven tracks, percussive in nature, interesting from a technical point of view, but in the end, feeling like just that: displays of this or that technical approach and hence not too absorbing. I'd rather have heard a give track extended and dug into.
Jose Luis Redondo - La reponse est aux pieds (Etude) I feel a bit the same about this one. Solo guitar, dobro, piccolo bass, banjo in a variety of styles from blues-esque to Bailey and beyond but overall something of a mishmash. Some nice playing, an unfortunate choice or two (a reworking of "As Time Goes By", for one), but lacking the depth of feeling of label-mate Fages. Etude
Andrew Deutsch/Stephen Vitiello - Inductive Music (absurd) [re-issue of 2006 disc on Magic If] Very enjoyable, hyperdense, psychedelic noise-scape, maniacally burbling all over the place.
Tasos Stamou - Infant (editions_zero) Toy-psychedelia, what a precocious three-year-old might come up with if (s)he had a penchant for the Canterbury scene. Fun to listen to, not sure about the ultimate value. Nice cover (above).
IMCA (Franz de Waard/Ios Smolders/John Hudak/G. Do Huebner/Isabell Chemin) (absurd) Reissue of a 1991 LP on Korm Plastics and an unreleased 1990 cassette. Pretty good, gnarly concrete-ish sounds, alternating baffling and immersive, sometimes simultaneously.
Valerio Tricoli - Amaryllis (Lalia) The second (I think) release of altered field recordings done at the birthday party of Maria-Amaryllis, this one her third. The previous was a favorite of mine a couple years back. This one sounds far more processed, with party activities only creeping in here and there through a dense organ-y drone. Still, rather nice and dreamy and, appropriately, childlike.
Jeff Gburek - Virtuous Circles (a question of re_entry) I hadn't cared so much for what little I'd heard of Gburek's work before, but this one's a stunner. Essentially formed from field recordings of urban sounds (from Western cities), vocal song (from Islamic cities) and his own music, it's a beautifully layered piece, the elements subtly balanced, all very restrained but percolating underneath. Fine stuff, check it out. void page, with absurd and affiliated labels. Lovely cover as well:
[Arrghh...in attempting a correction, I accidentally wiped out the entirety of my previous post, which I'll attempt to recreate now...]
Last evening, I went to MOMA with Carol (just back from Portugal and still retaining the title of Most Wonderful Person I Know) to see the exhibit of Lucian Freud etchings. I've always enjoyed his work, though I'd previously only seen individual paintings in this or that gallery or museum. The MOMA show, which includes a number of painted works, is all the more overwhelming, containing any number of beautiful, deep pieces.
This posting mishap allowed me to find an image I couldn't before, albeit a small one, of a wonderful portrait of Abraham Goodman that combines ethereality with meaty materiality:
More than perhaps any other contemporary painter, Freud manages to combine an astounding technique (the guy paints like a mother) with a vast empathy for his subject and an objectively dark view of humanity. In his painting of a large, grossly heavy female nude, her foreshortened knee explodes out of the painting almost as beautifully as Velazquez' "Mercury and Argus" [crappy reproduction of the Freud, but the only one I could find]:
There's a great series of works involving his whippet Eli as well. This one totally knocked me out on several levels, just a fantastically constructed image:
My understanding is that Freud has long since become enough of a fixture on the British scene that he does a number of commissioned portraits and, googling around, my guess is that many of them are among his weaker efforts, but a very substantial portion of his work is as strong as anything else you'll see around these days. Check out the show at MOMA if you get the chance.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Some things largely from 2007 that were being held under quarantine at Erstwhile World Domination Headquarters until I belatedly took delivery last week...
Angharad Davies/Tisha Mukarji - Endspace (Another Timbre) Richard wrote a fine review at Bags and while I might be quite so taken with it, it's a thoughtful, attractive disc. Love to hear these two perform live as I get the feeling the music would work significantly better in "real space". Very good recording, though. another timbre
Jeffrey Allport/Angharad Davies/Chandar Narayan - Hawker's Delight (simple geometry) Brief (25 min.) live set, largely long sounds, relaxed and, again, thoughtful. Enjoyable if not earthshaking. I continue to like the sounds Narayan manages to generate from his autoharp.
Alfredo Costa-Monteiro - Epicycle (Etude) I did some on-site notes for this, so I'm biased, but I think this is a fantastic release. A single processed voice track, though I daresay there are only a couple of moments where you might guess the source. Immersive, often aroar, excellent work from a favorite musician of mine. I did some advance notes for this which can be found at the Etude site. etude
Kahn/Korber/Moslang/Muller/Weber/Yamauchi - Signal to Noise, vol. 4 (For 4 Ears) OK, though as is too often the case, pretty much what you'd expect. Nice dronage though Yamauchi's saxophone began to wear on me by disc's end. For4Ears
Kahn/Moslang/Muller/Aube - Signal to Noise, vol. 5 (For 4 Ears) Some good, goofy fun, I suppose, but don't I recall this showing up on some year's best lists? I don't see it. One thing I've been thinking about for a while now is how much purportedly "free music" isn't even close anymore. In a set like this, the implied constrictions on the performers strike me as huge. Not that that's necessarily a qualitative judgment, but ...I do generally find myself desiring more openness than I hear in work like this.
Jason Roebke/Brian Labycz - Duo (peira) Bass and electronics/koto, a bit too scrabbly and diffuse for my tastes, though enthusiastically performed. Fans of Barry Guy's small ensemble efforts should enjoy this.
The Contest of Pleasures - Tempestuous (another timbre) solid recording from the Butcher/Charles/Dorner trio, really pretty nice, though maybe a bit constrained. Some of the more exciting, high harmonies remind me, funnily enough, of similar areas reached by the Art Ensemble, specifically on things like the title track from Fanfare for the Warriors.
Rhodri Davies/Matt Davis/Samantha Rebello/Bechir Saade - Hum (another timbre) And another good one. Generally soft and careful but with enough grain to maintain interest. My first hearing of Rebello (flute) and Saade (bass clarinet); both do nice work. Track 4 ("Four") especially enjoyable.
Frank Denyer - Music for Shakuhachi (another timbre) Performed by Yoshikazu Iwamoto with Paul Hiley and Denyer on percussion. I've always wanted to like Denyer's music more than I end up doing so, but this one is fairly nice. How much is due to Denyer, how much to Iwamoto is impossible to say and doesn't really matter. I get the sense there's a lot going on here compositionally that I'm probably missing and imagine that especially the long, last piece, "Unnamed", will benefit form many more listens.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Went to the Knit last evening, my belated first visit to the ongoing sigogglin series, curated by Brian Eubanks down in the Old Office. The opening set was by Jonathan Zorn & Katie Young, probably the only computer/bassoon performance I've seen in the last couple of months. It wasn't very good. Zorn's sounds were pedestrianly computerese (still somewhat astonished when I hear something like this these days, flashing back to the mid 80s loopy blurps) and Young's reed work was just rather blah. Always felt sorry for the guy being stuck with that moniker and working in a new music arena, but I lost much of that sympathy during the second piece, where he blew a harmonica and transformed its (very aggravating) sounds through his G3 in a multitude of uninspired ways.
Happily, Benito Cereno (Tim Albro/guitar, radios, electronics; Ian Fraser/laptop, tapes, radios and electronics; Dustin Hurt/trumpet; Jesse Kudler/guitar, electronics, synthesizer, radio, and tapes; and Chandan Narayan/autoharp) were far more enjoyable, especially their first piece, a relaxed, confident exploration that did a fine job filling the small room with gritty richness and detail. Good young players from whom I'm always eager to hear more (their website here.
One other brief note--I presumably simply overlooked this site before (link on the right), but I only recently discovered the stream at timescraper.de (Radio wandelweiser) and have been greatly enjoying the sounds there. Check it out.
Monday, January 14, 2008
Had a rare daytime Record Club yesterday, as always very enjoyable.
Nina opened with a wonderful piece (apparently not all that unknown), a "field recording" (if you can say that about something recorded in an office) of several Ghanaian postal workers as they rhythmically--very rhythmically---stamp cancellations on envelopes while whistling a lovely tune. You can listen to it here if you like.
Dan jogged some long-buried memories by playing "Is She Waiting?" from the first McDonald & Giles album (1971). From the first bass note, I knew I knew the piece. I could anticipate the lyrics. Knew it was a record I'd had while in high school. Took about a minute into the song to positively place it as McDonald and Giles, a recording I'm sure I haven't heard a whit of since, at the latest, 1975. Never ceases to amaze me how firmly planted in the brain are these songs heard in one's teens. Scary.
But the musical highlight of the day, for me, was Chris Cochrane's choice of a traditional bagpipe track by Jean Blanchard, from his 1988 release on Ocora:
Amazing music! Not sure what "tradition" this was from, but there were tons of Arabic overtones. I searched around briefly this morning but couldn't locate a ready source for the disc (are some Ocora's OOP?). Apparently Mssr. Blanchard remains active, as the pic at the top is a more recent one. Couldn't locate a complete Ocora catlog on-line either--a lifetime goal of mine would be a complete collection of same.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
I knew this would happen.
That is, recordings (graciously) still coming my way despite the sabbatical announcement, tempting me into the wilderness of reviewing....But I remain steadfast--sorta--and will only post a sentence or two here, a capsule reaction, nothing more.
Nerve Net Noise - Dark Garden (Intransitive) - I don't particularly get it; looped bleeps and other often aggravating noises arrayed to no great effect. Couple OK tracks, but doesn't grab me.
Howard Stelzer - Bond Inlets (Intransitive) (pictured above) Excellent reworking of some material from 10 years past, rich, immersive piece with drama and detail aplenty. Hear this.
Lionel Marchetti/Seijiro Murayama - Hatali Atsalei (Intransitive) Interesting, ritualistic work combining field recordings with chanting, etc.
Julien Skrobek - Le Palais Transparent (Free Software) (My anagram sensors stood straight up when I saw this, especially given the ear match of the following disc's title; googlng only nets four matches. Anyone know for certain if this is an actual person?)
Mattin - Broken Subject (Free Software) Pretty harsh noise interspersed with lengthy silences. Ends loopily (fun). Not bad all. No words!!!
Kevin Parks/Joe Foster - Ipsi Sibi Somnia Fingunt (no label) Fantastic release from, I guess, late last year. Granular, quietly roaring, hugely inventive...you get the picture. Never heard Parks before and have only heard Joe in limited doses but this is my favorite thing yet from him. Get it! I imagine you can order direct from Joe--here's his site anyway.
Orientalism - Edward Said
If on a winter's night a traveler - Italo Calvino
Seven Japanese Tales - Junichiro Tanizaki
Saturday, January 05, 2008
I came to Brotzmann rather late in the game, especially as far as owning any LPs. I'd heard "Machine Gun" on KCR a few time and recall being impressed but still he wasn't really on my radar until he showed up as a member of Last Exit. In fairness, it wasn't like there was a Brotzmann section at the local store in the early 80s.
But there was one at Lunch For Your Ears, the invaluable place started by Manny Maris on Prince St. in Little Italy around 1987. Probably got all my Last Exit albums there and finally decided to dip into ol' Brotz, though only for a handful on LPs before discs came along.
Like I said, I'd heard "Machine Gun" several times but I have to say, never particularly warmed to it. I can appreciate its historical significance, I guess, but it doesn't do much for me. I have the anniversary issue (20th? I think) vinyl and still...it's OK but hardly tears the roof off.
In fact, I rather prefer "Alarm", the 1981 date with Kondo, Frank Wright, Breuker, Bauer (Johannes), Tomlinson, Schlippenbach, Harry Miller & Moholo. The back of the album has a set-list of what was recorded that day, looking to be a double album's worth. Did that ever see the light of day? "Alarm" is a strong offering of its type, the solos imaginative, the whole not really that brutal. Plunk it in the middle of any random Viz Fest and it'd be the year's highlight.
"Low Life" retains some of the ol' kick. I guess the above image is from a CD reissue--no Last Exit here, just the whiter half of the group. Brotz on bass sax throughout, Laswell thwanging away in one of his better outings on a purely instrumental level. Always enjoyed Thi Linh Le's photos for the Enemy label and elsewhere, though I know little else about her (I think it's a her?). The two here, looking as though shot on a bitter winter day in some depressed area in the northeast, capture the grit of the music very well.
Roger Trilling is thanked here. I went to college (Vassar) with Roger where for a time he wrote a music column for the school paper. He was a huge Mahavishnu head back then ('73-'74) and, as I'd already had my fill of fusion, I recall writing a letter, chastising him for not paying attention to the Art Ensemble, Dave Holland, McCoy Tyner (those are the names I remember citing, maybe more). I ran into him once in NYC around '77. Next time I saw his name, it was as turntablist on the first Golden Palominos record and he surfaced from time to time after that. Sometime in the 90s, he edited a "Wild Palms Reader", involving a TV show I've never seen. Anyway, how ya doin', Roger?
"In a State of Undress" is apparently my last Brotz vinyl. I'm pretty sure one or two are out on loan to a friend out West (the solo one with the paper airplane, for one). This one has Manfred Schoof, Jay Oliver and Willi Kellers along for the ride and is competent but nothing special. Schoof probably relaxes the atmosphere a bit.
Only a few years back, I was a pretty big fan of the Brotz Tentet though it's difficult to imagine going to see them today. Caught the set at Victoriaville in 2001 that became "Stone Water", enjoying it a lot and have fond memories of a rip-roaring set at Tonic, perhaps that summer or the following. Might've been the last gasp, for this listener, of real interest in that vein of music. Walter Horn (I imagine not alone in this regard) once reviewed a Tentet performance, complaining of its overdone macho aggressiveness and, while that once, admittedly, would have carried a certain aura of excitement, it would doubtless only aggravate me today. I have a feeling Last Exit will still hit home, though, and they're plenty macho enough. Dunno, as usual, nostalgia may play into any current reaction. I think I last caught Herr Brotzmann at CBGBs, in a quartet that included Roy Campbell, at which point my interest had begun to wane.
Tried to mail him a few months back to get some commentary on his feelings about AMM, which I've understood to be largely negative, going so far as to say that they "hated" black American music. Never received a response.
Tuesday, January 01, 2008
Something I've found when attempting to play through records by a single individual or group whom I used to greatly enjoy: Nostalgia only takes you so far. It often gets tougher to dredge up any real desire to re-hear some things. It's getting there with Breuker.
"In Holland" still stands up as likely the most complete, most solid album they ever did with "Driebergen-Zeist" (pictured above, somewhat lopped off) coming in a close second. I know the former inside-out and actually acquired it on disc a couple years back; needn't hear it now. Listened to the latter this morning and, yes, it still holds up pretty well on its own. Garrett List is in the band at this point, making him a quasi link from WBK to AMM via MEV. (Has anyone heard List's own recordings from within the past ten years? Always meant to get to them but never have). The very fine Belgian saxophonist Andre Goudbeek joins the band at this point as well. There's a marvelous reading of Weill's "Pirate Jenny" by Dick Swidde, some 77 years of age at the time of the recording. The title track as well is something of a wonder, essentially nothing but theme after theme for ten minutes including some rather humorous "misreads".
But then I look ahead at the six remaining pieces of vinyl and sigh. I know it's going to be more of the same on a slight downward path. The self-titled About Time release is very good, recorded around the time they played two nights at the Public Theatre in '83 or '84, sharing a bill with Steve Lacy's Sextet. I went to both shows, bringing friends who were otherwise ignorant of this kind of music. WBK was great for that; inevitably folk were entertained. It was on these back to back evenings, though, that I became aware of exactly how choreographed Breuker's sets were. To a dispiriting 'T', including apparently improvised sections, stage patter etc. It sunk in, finally, that I was experiencing more of a theatrical event than a jazz concert and this knowledge left a sour taste that never quite left.
Breuker began devoting more and more space to repertoire recordings, one with Gershwin and Morricone (pre-Zorn, give him credit) which includes his enjoyable "Spanish Wells", something of a Morricone homage, another all Gershwin. iirc, "Bob's Gallery" from 1987 was his first album to get fairly good distribution in the US which, I can only assume, accounts for its high place on various Breuker polls I've seen because it's really not a very good record, complete with an all too late Philip Glass pastiche.
Finally, there's a duo with Bennink from '84, live in Japan issued on Jazz and Now. Can't quite bring myself to put it on.
Still, I wouldn't entirely give up on the band until around 2000 after the unrelieved tediousness of "Psalm 122" following a string of really mediocre albums. "Psalm 122"? A religious-themed work from a guy who used to incorporate socialist worker's anthems in his music? Feh and double feh.
But those first few years were fun indeed, I haveta say.
Three last minute 2007 arrivals:
Otomo Yoshihide - Modulation with 2 electric guitars and 2 amplifiers (doubtmusic)
Henry Brant - The Henry Brant Collection Volumes 8 & 9 (Innova)
No great shakes on any of them.