Monday, October 22, 2007

let's just pause there...

that seems like a good time to take a little breather

it really was the end of a phase... couldn't continue like that indefinitely!

there is more to come though.

in the meantime... i would be interesting in seeing some (pref. shortish) lists of favourite recordings, from anyone who can be bothered :)

drop 'em in the comments please!

by the way... does the keyword business put people off? what do you all reckon?


Ubu XXIII said...

Centrifuge, a tentative list of favourites. This may change, as my listening expands. I've heard only a fraction of his total recorded output.
The 1970s
5 pieces 1975 (Arista)
Montreux/Berlin concerts (Arista x2)
Dortmund concert (Hat)
Basel 1977 (Hat)
(Also I have a feeling Performance from Willisau would come into this list if I heard it complete again. '7 compositions 1978' by the same band would come near to making this list.)
80s -any of the Leo sets by the 1985 quartet on tour. I was lucky enough to hear them in London.
Eugene from 1989 on Black saint. A very fine 'big band' recording on which the man himself doesn't solo much.
90s is where my listening gets a bit patchy. The improvised Leo sets from London 1993 are full of unexpected turns, with lots of 'out of character' playing, both on the duo set with Evan Parker & the trio with EP & Paul Rutherford. Also no collection should be without some collaboration with Derek Bailey. All of it I've heard live & on record is excellent.
21st century- well, it has to be some GTM. I know only 1 on his own label (the octet from 1998) but I have a special liking for 6 compositions (GTM) 2001. Once I get to know the Iridium set, I'm sure I'll find it vEry special.
[this feels incomplete, but it's too long already- oh, well]

centrifuge said...

nah, that's really exactly the sort of thing we need - thanks man

besides, who am i to talk about short ;-)

i'm suitably envious of your having seen the forces in motion quartet... and i am really making friends with the 2001 set too

any more? i can't really offer my own at this early stage, now can i :)

zenkojiman said...

Ditto as for ubu, whose comments are magic. I only have a fraction. But get this: a year ago, I had plenty Evan, even some Bailey, but NO BRAXTON AT ALL. Now, I have him on the same page as Jarrett in my jazz discography (which is housed in a much-loved Tintin exercise book).

I am picking up what I can, and price on Amazon has to be a factor, obviously. One release which narrowly missed my top 5 cut was Sextet, Victoriaville, 2005. This is a continuous performance of Composition No 345. To my ears, it is bloody brilliant, but then virtually everything I have heard by this man seems inexhaustibly good.

In case you have not seen Morton' list in Wire Feb 2005, here is what he says about Sextet (Istanbul) 1995 (released by the now defunct Braxton House):

'One of the best Braxton groups of recent times - including drummer Kevin Norton, who has taken up the Hemingway mantle - and one of the best places to explore the Ghost Trance concept in action.'

I have GOT to hear it some sweet day.

centrifuge said...

z-man, one of our community was at that gig and interviewed mr b himself:

volkan bey, sen neredesin? iyi aksamlar ;-)

as regards kevin norton - as i mentioned to you elsewhere, z, i haven't heard that standards quartet (or any of the other brax-projects with norton), but the universal prayer/survival skills album (a co-op trio of norton, plus reedmen sonny simmons and braxton alumnus brandon evans) was one of the big hits at c#9 and a huge highlight of my own listening year... have you come across that? you are into dolphy i think..?

unfortunately some of the albums which people will be recommending are not available at present - in some cases they have not been available for years. again - drop me a line about this if you like,

btw - i have yet to hear a bad show for mr b. himself (as a player) - of course i have heard one or two projects that aren't so great or which don't come off so well, but the man himself seems to be so highly practised, and so elevated in terms of his understanding of his relationship with his instrument(s) (sure that could be said much better in german...), i don't believe he is capable of playing a duff show.

huge range of interests as a (thinker and) composer, too, so (as graham lock says) there is always this to help people out with braxton: if you don't like what you're hearing right now, don't worry, stick around, it'll do something else in a minute :)

Sam said...

Here's my short list of favorites, chronologically listed and heavily weighted toward group stuff (as much as I love his solo/duo music, nothing floats my boat like Braxton having a kick-ass drummer lighting fire underneath him...):

1. Three Compositions of New Jazz (Delmark)
2. Five Pieces 1975 (Arista)
3. For Trio (Arista 1977)
4. Montreux/Berlin Concerts (some of Altschul's best work w/Braxton)
5. Creative Orchestra Music 1976
6. Willisau (Quartet) 1991: -the- classic defining work for this quartet of quartets, second in my mind only to the Coltrane quartet. One of the all-time greatest jazz recordings ever!
7. Quintet (London) 2004 (Leo): this newer stuff is just incredible. I don't have the Iridium box yet, but I've listened to about half of it online, streaming, and boy it's hot. The Leo disc captures some of that same intensity. Taylor Ho Bynum is easily Braxton's best foil since George Lewis.

It sounds like from this list that what I go for is Braxton is his intensity, and that's certainly a large part of it. But I also find the ghost trance stuff, and the Iridium compositions, purely relaxing and peaceful. Fire, intensity, peaceful stasis, pure be-ing.

centrifuge said...

which coltrane quartet, sam? the love supreme band or a later one?

aspects of the "classic" trane quartet do seem to permeate much (us) free jazz... but mccoy tyner..?

thx for the list - i agree with you about the "fire-lighting drummer" effect...

i was there in london in 2004 (and again in 2007) - edge-of-seat stuff that was :-D

Slothrop said...

I'm short of the time needed to comb through my all-time favorites. But I thought I'd mention two albums that get less play.

First is Birth and Rebirth, the duet with Max Roach on Black Saint. It's not brilliant in the typical Braxton way -- it's too simple in execution -- but to me it shows his remarkable fluidity as a player. The album is bright and quick, and his touch is so astonishingly light. The lines just keep coming and coming. Again, it's not jaw-dropping in the same way that Dortmund and the classic Aristas are, but it shows his range and his capacity for straight-up energy playing.

Second, hear hear for the London Quintet on Leo. In addition to everything Sam said, it's remarkable as a marriage of composition and free playing. I second the love for Taylor Ho Bynum, and would go further by adding that Mary Halvorson plays with a sensitivity to space that no other guitarist does. It's just amazing.

I'm throwing these in here to mix it up because good God our lists all look a lot alike.

Omar said...

Geez, how does anyone choose from that massive a catalog?

I saw Braxton once in DC play a duet with himself. We were in a really crappy hall with an incredibly long reverb. So Braxton, after getting tired of the echo, just decided to start playing this funky counterpoint piece against the echo in the hall on the contrabass sax. My girlfriend at the time dropped her jaw and probably collected flies.

Amazing guy. Just don't try to interview him. :)

I'm still partial to Creative Orchestra Music, the Braxton/Muhal Richard Abrams Duets 1976, and Comp. 345. The Montreux/Berlin concerts, too, are incredible. I really like Quartet piece #2 from his Circle days--it's interesting hearing Braxton play off a piano player that isn't Marilyn Crispell. I also find myself wishing he'd cut an album with Lee Konitz, because I loved the way they played together on Dave Brubeck's All The Things You Are.

Company 6 & 7 is awesome, too. And who can resist the appeal of "Behemoth Dreams" with Richard Teitelbaum.

Makes me feel good just thinking about all that wonderful music.

Omar said...

Oh yeah, the keyword "business..."

Means nothing to me, as long as it's not in a phrase "business major" or "corporate business practices."

centrifuge said...

this is great stuff... omar, thanks especially for that "echo duet" anecdote! yes, personal faves, not just best ofs - the latter will inevitably look much the same, but still there are some variations from one listener to the next... so whatever people want to offer up... if you enjoy listening to it, mention it :)

centrifuge said...

ps - oh yeah... i actually the meant the business of the keyword, or word verification or whatever it is - do people reckon it's too much of a pain? will it put people off contributing do you think..?

nah, business... i have deepseated problems with that whole concept... would like to make friends with it one day though (i am told that it possible to run a business on ethical and non-rapacious guidelines..!)

Sam said...

Re: comments on the quartet: yes, I meant the Tyner/Garrison/Jones quartet! Not to slight the Alice/Ali/Garrison quartet, but the earlier Trane quartet evolved and solidified into a monstrous unit whose influence permeates free jazz, yes even with McCoy....I take "First Meditations" and "Sun Ship" for my reference points with this band.

How lucky you were to be in the audience for the 2004 London gig! Only time I've seen Braxton was a solo performance in Charlottesville VA in 1984. Mind-bending!

Also, I have to totally agree with you when you said "i have yet to hear a bad show for mr b. himself (as a player)" --this is so true! He has sustained an incredible level of quality, commitment, and imagination throughout his entire career--on multiple instruments!

centrifuge said...

yes, that sounds like the same guy :)

he seems to have set himself the most unbelievably high standards, and very early on - then he simply stuck to them and never slipped - !

well, there are a few such... rahsaan reckoned that he never heard roy haynes have a bad night

you know what, i haven't heard first meditations - or sun ship..? hang on, i am not sure about that one... i know meditations itself and some of the other stuff by that band but i haven't attempted to collect them as such: for me (as for some others, i know) the apex of pre-pharoah trane is back in '61 with dolphy (complete village vanguard, possible desert island music for me)

tyner gets on my nerves after a while you see. i used to like him fine when i still listened to (more) mainstream jazz but now i find those predictable pedal tones too much of a limitation. no problems with elvin jones, natch ;-)

now... it is definitely true that there is *a current* through free jazz which maintains a very clear thematic/group-sound link to that band... you can hear it in frank wright's quartet... also in some marion brown (brown very versatile though, so only in some)... probably you can trace it continuously till david s ware, and in theory that would (now, finally) have to be the end of it - but the trouble is that the mainstreamers claim trane too (well... the ones below 65) so that band's sound will end up crappily replicated forever after if we don't do something about it ... sigh... ok, enough of that for one night

ah yes, 2004... rivetting :))

i still haven't got the cd... only a matter of time before i pick it up tho'... i can still replay some of it in my head, but not in total detail of course - still took a lot in, as much as i could! so much going on at once though, just with five of them

tantris said...

The Istanbul Sextet 1995 (compositions 185 & 186) is still available from Braxton House, by the way - a copy dropped into my mailbox this morning and I have managed to listen to it twice now - very good, and I like the way that 186 ends with the very simple playing of a scale that appears as the underlying structure from which all the previous endless variations have been derived.

Is the Trillium set (BH008) worth getting?

As for favourites - where do you start? I like all of the solo improvisations / calculations I have heard, and all of the trios, quartets, quintets and other ensembles. I particularly like the Eight Compositions for Quintet from 2001, and the 2005 Ulrichsberg set. The Iridium set is making increasing sense for me now. The various combinations Derek Bailey, Evan Parker and Milo Fine are all excellent as well.

Ubu XXIII said...

Some random reflections after the first complete hearing (& viewing-disc 10) of Iridium:- an overwhelming wealth of material, contradictory, complementary & contrapuntal, polytonal, polyrhythmic & polytimbral musical discourses juxtaposed with one another.
The DVD is valuable, not only for the interview with Braxton, where he talks about multi-hierarchical structures in music, but for the replay of no.358 (soundtrack alone on CD 9) with shots of the seemingly endless visual cues (from left, right & centre like a kind of collective conduction) that keep changing the music's course, plus a peep over shoulders at some pages of the score. Everyone concerned had to keep eyes as well as ears open constantly, but they seemed to be having fun. Mary Halvorson the guitarist claims in the booklet that she lost all sense of time while playing, & for the listener somehow, I'm not sure how or why, this also applies.
The 'diamond clef' accounts for the polytonal sound, as transposing instruments in different keys have the same notes on the score.

Any thoughts on the Yoshi albums? I'm completely ignorant of these; also, any more comments on the Istanbul set?

centrifuge said...

great to hear a report on these - thanks ubu :) any more thoughts... you know where to send em! one imagines it to be the sort of work which will demand repeated visits... how long did it take you to get through it?

my understanding of the diamond clef was that the performers could visualise *any* clef they wanted in there - so that the intervals are predetermined but the pitches are not... but i can't remember where i read that

zappa had a piece called "approximate" where the rhythm track was fully written out but the theme was not, certain notes being marked as "approximate", any player free to choose any note from within a given range... in practice, most of the recorded versions of the piece sound much the same (or vary only in their rearrangement over the years)...

however the diamond clef works it does produce a very "braxtonian" sound, one which becomes more seductive and less grating with every listen... the subtle shifts in the rhythm tracks too - on that 2001 set i loved how much was created in all those performances, every one of which really caught fire - but this business of the section leaders is still a hurdle i gave to clear... even the 2001 set (which uses at one time or another four reedmen besides the leader) does not include any of b's section leaders.

speaking of those guys... did any r3 listeners pick up that steve lehman, featured on tyhe iridium set (ao) is the same guy in fieldwork, that jazz-version-of-math-rock band featuring vijay iyer... the drummer, tyshawn sorey, could well be another wesleyan grad, as he plays on this:

which yoshi albums? the piano ones, or the 93 quartet?