Monday, October 29, 2007

october 07 braxtothon... day four

preamble: stage two has not yet commenced... or has it? asleep in the small hours, i dream that day four is underway, and the words are flowing in response to the sounds; gradually i awake and feel a brief pang of loss that it was not "real"... i drift off again and there i am once more.

even in sleep, my spirit reaches out for this music

***stage two begins***

first session: creative music orchestra
date: 11th march 1972

restructures link

distractions: my cd was burned from a vinyl rip, a triple album which, in this case, has probably seen better days... the surface noise proved distracting in some of the quieter passages. otherwise, my own confused questions were distracting enough at times

this landmark has loomed ahead of me like a gigantic monolith for a few days now; even in the distance it looked worryingly large and difficult to scale. and now that i have climbed it, right to the very summit... what? if i was expecting a bearded sage with answers to my many questions, he is nowhere to be found. all i have is more questions. perhaps that was the point of my climb...

questions: what is the piece (comp. 25*) about? why is it dedicated to ornette coleman - and if he heard it (unlikely?), does history record what he made of it?? is there an overall structure at all, or are the movements designed to be played truly at random? how were the transitions between movements signalled, and how was the order of the movements chosen and communicated to the ensemble? the nature and structure of the piece remains unclear to me.

what i can say: the piece varies between written passages for the ensemble and formless free improvisation, as far as i can tell; there are also specific passsages in which first balloons are used (being deflated slowly or popped) and then bells... the balloons (side b) made me think for a while that the piece could be fundamentally an examination of breath, since it begins with a fascinating passage of no more than that - just breath, slow and quite laborious, sounding in the airspaces of various instruments; it is the sound of deep slumber, perhaps, and there is even snoring suggested, wheezing and whistling too, and every so often a sound reminiscent of helicopter blades, chopping away at the air. but... in truth there is nothing to back this idea up except this opening passage, and the later one featuring the balloons...

if the trap in previous recordings has been the temptation to get caught up in the minutiae of the playing, this time round it is surely in the development of the piece itself: i could list at length the order in which things happen, but i don't believe that would get us anywhere. the centre of the piece, most excitingly - but in a way most enigmatically of all - seems to be the fast, boppish written line which emerges from a bass solo on side c and which initiates a long, free jazz-style passage in which the two drummers pulverise the swinging rhythms into dozens of tiny bits, beneath a succession of solos: first the leader on alto, for minutes on end until the close of the side; then the piano, driving the rhythm aggressively with little stabs in the left hand and flying excursions in the right; and then one of the trumpets, essaying all manner of unusual attacks before finally the two drummers are left alone to break the rhythm down, giving way to the bells. b's solo in the first half of this passage (the whole of which lasts about 20 mins) is extraordinary, even for him: in addition to the various extended techniques one might expect there are long passages of "clean" tone, in which he seems to be examining the rhythmic, boplike phrases in a way i have not heard before, taking them apart and looking at them from different angles; also, once again, i hear dolphy's phrasing here! several times early in the solo the line skips down and back up, notes holding hands in pairs as they leap the tricky intervals...

... much later, on side f, an ominous build-up from the horn section supports first the piano, then the leader's clarinet (?) - sounding ayleresque in its wide, wailing vibrato - then a trumpet again; the tension builds and builds as the pitches from the massed horns creep upwards, culminating in - what? nothing much: having reached a near-crescendo, the momentum is allowed to collapse in on itself and sparse percussion takes over.

back on side b, what sounds like a contrabass clarinet makes some amazing statements, partly vocalised, sometimes overblown, subsiding to squeaks as the movement is brought to a quiet end; the next passage proves very interesting as staccato repetitions of single notes are tossed around between the sections, from reeds to brass and back, eventually to the piano also. indeed, there are many very interesting passages in this recording and some superb solos, some very good playing all round in fact (many of the players are unknown names to me, but no-one sounds weak or ineffective), but overall... i am left scratching my head. i climbed up here, and - even the view is unclear: all i see now is the clouds, from above.

(CC - i feel the urge to add a third C there, but how can i when i don't know what to make of the piece myself?!)

write-up: about 30 mins of typing.... and another 15 of head-scratching probably


centrifuge said...

damn that was a frustrating day... no wonder i ended up getting ill.

any opinions on this album are particularly welcome!

Frédito said...

Hi Cent,

Yes, the opening breath passages are fascinating indeed, threatening in a way. Listened to side A, liked the written brass passages. Lovely warblings from 8 to 9 on side B, sometimes sounding like birds making touching attempts at producing human speech. Now waiting for the balloons to come... I'll try to make more consistent comments later.

Take care


Frédito said...

p.s : here comes the balloon patrol ! Somebody screams, the balloons gloriously enter side C while every act of resistance is dealt with in the most harsh manner ! That's fun ! Cruel but fun

(baby balloons crying for food now...)

centrifuge said...

:)) great stuff - more please!

can anyone remember whose rip it was that was doing the rounds?

martini said...

I was lucky enough to pick up a clean copy of this set for $35 USD back in about 1997. It is one of the treasures in my collection.

My favorite aspect of Comp 25 is its interlinked nature, and the variety of modes and textures it explores. It swings, it jags, it gets "far out," and the balloon section is a hoot. Having it culminate in "Unit L" (I think--I'll have to look it up) puts the exclamation point on the piece. It is one of the "lost" recordings that IMO desperately needs to be reissued.

centrifuge said...

martini, this is one of the sessions that i feel i most misunderstood at the time, and hence one of those most overdue (in theory!) for a revisit. i do wish i had a clean copy of it myself though... maybe one day, although clean vinyls of this are not going to get any easier to find... like you say, must surely be crying out for a reissue at some point?