Saturday, October 13, 2007

october 07 braxtothon... day one (2)

second session: silence
date: 18th july 1969 (sleeve, incorrect; prob. june '69)

restructures link

i had already started this and sat down before i even looked, then immediately realised that neither of the pieces on this album was actually composed by braxton, despite his being credited as the leader (or was he? not totally clear about this)... well, started so i'll finish and i wanted to hear something from '69... besides, it's fairly short...

two fifteen-min plus free sound explorations with the same trio as provided the core of the '68 debut, the first piece credited to jenkins and the second to smith, very different in character... the jenkins, er, composition is called "off the top of my head" and would appear, indeed, to be basically a free-for-all, everyone plays whatever he likes on a variety of instruments, not necessarily even paying much attention to what anyone else is doing; perhaps the idea was that the sounds would nevertheless coalesce at times whilst seeming to diverge wildly at others..? that is of course what happens, anyway: all sorts of ideas are expressed freely in embryonic form, some wither and die at once whereas others blossom and develop before mutating into something else and eventually falling back into the constant state of flux... smith seems to start the most confidently of the three... soon enough there is more (horrible) harmonica unfortunately, no idea why that seemed such a good idea at the time, but maybe variety was one of the prime considerations... perhaps wanting to smother it, braxton follows the first harp utterances with a terrific entry on sax, which develops quickly into a shortish but quite thoroughly-explored and very strong solo. this turns out to be a bit of a red herring though as more formless weirdness follows, and an accordion joins in with the fun...

... a sudden shift of group atmosphere around 11.25 is undercut by more harmonica (damn!), and once again braxton rescues it, this time by whipping out the furniture - around 12 mins he enters on contrabass clarinet and proceeds to give an extraordinary demonstration of how to use breath-related attacks on that instrument while still producing notes as well; this leads to some very strong statements all round, smith taking over then jenkins before the piece peters out with some brief, isolated statements on various instruments again. some very interesting places have been visited but the journey seems to have been a bit haphazard and there was much doubling-back.

the second piece is the title track and, indeed, there is proportionally a lot more silence than sound; by which i mean the players lay out more often than they play (since of course the effect for me is to endure long stretches of low-level electronic ambience from my hardware... punctuated by music, or is it just sound? that is the sort of question which this (seemingly much more solemn) piece raises. a stark soundscape in which usually very precise statements are made, limited to minimal exploration or variation and always returning to silence, it does have some wonderful moments - just before the eight-min mark a bell ushers in some actual group interplay, though once again the dreaded harmonica arrives to sabotage the mood - after a brief pause smith lets loose the most marvellous piece of flatulence through his horn. again, some very interesting sounds are produced and the control is at times breathtaking; but a) i could really do without the accordions and harmonica now and b) there is a slight "chinese water torture" effect after a while, despite my patient intentions: i sit waiting for the next sound and resisting the urge to grab the remote and skip forwards.

overall this seems to be a strange release for b. - none of his writing, and not necessarily much cohesion or direction although the three players suggest all sorts of possibilities.

write-up within 30-mins: yes
distracted: only by virtue of the actual music (second piece)..!



Brent said...

not a huge fan of this one, either. couldn't agree more on the harmonica. (i don't particularly like it on those shepp america albums either.) it's just an extraordinarily limited instrument, immediately introducing not just standard western tonality but also limiting itself to major/minor dualism, usually w/ a strong suggestion of a tonic key. no idea why this instrument seemed so interesting to these cats in '69.

any plans to listen to braxton's byg/actuel entries?

centrifuge said...

yeah, but the thing about that is - it's not! the blues harp, limited i mean - an aside here: my late father was a bullshit artist of the highest order, you'll have to trust me when i say that he wouldn't mind me telling you that - he claimed to do all sorts of things a whole lot better than he actually did, but one thing he could do was play the shit out of a harmonica and i can remember the names he recommended easily enough, because he repeated them enough that even a non-blues-listening motherfucker like me can recall them no problem: big waliter, little walter, memphis charlie musselwhite... there may have been others but these were the guys he rated above all. with incredible lack of modesty he told me (quietly, seriously - for once) that he believed HIMSELF to be the best *white* harp player he had ever heard. i have no recordings of him, and he didn't pass it on to me so it's "gone" as eric tells us - all of it, except that in my head i can still hear him and he did sound really GOOD. his boast was not unfounded at that time! of course, most of his "competitors" did nothing more than just blow-n-suck, which is alas what jenkins does (maybe for simple comic effect..?) BUT this instrument can be used for vocalisations and tonal distortions of varying sorts, not with the same range or precision of a horn perhaps but nevertheless with tremendous depth of feeling and true utterance.

of course, if atanase is reading i have to say one word only: beefheart


it's just as well i have been able to churn so much of this shit out this week - there's gotta be a crash coming

for the moment i feel great... i am so pleased just to be here.

anthony braxton for world president <<<"applause">>>

centrifuge said...

that shd read big *walter* btw.


btw brent - hey, no peeking ;-)

but i can tell you on this occasion that i don't have those recordings ...

if anyone wants to talk to me about how to rectify that, i could probably be persuaded to listen :)

of course collecting more material is not high on my list of priorities right now :-D

Peter said...

hi cent

have to say that i'm enjoying your blog, even if i'm not too familiar with most of the records you're talking about . if writing about music is like dancing to architecture, then you're at least managing a decent pas de deux round a flying buttress...on a slightly different note, i remember talking to a tuba player who'd played with braxton when he conducted the LJCO some years ago and he mentioned that mr braxton was a one for the old jazz cigarettes. i found this hard to believe but i guess one of the benefits of such activity is it can really focus you into thinking quite intently and deeply about stuff. i don't think you could ever play that music in such a state, but in the R&D stage i guess it could help out...

centrifuge said...

aha :)

thx p!

don't forget guys - this is nonetheless NOT MY BLOG - i am just sort of getting something out of my system here, but the braxtothon is just one thing and i am hoping that the two of us (with your help) can do a whole lot more than just that.

Veronika Lenz said...

Hello you people... Re Mr Braxton's smoking preferences, yes, he is pretty well-known in professional circles for this. I do know a number of improvising musicians who like to have a J before they play but I suspect AB is not of this persuasion.

Looking forward to chatting about the stuff I know better as time goes on... and in the meantime I'll be getting on with some more Braxton listening of my own, once my orders arrive.

On a different but sort of related subject: does anyone know where Graham Lock can be contacted, by the way?

centrifuge said...

hi man - no, not yet... interested to find out though

it always used to astonish me that some of the fastest and most technical detah metal bands were totally caned when they played - to me this was incomprehensible and i *actually listened* to that stuff... but they did

i guess it depends on what you're like when straight - so to speak

thx for dropping in!