gunter hampel: the 8th of july 1969
the day took a while to get going, the "week" isn't even a full week to begin with as it turns out... and with the writing up and faffing around (more of the latter really) it suddenly occurs to me late on that i am not now going to have time to fit in a third session... the kitchen still requires transformation, lest mrs cent return to a shambles... so i settled on a compromise, pulled out one of several very interesting sideman gigs from '69 and played it while clearing up, knowing that i could not give the music my undivided loving care this time, but that b's contributions were nevertheless likely to grab my attention even if nothing else did.
and that's the way it worked out... between spacing out and thinking about the new blog, marshalling impressions, tidying up etc i managed to miss at least half of what was being played, but my man's statements certainly did not go unnoticed..! i made no notes at all this time so memories of the first track are pretty blurred already, vague impressions of the leader's piano and jeanne lee's voice (i can sort of make an exception for jeanne lee, don't mind some of her stuff as it's usually pretty far out), but the real business gets underway with the long second track, which contains two superb braxton solos as well as a furious, barking bass clarinet excursion by (i presume) willem breuker. what's really noticeable right away about braxton's work here is how utterly complete it sounds: his identity as a soloist is now fully formed (not sure that it was before... but of course i still haven't heard for alto), the sound identical to that which i know so well after all these hours i've heard him play. the solos here could be from any year really, so sure of himself does he sound by now.
this is also the first time i clearly noticed the "master-tag", a very fast descending run with a staccato attack, followed by a short upward swoop and concluding with a two-note "bee-boop" drop, a higher note to a lower one at the end, this being the phrase which he seems to repeat most often over the years... recently i heard "intuition" by tristano & co wherein warne marsh plays something rather similar, leading me to infer that this birdlike "signature" of braxton's may have originated with marsh... anyway, i expect it's present in nascent form on the earlier recordings but this is the first time i've "spotted" it clearly.
the third piece ("crepuscule") is fascinating, beginning with a lot of low clarinet blowing - i presume this is hampel and breuker on bass, braxton on contrabass - and exploring quiet, breathy textures for much of its 25-min running time... at one point the reeds give way to a mesmerising percussion solo by steve mccall, in which he seems to do little other than brush the surfaces of his kit but in a manner bespeaking almost superhuman control and restraint; this in turn gives way subtly to more breath from the clarinets. there is an explosion of vibes from the leader later on, duetting with mccall now, but the breath explorations are what i will remember most from this. again, there is a very gnarly, rough-hewn and powerful solo by someone other than braxton and again i have to assume it's breuker playing it: would the leader really have been so little ego-driven that he's prepared to let his frontline guests steal all the limelight? (well... seems quite possible actually, and here's why: out of all of them, hampel was the one who was actually going home with jeanne lee after the session - perhaps he felt that this left him with nothing to prove to the other guys! and perhaps one could sympathise...)
ok, enough is enough, this is only an interlude... and as you can tell i was distracted for much of the playing time, so no grading but this is a very interesting recording and the third piece especially will warrant closer inspection at some point.
bring on day two :)