Monday, October 22, 2007

october 07 braxtothon... day three (2)

preamble: not done with 1971 yet. complete is from the start of the year. on the other hand, when i look at the map it's between circle, circle and circle as it turns out (i am already committed to playing the alto solos from news from the 70s as half a session). given the choice of paris in feb (ecm of course), new york in may (gathering), or "germany in march" (boot) i pick paris for various boring reasons which just boil down to the fact that i always liked that album (after a very stressful experience actually buying it) and fancy hearing parts of it with new ears. parts of it: i'm not about to sit through the whole thing right now, this is about b's music - so i pick the third and fourth selections from the first disc, figuring i obviously want to hear (6f*) again, and may as well sit through another corea and braxton duet - having enjoyed two of them recently... right choice! read on.

(n.b. strictly speaking, the actual session deviated slightly from chrono order within itself at this point. see below for details)

write-up: piecemeal (just like news itself)
distractions: dogs (see below)

second session:
a) circle - paris concert (selections)
date: 21st feb 1971

b) comps. 8c* and 8g* for solo alto sax
date: france, 1971 (two possibilities)  [see march 2011 comment]

(gradings are pushing it a bit really but i can tell you that paris is a CCC and news will be CCCC on the strength of the two alto solos alone)

- rrrrriiiiggghhhttt... my god... the session itself was fantastic, but for the first time i failed totally in the write-up, at least at first - distracted hopelessly as i was by this point - but that's a good thing. why? because by now, at the end of the third day, i've got to the stage where a burst of enthusiasm could easily have seen me knock out 500 words on the barry altschul solo i heard a couple of hours ago... in other words i am now in deep shit if i don't begin to pan back and out and stop admiring the tiny little (exquisite - this is the problem) details. can i manage this??

i started with comp. 8c*, a solo ballad structure for alto, quite beautiful, astonishingly complete in its execution (as far as i can tell...). the breathy spaciousness of b's initial entries reminds me of miles (of all people - never thought i'd find myself saying that) - then lester young and then charlie parker - i am not kidding, can go into further detail on any of these if required - but still inserts tiny braxtonisms, little miniature gems of buzzing and purring which identify him clearly straight away; but he keeps returning to his basic ballad tone which is, frankly, glorious. any thoughts about sound quality on this old tape recording vanish within seconds as the focus and clarity of intent just shine through... as with b's group or duet ballads i sense world-weariness, a full awareness from the voice of the horrors in the world, but the awareness is worn with honour and the knowledge is tempered with indomitable strength of purpose and integrity of spirit, above all leavened by good humour.

when he declaims, the power is astounding, cutting through the air and the years between player and listener and penetrating straight to the heart. what do you mean he doesn't do ballads?! sure he does... ok, the trouble is that they are called things like "8c" (if we insist on naming them rather than using the diagrams) and that, above all, is why this is not coming soon to any jazz record requests near you.

by the end of the piece, which i take on its own (because of my little balls-up with the dates), dog #3 is bored and has come to hassle me in mrs c's absence. i hope that just getting up to change the cd and taking a very quick wander in and out of the room will settle her.

on a pre-programmed cycle, i now switch to circle's paris concert (for some reason i had remembered the gig as being december - i was way out - and also i mistakenly believed at this point that only *one* alto solo was on news). first up is track 3, the untitled duet between corea and b., which begins with solo piano and a still-fidgety dog #3, but suddenly she runs off upstairs, the actual piece begins... and wouldn't you know it, it's comp. 6l* with the stepping theme, i oughta know: i was listening to it just a few hours previously. what an unexpected treat this could be!

and indeed it is, for this (naturally) is a very different reading of the piece from the troubled one on complete 71 - from the outset the steps are light and confident, indeed the whole manner is a lot more genteel and reserved - but not for long: the confidence brings the soprano right out into alto territory and before i know it a full (brief) solo exploration is underway, b-language flying left, right and centre, wrenched in spasms of sound from a flat backdrop of heavy canvas, corea long since laying out for this. taps of (sax) keys lead to the re-entry of piano keys, and a sudden squall of bleats and squawks suddenly makes me think of steve lacy again - this i will follow up some time, i promise! not now - they are together, racing, tumbling, flying, hovering together in the air like hummingbirds; as in the previous reading of the piece, scrapes on the strings from corea means dissonance to come, fired right back from b's buzzing horn; but a short sax solo then is so lovely, all discord is forgotten, the gentlest falling rain from corea cueing up a section in which they actually tease out a "melody" of sorts; this really is a long, winding narrative (of the sort one can probably assume the young tim berne heard a lot in his formative years)... gradually it settles almost to nothing; the steps which take us out are, once again, so light and soft this time one could scarcely think they once sounded daunting.

the second piece begins with "lookout farm", altschul's percussion feature, and what a display it is - i'm not falling into the trap of describing it. suffice to say he begins with light variations on cymbals and follows up with sharp taps on woodblock or claves, the two sounds at once implying a yawning landscape between them - and he proceeds to explore parts of it at leisure, and play with rhythms too... indeed the only thing now worth passing on is that at a crucial moment, dog #3 (still bored but now trying to inveigle dog #2 into playing) picks up a toy and begins squeaking, in perfect time with the pulse for a few bars. somehow i think the drummer would be pleased.

when the theme of 6f* appears suddenly - braxton and corea joining in from nowhere, no holland yet - the written lines are delivered with immaculate precision and at a pace which can only be called brisk; indeed the faster bars sound unplayable, but there they all are in splendour, not a single note missed that i can tell. at this pace b's brief solo comes out under pressure and is white-hot; corea is throwing sparks also, altschul too of course. the piano and drums then unleash a duo passage which has my mouth hanging open and as if this weren't enough, distant rumbles and groans indicate a monster approaching, a contrabass sax by the sound of it - when holland finally enters it is pizzicato up near the top bridge, so that he immediately fits in with the extended soundworld and would almost pass unheard, so natural a fit is formed...

still there is more, fierce stabs from corea now, sawing from holland, whistles and squeaks from b., all suddenly giving way to the "mutant" version of the theme which, this time, comes in with no break and sounds SO profoundly altered that it is as if the players have somehow changed into each other's clothes during the middle sequence without our noticing, even down to facial hair and now look entirely different as they nevertheless hammer out the theme with complete assurance.

there is still time for b's tiny trills at the end to thrill me almost obscenely.

psst: and i'll tell you one thing that's changed... at the close there is appreciative applause from paris (and i should bloody well think so too), but it's faded quickly out. compare this with eicher's pet players (jarrett) later on, endless minutes of lavish praise so we're left in no doubt that the audience filled superbly the role of sundry performing seals

OK, GODDAMMIT... how much more can my poor head take, where is the limit? the dogs quiet, i struggle upstairs to the keyboard and find myself *contemplating* the sheer face instead of simply knuckling down and climbing the motherfucker - dog distractions start up again, and about then i realise (with a sneaky look at the discog) that i am down one track, also i got the dates wrong but never mind that shit, there are two alto solos on news and i have only heard one. back i go.

comp. 8g* is the most amazing of all so far, as a recital, because it is b's exploration of violent attacks and i realise very soon that i have heard later versions of it (reaching ecstasy each time) - but none any better than this for it is somehow, shockingly, perfect. the sheer range of different language-units b. deploys here is astounding - just his tonal distortions can be split into dozens of discrete building-blocks ( - see comments), and this on a piece which also finds calm and quietness: ALL THIS and doubtless mr b. regards it as nonetheless as an exploration of one language type.

the first transformation is complete - the world is full of beauty again

i thank you, mr braxton

***stage one ends ***


centrifuge said...

i have never heard such a variety of *precise and distinct sounds*

all these guys have a base vocab - we know this

most of them have fairly small core "phrasebooks" (so that if one doesn't like a player one uses this as a beating-stick, and if one likes that player one overlooks it tactfully, like a patient lover)

braxton's vocab is HUGE


i can tell that even now (you guys are seeing this well late, this is being written right at the end of day three, after taking stock etc)

and the thing is that if, say, we're talking about *tonal distortions* then in all honesty and modesty i can say this is one of very, very few things i can talk about with real confidence - having basically pursued it for years and always dozing off when i was unable to find it... losing the thread somewhere between death metal and free jazz, then REALLY picking it up again

and for me tonal distorts are a huge part of what this is all about, because they are SO VERY EXPRESSIVE.

now - i just want to list some reedmen i revere as masters for a minute, indulge me (but please don't see it as a best-of or exhaustive list - and i'm limiting this to reeds): first there are "curious" masters who experiment, these including roscoe mitchell, frank lowe, evan parker, john zorn, henry threadgill, john butcher

then there are the "pain specialists" who are measured partly by their ability to channel suffering and withstand it: ayler trane pharoah doyle wright gayle ware

glenn spearman, sabir mateen etc

you know i could go on

then there is brotz... whom i regard now as the bridge between the two - so many people mistake him for a *total pain player* BUT for me it always now comes back to what peter "efi" stubley says of him, that his sound is one of the most life-affirming in all of music - this had the ring of *surprising truth* as soon as i read it

probably dudu p was a bridge player also in this view (?)

don't get me wrong i am well aware that i am missing guys out, please don't think this is all i could say on the subject (as if...)

(missing list: none more than steve lacy incidentally, but i'm not gonna do THAT one just yet)

in any case: big cliff face words for this bit: ANTHONY BRAXTON dwarfs all these players in terms of the variety of sounds at his disposal, any or all of which being within immediate reach at any time on any horn (is my guess)

i am finally gonna shut up now

indeed i may fall over like monk and not get up for a little while ;-)

centrifuge said...

NB - the above was written after the day three, session 2 write-up, just before the post entitled "live update"

there was even a second comment, but i'll spare you :)

centrifuge said...

it's now been decided (by..? jason g and j. piper must surely have been consulted at least) that the tracks released on *news from the 70s* as comps. 8c and 8g are in fact two different compositions. the new braxton house series of "official boots" (another idea reminiscent to me of zappa, but in this case actually inspired by him!) includes the full five pieces from the source recording used by b. and martinelli when they assembled *news*.

i am gonna have a little listen of my own and report back

centrifuge said...

yep, 8b and 26d are indeed good spots, very good in the case of 8b since the recorded version (for alto side d) begins with a very dreamy line totally unlike the piece on *news* (or the "new" boot) - although the overall picture of the piece is not going to be coloured much by the beginning as it turns out (haven't listened to *alto* in ages - again, prob. too much like work in my poor screwed-up head)

heh, no-one will even see this except lucky (and poss j. i dunno)

(maybe TPFKaKK?)

anyway comp. 26d on record (solo sax series f, 1972) is not identical to the france 71 version by any means (boot is also much longer, on record it occupies less than two and a half mins) but it does seem to occupy exactly the same sonic and emotional space and i'm satisfied that it's a(nother) good pick. well done/kudos to whoever got those... (now, there are corrections to be made, and i'm gonna be in touch about that..!)