Thursday, November 1, 2007

october 07 braxtothon... day five, and counting (part one)

town hall, kolding, denmark

the whole experience of (what in my head was hyped up to be) stage two, day one - or day four, that is, tues 16th - was pretty dispiriting. the weather was absolutely horrible, i found it impossible to keep warm, and the music didn't really come together for me: the write-up, too, was quick and painless but not at all satisfying. this was not (any of it) what i'd had in mind. i continued to feel cold throughout the evening and this was when the pathogen got inside, though held at arm's length at this stage by my immune system - thursday, that is, day five, i was determined to get back into a positive cycle, and did so - yet the cost was that i let the same pathogen in and got an explosion of exterior symptoms as reward. fun weekend that was ;-)

well, these things are always instructive: that which does not kill me, etc...

the day five listening session was the complete (new york) town hall concert of 22nd may 1972: that is, duo, trio and "quintet", the latter not only the climax of the show but a complete multi-act play for musicians and voice - though whether it really qualifies as a quintet in any meaningful sense, never mind a jazz quintet, is kinda debatable... but more on that later...

in any case, though the session itself went fine, the write-up got derailed right away. what i'd forgotten about this house in winter is that cold draught, right under the bloody computer setup... the chair is not exactly up to the job either (another reason for telling myself 30 mins, i.e. less time physically in front of the pc) and by now i knew i was in a fight to keep the symptoms at bay - i sat there for 30 mins without finishing typing up the duo, and that was not only as much as i could take, it was abundantly clear that there was no point in continuing. so i stopped. instead i had a nice hot bath and listened to conference of the birds. (more on that... some other time)

the way things worked out, i went to work the next day, determined that it was what i needed, and got worse (work is where i got the actual western-recognisable pathogen in the first place, inevitably)... the music i listened to when i got home ended up being completely different, much of it commercial rock music in fact but still enjoyable and instructive (now - though all of a sudden i find myself more impatient then ever with anything in verse-chorus form, and skip forwards frequently)

next day i stayed home but didn't get much time to myself... when i did, listened to the 2001 4cd box as reported below... continued to get worse until i thought i was in danger of letting it right in... made one last effort to keep it on the outside...

next day was the turning point, the start of the recovery, but i got no time to myself at all or when i did, i was reading (never mind what, that really is another story). i did put on a monk cd with a friend of mine over, but it turned out to be a poor choice for the occasion and my only impression with my "new ears" is that the music generally sounded hurried (quartet with johnny griffin - this particular part of the concert being the portion released as misterioso on riverside), griffin determined to show that at least one gunslinger wasn't scared of no goddamn coltrane, monk himself seemingly in the most maddeningly whimsical of moods, apparently content to do no more in his solos than break the rhythm up into thousands of pieces and spell that out in the briefest of ways... the verbal description being so much more long-winded than the actual performance that indeed i am only now continuing it in order to remind everybody of how useless it is, ultimately, to write about music (art) at all

but it is interesting that one of my favourite "mainstream" drummers, roy haynes, played all those numbers without my registering him at all, on this occasion... just blended right into the background for me

in the evening i went for a walk through the mp3 player, which is how i'd got to commercial rock a couple of days before - not much jazz on there, it's mainly stuff for the car in theory, but there are some weird old playlists from the days when i only used my wife's laptop for music files... in the end i went looking for dolphy via joe henderson... and there will be more to say about that some time, too.

but that brings me up to day five-and-a-half.... the way it turns out - normally i would be at work but i am still recovering, haven't been that ill for several years... and now i finally get the time to write about the damn music, and it's been about 90 hrs since i heard it.

that's why this is day five-and-a-half... cos now i'm gonna listen to it again in an effort to get the impressions under better control.

* * *

town hall concert - duo, trio, quintet
date: 22nd may 1972

duo link

album link

restructures lists the main body of the concert first, then the duet (only available on news from the 70s) immediately after, but it's clearly the other way round, i.e. the duet opens the performance. presumably there was a short interval before the climactic experiment (the "quintet") but the trio must have followed on straight away from the duo. so:

1. antipasto: comp -1* (news, tr. 3)

this is a demanding piece - demanding of the audience, that is, since the two players are having a whale of a time: braxton is very much in charge for the vast majority of it, and it has a clear(ish) written structure including several haunting, starkly beautiful melodies - but for minutes on end while they get going it's right into free improv territory, and the piece must seem hugely long for those who were able to follow it: all of this music is played, nothing is being repeated at all, even when the themes are being worked there is never any stasis or flat repetition. it's easy enough to see how it was docked from the album release - but that's been to the listener's loss.

holland begins with a little (cello) twang as if on a koto, braxton bell-clear on clarinet; they are both right up for it, and within seconds they've started off something really free and have both just got right into it, gone way out there but together all the way. there are paths sideways through universes say the esoteric masters... and by stepping sideways they are gone, but somehow they are able to tell us where they're going... they can even encourage us to keep up.

braxton hits a couple of shrieks which leave my mouth open in a huge {(o)}

tags get dropped in - sort of tagettes rather than the master-tag but it's enough, with one flick, to say "yes, it's me"

he doesn't worry about the gasped inbreaths (still can't circular-breathe) - he makes of them a syllable, a phoneme, one of many (many!!) which by now he has at his disposal, seemingly able to reach for any of them at any time - the vocabulary is now so advanced that each individual approach carries with it dozens of sounds and options.

when the piece takes its first real turn, and the composition form begins to reveal itself, the music settles into something sedate and simple and beautiful. it is true that "blanded" ears might hear the melodies as too vaguely uneasy or menacing to be restful, but this is indeed hypnotic, precisely... of course even now b. cannot resist throwing in minute little distortions or buzzed tones which seem (by now, on these occasions) to occupy something like only the first hundredth of an attack, often subsiding to a smooth tone with no apparent transition.

the piece itself is interesting enough, but the performance is not perhaps as rivetting overall as some other duets we might mention

those are some thoughts and impressions - and that's enough :)

1 comment:

centrifuge said...

"enough" eh... er, yeah... this is part one of three, the other two will be a lot shorter (no, really)

(to be honest i had kinda forgotten that dave holland ever had this sort of thing in him. yes, of course, he did play on karyobin. so he did. as for mr anthony braxton... well, doubtless this sort of thing is the reason why he got so excited when he met bailey: not because he was meeting an influence (as some have maybe tried to claim on behalf of the european free improvisers/-ors), but because all of a sudden he must have felt "look, a kindred spirit!" - not exactly something which would occur on a daily basis for a man of braxton's ilk, practically one definition of eccentric genius.)