Friday, November 2, 2007

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

2. pasta: comp. 6n*/comp. 6(o)*/all the things you are (album link in previous post)

this is where the shit really hits the fan, because phillip wilson (in just for the trio) just cooks and cooks and the mix ends up highly volatile as a result. it's one 33-minute suite, so although the index separating the standard from the two originals is obvious enough, it wouldn't have been too difficult to separate the two originals either (never mind). this is actually my first standard, i think - for this journey - and i shan't be going out of my way to hear lots of them (before too many people ask), but it seems highly appropriate that this one should be a number strongly associated with charlie parker (further thoughts on parker are like those on dolphy or lacy - gonna have to wait).

6n begins with a lovely bass figure, then has me literally gasping with pleasure within less than a minute... and that sort of sets the tone for the whole thing, because even though this is a high-energy piece (and we are flying for a while in there), the word delicacy springs frequently to mind, and subtlety... finesse a third... wilson in particular is able to achieve a direct, clean, powerful strike with the most fractional effort - this man was a wonder, it is important to remember that it's just not steve mccall we lost along the way - and the whole band always gives the impression of having more held in reserve, even when it is at rocket-tempo. we know holland can go all day. wilson, too - well, he's got more to his game than just that, all manner of angles to this guy's playing, but (like mr braxton himself) wilson is able to hit a high gear and just stay there and stay there, and not everyone can do that.

much of the music in the trio set is fast, then - the standard is not even kicked off until the engine is running at about 5000 rpm, and the two "6"s, well, they are very different in nature, both dedicated to creative musicians; in fact 6(o) - for frederic rzewski - is another ballad, a haunting piece in some ways reminiscent of the earlier duet, but 6n (for jerome cooper), which itself takes time to build, is never less than lively and contains within itself, like a hidden bomb, a fast line extension where we get first look at the triple-racer this band could have been (any other perfs?). the first five mins see wilson on brushes, the three men taking their time getting the fire going, b. unleashing some wonderful little fast flutters around 2.15 and then "chops" and squeaks a little further in; just before the 5.00 mark, the tantalising theme, like a sideways glance, begins to appear and wilson switches to sticks. now the momentum builds quickly, and by 7 mins all three are flying, so that as b. begins his solo we are pretty much hearing the band flat out (though still not stretched). two minutes later they are all still at it - the alto solo has long since gone off the scale.

things wind down gradually after that, everyone gradually glancing ahead to the switch of materials which is approaching; 6(o) is a welcome change of pace, a sparse landscape described (mainly) by holland with enough rich detail to support the storytelling... but i confess this story was rather lost on me. in any case things feel more natural at high tempo, somehow, and it's not long (the slower second piece half the length of the first) before wilson is building another fire, stick by stick at first, putting all the crucial elements into place before allowing the leader to begin applying the flames. b's first ear-catching entries on the standard are little kisses, but fierce ones, playful but with a fricative quality which might mark the skin: then a gorgeous pitch bend, conjured as if from nowhere, leads into a sudden full flow containing a lovely master-tag; with the pistons pumping hard now the theme can be released, just a fragment at first then a clear (partial) statement at 3.25 - it vanishes again to be revealed even more clearly at 3.35 when the bass actually fills in the harmony; but this is very brief, and for the two next minutes b. rockets along without needing to refer to the theme at all. he is outdoing dolphy, who in turn had needed to outdo bird... and for minutes on end he simply tears the place up. occasional (5.36, 7.33) tiny mouthfuls from the source are all that is required to provide enough inspiration for the torrent of sound and thought. a long, muscular solo from holland follows before a fully-developed restatement and wind-down. i haven't always been able to give the music my full attention, but i have really enjoyed this part of the concert.


Ubu XXIII said...

Have you listened to 'Donna Lee' yet, cent? Without trying to be pedantic, it's 3 months earlier than the New York concert.
They're both maligned by crrrritics (Penguin guide for instance) but I like both for their energy & willingness to take on longer forms without just playing blues or modal changes over & over, or just freaking out. (Standards are another matter.) I've never heard 'Donna Lee' on CD, never heard 'Town hall' on vinyl, but I'm not complaining about the recordings I have.
I wonder if Jeanne Lee's contribution to May is the 1st recording of Braxton with vocals.

centrifuge said...

well, if you were trying to be pedantic, the time to have mentioned this (donna lee) would have been on the creative orch. post, cos it precedes that as well ;-)

no - i haven't heard it... as a matter of fact it's an entry which my eye seems to avoid, all of its own accord, every time i visit the discog... and yet looking at it now i see there are two otherwise-unrecorded originals on there besides the inevitable standards... so now, naturally, i wish i had a copy! one day... etc

as you will see shortly, i liked the town hall concert myself - except for the quintet. as for the vocal question - well, braxton had actually worked with lee on numerous occasions already - but always when both of them were "sidepersons" :) this looks to be the first instance of his actually including a vocalist in one of his own projects, though... of course there are vocals used very sparingly in other, earlier recordings (such as 3 comps of new jazz)

centrifuge said...

i've just re-read the first sentence of this post and realised that one could, feasibly, infer from it that i didn't like this trio section of the concert... when the exact opposite is the case. so i guess that'll be bad writing, then ;-)

glmlr said...

Let's dangle a little carrot ... a clean copy of the original "Dona Lee" vinyl (yes, only one "n") and see if anyone swoons.

Personally, I like it - and it's nice to hear Braxton with such infrequent collaborators as Michael Smith (p), Peter Warren (bs) and Oliver Johnson (ds).

In the rear sleeve notes, Braxton writes, "Donna Lee is included here and is my way of saying 'Yes - there's life' ".

centrifuge said...

cool B-)

of course steve lacy loved that piece too (the relevance being that lacy continued to be of interest to b. long after he'd ceased listening to most other sax players)

the names of the pianist and bassist don't ring a bell at all