Friday, November 9, 2007

october 07 braxtothon... day six (1)


preamble: these are really the "empty years" - very little of what was going on in b's musical existence, to say nothing of his mind, got safely documented. (and let's not even get started about what's left in print.) though 1972 looks rich in the telling - the first creative music orchestra and the famous town hall concert - there is a big gap from may onwards, filled only by holland's quartet date for ecm six months later.

no gap in the braxtothon at this point though - day five-and-a-half threatens to become day five-and-three-quarters as i begin with the nyc quintet write-up still to do... but with that accomplished day six is promptly underway, and some sort of sense prevails once more.

now... what happened next?

first session: four compositions (1973)
date: 11th january 1973

restructures link

what, this was never released outside japan? why not??

mr braxton travels to the orient - for the first time? - to meet with three local musicians in interpreting four of his own compositions. does that sound promising? mmm...not necessarily. what can we expect from this? our man must have his hopes up, though: the music he is taking with him includes pieces dedicated to two major musical figures in his life - m.r. abrams and warne marsh - as well as a third who would become very important later (richard teitelbaum). b. must have known that a high standard of playing was a very realistic expectation...

... and that's what he got! indeed, the only question i have by the end is why three pieces are interpreted by a trio (minus percussion) and only one by the quartet - was there more? we need to know - meantime this recording itself needs publicity because the meeting is very successful and wonderful music results from it. just from the sonorous bass at the beginning of the first piece, the listener can immediately think "yes, this is going to work."

all four pieces are fascinating, all feel fully explored and each sees the players open the fabric of the writing right up to explore as many of its implications as possible, within the parameters set - the piece for abrams (comp. 23p*) seems to look the furthest and dig deepest in its scope, but all four (very different and distinct) numbers can be treasured here. i presume that the japanese players must have been thoroughly schooled in modern orchestral music, although the bassist seems familiar with jazz idioms too (and probably the pianist), but in any event they are fully open to the work which b. has brought them and are thus able to get right inside it.

this time i'm going to single out just one piece - the third, comp. 23m*, dedicated to marsh. unlike the two numbers which precede it, this has a clear line both in terms of its "melody" (you know, one of those hard-to-play things) and its underlying drive, provided by the bass which walks in four at a brisk, steady pulse throughout, throwing in faster bars every so often - it is more or less an early example of a pulse track, since it sets up a rhythmic pattern which holds firm against a very different, skittish rhythm played in unison by the reed and the piano: this internal tension is something to which b. will return many, many times. the other reason i single it out is because of the leader's wonderful solo, in which he allows his own language types to mix with a more traditional, balladic (though still slightly skewed) tone, presumably a reference to marsh (i have heard very little). in truth b's own language is very much the norm, but still, the extent to which he does incorporate the outside element into the texture and overall design of the solo is very impressive indeed. as the heat gets turned up, b. really cuts loose and starts hitting warp speed (very much in the manner of dolphy), yet he still seems to have one eye on an overall shape for the solo; and at its peak of intensity, he wraps up and hands over to the piano. masahiko sato, in turn, delivers a wonderful, magical solo filled with surprises and delights (and this from me, not so much of a piano fan), never anywhere but "out" yet constantly supplying fresh ideas and imbued with a playful touch (reminding me in this somewhat of the great jaki byard) - as the reed re-enters, the piano switches to a lovely, delayed "stabbing" attack briefly, well behind the pulse, leading perfectly to the restatement - in which (not for the first time) the leader allows himself a few fluffs and glosses, and in which the variations in rhythm (created by the friction of the written line against the bass pulse) come across more clearly as having the contours of a solo, not of a theme. i cannot say how much this is or isn't a fitting tribute to mr marsh... but it is wonderful.

take it for granted i could detail the other three too, especially the final piece (which begins with simmering tension and never slips back off the edge, reaching boiling point before its close) - all have so much to commend them, and all three japanese players get right to grips with the music. again, the one slight query remains over why the excellent percussionist gets only one piece... and again i ask, was there more?

(i can scarcely tell you how much i enjoyed listening to this album - unsung though it seems to be, it strikes me as a totally successful meeting of musical minds, and must surely have been hugely gratifying for the composer... i believe any fan of mr braxton's will love this, hence i can't give it any lower recommendation than... CCCC)

9 comments:

veronika lenz said...

That was the first AB record I ever heard, would have been in 1981 or so, and I haven't heard it for at least fifteen years, but the opening of the first piece (descending three-note figures, right?) has stuck in my mind ever since, and your description brought a lot more of it back too. Must hear it again some time.

centrifuge said...

what an album to pick as your first! albeit a rather unrepresentative one in some ways... but then it really isn't, is it? it's a very good interpretation of some quintessentially braxtonian composing... i am sure it will repay your time and effort in dragging it out for a re-listen :)

Ubu XXIII said...

Nothing to do with the album, but a plea for information to all Braxtonians. About the title of 286 (6 compostions (GTM) 2001). To the right of the grandfather clock is that a sample of native American art or what?

centrifuge said...

mmm

good question

Theo said...

hey, just a question here. Is C#9 back running again, but with permission only?
or is it simply locked forever?

zenkojiman said...

I continue to love the photographs, Cent. The train tracks is particularly good: rust never sleeps.

I wonder if you aren't wearing yourself out with all of this detailed elucidation of the listening experience. In some ways, music, even vigorous and even violent music, invites us to find 'the still centre of the turning world'. I can achieve that when listening to much Braxton (as well as Keith Jarrett or Joe Maneri, say).

Even a detailed critical book, on poetry or demanding music, will confine itself to a few highly selective detailed textual or musical analyses: for the reader's sanity as well as the author's. The context, social, historical, cultural, 'personality', are of equal importance in weighing where an artist 'fits'.

centrifuge said...

hi theo - go here please for explanation: http://tinyurl.com/3bfbmr

z-man: thanks! and yes, i am in danger of that... in fact i am about to declare a break for a while (the outstanding entries up till now will still be published in due course)

of course i still have just as much enthusiasm for the music, indeed for listening to it - but not necessarily the time or inclination to write about it any more... well, for now anyway... i knew that would happen..!

still centre of the turning world... yes, i like that :)

Sam said...

I totally understand, but read with regret your decision to take a break. I've had a hard time keeping up with you, but I have been doing my own listening along with your writing, and it's worked quite well, very enlightening...but then I find that even if I have thoughts to add I don't always have the time to write them! And if I can't even find time to do that, it amazes me that you have found the time and energy to write all this in the first place.

I love "Four compositions (1973)"--it's got a special energy that in a way is unique to the Braxton canon. Whatever that means!

centrifuge said...

i was so impressed... surely an album i will go back and back to! there was much about it i didn't understand...

wow, sam, several people have said they wished they time to listen along etc (and i figured they were being polite as much as anything else! most people don't have that much time... it's a nice idea though isn't it) - you are the first to tell me that he's actually been doing it :) good music, what do you reckon?

among other things, i find a lot of new music suddenly deluging me again - more time etc... there is so much music and so little time... plus the writing was getting silly, i will probably post about this tomorrow anyway...

i will definitely be back to it - and it may not even be a long break, who knows... in the meantime the blog will continue anyway and may even develop other areas of its life beyond the (frankenstein's monster which is the) braxtothon :-D