Sunday, November 18, 2007

on politeness

people who live by far stricter codes than me have struggled with this one for centuries. how does one keep one's discourse honest and truthful at all times, yet not speak in such a way as to cause pain or distress to others?

while i was reading lock's forces in motion earlier this year, it could hardly escape my notice that mr b. simply will not talk much about people he doesn't like, people he's fallen out with, people he thinks can't play very well. because this extends to people who have messed him around over the years or who have less-than-scrupulous business practices, this makes for somewhat frustrating reading at times - but it didn't take me long to start thinking that his was a very sensible approach, whatever his reasons were for adopting such a policy (and it may be nothing more than being careful what one says to a journalist!).

as you can see, i nevertheless did not get round to adopting it myself - not quite ready for that, apparently - and a few months down the line here i am, cheerfully being irreverent about a recording (conference of the birds) which i know full well would be considered desert-island listening by some people... the few adverse reactions this drew have made me wonder if i could not have reined myself in a little bit. did i really have to go blundering in, stomping all over a nice clean floor? could i not have been a bit more respectful? it's all very well to cite the south park guys (as i did in my reply to arcturus); but trey parker and matt stone have more or less dedicated their lives to the idea that there is no subject unfit for comedy - this is their guiding principle, not mine, and what works for them might not necessarily be a good idea for me.

as i said in that same reply: sacred cows make me very uneasy. on the other hand - is conference a sacred cow? possibly not... but it's a cherished recording for many people - and i will try and bear that in mind in future.

thanks to omar, arcturus and artjep for occasioning these reflections

* * *

i've been busy lately... the next braxtothon entry went on and on, so i'm going to split it... but haven't had time to look into that yet. it's on the way - but not for a few days: i am off to london this afternoon to see charles gayle (in his "native habitat" this time, i.e. his american trio rather than the ad hoc grouping which recently toured the u.k.)... this will be followed on monday by a close encounter with sonny simmons. needless to say i am looking forward to witnessing these two venerable masters; but no less am i anticipating the society of the friend who will accompany me. it's not what you eat for your supper, it's the people you share it with... well, that was what epicurus reckoned anyway...


zenkojiman said...

It's not worth losing any sleep over, Cent. It's not a key Braxton album in my view either. Mind you, I bet your antipathy is bound up with some Freudian dislike of the label. Me, I tend to be the other way, to seeing ECM as a likely (only likely, there are a few stinkers) guarantee of quality.

Omar said...

The idea that nothing is unfit for comedy is hardly new. And I'm sad you had to learn that from Parker and Stone, whose crap animation must surely be one of the least interesting places to learn such a lesson. To each his own. But all of this sacrilege really misses an important point: The sacred cows (or teddy bears) that you need to take on, really, are your own, not someone else's.

Write something about what an overrated, quaint mess Braxton's Arista recordings from 74-78 are, and we'll see how committed you are to this premise.

Funny, ain't it, how someone with a "church" blog would commit to a posture of sacrilege? I suppose that's why we all wait to see what you'll do next. I can hardly wait. Just please don't start quoting The Family Guy. I really don't want to lose my lunches.

Omar said...

And please, whatever you do, don't become polite. 'tis a fate worse than death.

Sam said...

Hey, I happen to be one of the ones who adore "Conference", a keystone album for me, although I agree it's not a key Braxton record. (It's a key Sam Rivers record!) But your adverse comments on it didn't bother me in the least, just a different opinion, we all have 'em, that's why I read things like this. So keep it up and don't stress about being polite...your comments are thoughtful and provocative, not rude or impolite.

zenkojiman said...

Cent. I have to bring a further report from the front. Today's Guardian 1000 Albums to Hear Before You Die, includes ... guess what?

I merely quote:

... this is a restrained masterpiece from the Brit's (DH) earlier era, bridging free-jazz and structure. The cutting-edge improvisers, Anthony Braxton and Sam Rivers, interweave on saxophones and flutes, and the drummer, Barry Altschul, is superb.

Quite a nice summary, penned, I'd guess by John Fordham.

Personally, anyone who for gain publishes any title with this 'before you die' in there should automatically have transferred to them the terminal illness of someone who is already anticipating death. But there you go, let's not get too serious.

I was listening to a rather poorly recorded mini-disc of the Taylor/Braxton set yesterday. My God, Braxton's contribution is a wondrous thing. I hope it will be released soon. Surely.

centrifuge said...

thanks all for your comments. z-man, funnily enough a friend and i were talking about this (ecm thing) just this morning. i am kind of leaning in the direction you suggest, i must admit - but i can assure you others have a far worse opinion of the label than i do! you are, i think, in a minority (at least among fans of the avant-garde) - but what's wrong with being in a minority? i have yet to meet anyone online with whom i can discuss death metal... which makes me a minority of one in the circles i frequent :) but i didn't pick the name centrifuge out of a hat...

as regards the second comment: ha! thanks for passing that on. well, that doesn't surprise me at all, indeed it rather backs up what i said. (i have nothing against john fordham really, but i don't generally find him a very interesting reviewer.)

the taylor-braxton meeting... well, who knows? it wasn't really enough to make a double cd of it, yet too much for a single - and the quartet was actually pretty short. on the other hand it sounds increasingly as if the london concert was as good as it got for this grouping, the italian gigs having elicited rather disappointing reports. but yeah, i can assure you that it sounded (and indeed looked) pretty great at the time :)) the vibe was good, this is the point. though late in the year, the southern climes saw to it that tempers rose for those italian meetings... tempers never too far from the boil in some of those guys, i think...

centrifuge said...

omar, i've already said on the other "debate" that i killed my sacred cows already, one by one. indeed it was necessary to do so in order to dissect them and examine them - ! it was not any sort of systematic cull... ok, i'm bored with that metaphor now.

braxton, i can assure you, holds no nostalgia value for me. eight years ago i hadn't heard of him. the recordings you mention (and i'll make up my own mind up about them, thanks, when the time comes) came out when i was rather less than ten years old. i made it very clear when i joined c#9 (not my blog btw - i understand you came to it late) that i am recently come to all this and *hearing it for the first time with mature ears*: no possibility of nostalgia in this instance. possibility of naivete, lack of knowledge, lack of familiarity - ? yes, of course.

south park? ha!! well my man, you are going to love this: wait for it... I HONESTLY THINK THAT SOUTH PARK IS THE BEST TV PROGRAMME EVER


so there! we disagree so strongly on this that there's no point in my going into any detail to back it up - take my word for it or don't, i am not bothered really either way BUT please do me the courtesy of reading a little more closely before attempting to take me apart: i specifically said in this post that theirs was NOT my guiding principle.

for that matter i never said they invented anything - i am quite sure they wouldn't either

i like family guy a lot too, but that's way way way waaaaay more limited in its scope because they are *only* interested in outrage

go ahead, lose your lunch! why is that *my* problem? :)

centrifuge said...

hey wait up there z - have you not heard the beeb version of that quartet..? the audience one is pretty much useless in parts i'm afraid, the tiny mic is totally overwhelmed by the huge volume of sound - the bbc one, on the other hand (i said this at the time), is very well rendered and picks out braxton in particular very effectively... the contra-alto clarinet, especially, sounds terrific...

i don't think i expressed myself very well in the 2nd para of my previous reply to you. i didn't mean to imply that john fordham is an idiot and that if he likes it, it must be shit..! i mean that 1) it shows the extent of the sacred cow effect and 2) i don't set much store by what fordham says anyway - wait, now what am i doing? starting to go on about that, exactly what i planned not to do {sigh}... well, we learn by falling off :)

centrifuge said...

sam, thanks for your thoughts and for the vote of confidence - i am certainly trying not to stress it, but it's an important challenge for me anyway, i think... i very much appreciate courtesy in others and often detest the lack of it - yet i myself can sometimes show a distinct lack of it in my dealings with others. but don't worry, i am not beating myself up about this at all..! we are all here to learn - right? and i am learning, so i figure i'm doing ok for now...

Omar said...

Dude, I read your words more deeply than you think I do. Don't infer so much from what I say. You're obviously entitled to your opinions, and indeed your naivete, as you call it. Others are entitled to their nostalgia, surely. I rather walk a different path entirely, being neither terribly naive nor remotely nostalgic. But trust me, I understand the difference between what you say and what you mean. (You didn't, for instance, say that the Parker/Stone guiding principle WASN'T yours as well; you said it "might not be." You meant something different from what you wrote. So, you see, I read it quite well.) Regardless, let's not get lost in semantics.

I grew up watching Lenny Bruce piss on cocktail lounge patrons, and watching Fluxus artists explore the possibilities of human effluvia, so I'm pretty sure I'm beyond shock and outrage, which is why saying pigfucker in front of Jesus is simply boring to me. As my man Steve Rathbone from Lair of the Minotaur said when talking about death metal/black metal trends, "Saying you worship Satan these days is about as shocking as a fart." I tend to feel that way about all attempts at "shock and awe." About the only thing that shocks me is sticking a fork in a wall outlet.

The whole point of what I wrote was simply to suggest that provocation can indeed be misguided and uninformed, if not completely pointless, and that a commitment simply to provoke is trite. Nothing more. No debate. Just a lesson from one who's already been down the path. Ignore it, or not. Makes me no difference, just as me throwing up whenever someone turns on a fucking TV makes you no difference (since we're being crude and all here).

On other notes, you'd be surprised how much some of us "jazz people" know about death metal, even old bastards like me who can clearly remember when Celtic Frost and Venom put out their first demos. Wasn't the whole point of Phil Freeman's New York Is Now book that free jazz and death metal share commonality?

And now, my wife is dragging me off the the George Duke/Najee concert tonight. I will be "polite" about this for two hours, too. ;)

centrifuge said...

george duke still plays? ;-) actually i genuinely didn't know he did - i think i'm relieved to hear that he does..? (he says cautiously) as you probably know i'm into zappa and 73-4 is my favourite era... but i thought george was long since lost to the dollar, and to production

fusion is not exactly my strong point it must be said

i don't watch tv either actually.
i do still watch some tv *programmes* of course

and because my attention-span works differently these days (need signal to keep changing or growing... most commercial movies bore me too... that's hardly news though is it) i find that twenty super-concentrated minutes works really really well as a format

many advantages of graphic novel plus new ones (voices etc... graphics are disingenuous, they are not bad at all!! as the series stack up this has long since become crashingly obvious but you won't have seen it i guess)

anyway - give me some bloody credit, i said the best ever - drawn in by the humour, i stayed for the content - i tell kids at work that they can learn more about what's really going on in the world from that show than they can from anything else

i would not give this sort of recommendation if i did not mean it... they know that, and a few of them might actually remember... anyway, parker and stone choose their targets *very* carefully

they also don't waste a single line... these days their episodes contain more energy and creative imagination than any three current hollywood movies of your choice

again, this will be news to you - but this leads to the next point, something about that show turned you off in a big way - despite your protestations! i don't believe you read beyond the mention of the words "south park" in that post the first time - if you had, you would have seen what i meant (despite my loophole-filled, loose-round-the-edges wording) - and your comment would have read differently... would it not? but you had to let me know straight away how bad it was to mention them... well, i've had similar reactions myself of course (on numerous occasions) - but really, look again, those comments above are far angrier than your last reply to the dave holland post.

you're not kidding, i would be surprised how much older jazzers know about death metal if that turns out to be much - ! you are the first one to have any idea whatsoever what i'm talking about... yes, very good, those names are on the guest list :) though in truth venom.... never really gave too much of a fuck about them, though they did make a lot of noise and they had some balls, i'll say that for them... i love (earlier) celtic frost on the other hand... morbid tales an all-time fave B-)

there was an american band called order from chaos who were very heavily influenced by venom... they were good. but i could only ever take them in small doses.

i haven't read (or heard of) the book you mention. i try not to read the music press at all if i can help it - inevitably that means i miss things which are good as well, but if they are genuinely good they can be discovered at any point down the line, they will still be good...

having said that i was planning to write a book about metal myself at some point so maybe i'd better read that one first ;-)

or then again maybe not

ubu XXIII said...

People may know this shit about 'Conference of the birds' already, even if it's only rumour. Sam Rivers was brought in to play PIANO as a replacement for Corea in 'Circle.' Braxton & Rivers really didn't get on with each other at all, but Holland brought them together & later on continued to play with both.
As for John Fordham he doesn't typify a very high standard of music criticism. As comparison read anything by, say, Max Harrison or Brian Priestley & you'll find in contrast sharper minds at work, expressed more articulately & concisely, with no bullshit.

Omar said...

Good stuff, ubu rex. I remember hearing that story myself, but have never been able to verify it. I guess Braxton thought Rivers was "too introverted"--wasn't that Chick's reason for bailing? Or maybe not introverted enough! Ah, Dianetics...

John Fordham is...well, not very good, certainly. I'm not a big fan of Phil Freeman, either, in many ways, but he DOES at least understand that the audience for jazz shrank because everyone tried to turn it into a museum piece, and that the real audience for interesting improv music isn't where people think it is.

Najee sucked big Tuesday (wifey loves that schmooze jazz whiz stuf--ugh), but actually old George Duke was pretty good. He was helped greatly by the fact that the techies screwed up his amplifier, so he just said, "Hey, no big deal, I have a piano here onstage," and proceeded to play about 10 minutes of free soloing before they finally fixed the keyboards. Then he broke into Zappa--and people actually danced! Even my 12 yr old liked it.

I guess that what I learned from jazz--nothing stops just because of adverse conditions. The show goes on. Life goes on.

BTW, I always thought Venom sucked (I still do), but there would never be "black metal" without them. Of course, sometimes I think that would have been a good thing, too. Myself, I'm more of a Slayer/Death/Opeth kind of guy, and I really like the jazz metal fusion things like Atheist and Cynic, and even more so things like Neurosis, Earth, Isis and so on, where there's some real exploration of space, instead of a bunch of Mustaine wannabees just trying to see how many notes they can crunch.

Still waiting to hear about Sonny Simmons, man. I used to talk with Barbara D often when she was still kicking, and even had her in the studio with Bert Wilson a couple of times when I was still a DJ, but I've only seen Sonny once.

centrifuge said...

thanks guys - i am still here, i have just given myself a few days off, have barely even checked my email this week. i suddenly found i didn't feel like writing - have done a lot of it recently, but scattered all over the place and it's left me drained... but the two review pieces are still in the pipeline!

ubu, thanks for that - i hadn't heard that. interesting idea... or maybe not? evidently something about that mix wasn't quite right..? ok, look, i'm not going back in there again ;-)

omar - metal... nice one, i'm a big fan of many of those bands myself! opeth i have a personal attachment to, as my friend was the guy who first signed them and my wife and i saw three of the shows on their first ever "tour"... this back in the days of johan and anders of course. i've only seen them once since, a sold-out camden underworld (often sold out, very rarely by metal bands) on the blackwater park tour. didn't get a chance to talk to mike or peter but they were very good.

slayer, death - yep :))

atheist... coulda shoulda etc etc, these guys somehow missed making what could have been the "best album ever" - the most creative extreme metal of all time. there are two tracks they cut as a promo demo, not cirulated much among traders at the time, the title track off the second album and "the formative years", with roger on bass - this is one of my most cherished recordings (will share it one day when i do my long-promised metal blog)

without him it just wasn't the same
- i didn't especially like tony choy's playing (don't like cynic much to be honest, never did - i do like the death album with the cynic guys on it, but that has steve di giorgio on bass of course, and i'm a big admirer of his - although he actually gets the least interesting role in that band cos chuck didn't write for bassists at all) and the third atheist album was a bridge too far for me - i do have it though and will dig it out one day

it's interesting, i myself prefer to keep my rock and my jazz pretty separate, even though it's often the same sort of things in each which draw me in - hence extreme metal and free jazz... in both i am looking for something really visceral i guess...

now, i don't know much about the later stuff you mention really... i do have neurosis recordings of various vintages but never really got bitten by that bug... in theory that sort of thing is well within my territory but in practice i haven't checked it out at all thoroughly (yet)

glad to hear george was good! and the sonny simmons piece really will appear soon... cent x

centrifuge said...

oops, i lied about "soon" didn't i {blush}