Friday, December 14, 2007

october 07 braxtothon... day six (2) (part one)

preamble: where we we? oh yes, the empty years... this 1973, which began so promisingly in tokyo, has yielded (at time of writing) nothing else to the official discography at all - apart from one more beautiful fragment in december (c/o news from the 70s once again... that really is worth buying if you don't have it already!). where are the quartets? these are the times we would love to hear about, and the concerts we would all love to hear... right? those three numbers on complete 1971, then - what happened? no more quartets.

well, of course i do have at least one...

second session: châteauvallon 1973 (radio broadcast)
date: 22nd, 25th august 1973 (see below)

for further info, please go here:

(thanks again to frédito for getting this out..!)

here we are then, a 1973 anthony braxton quartet with some unexpected names (jfjc and shaw) in addition to wheeler... this has gotta smoke, right? right. this really does kick posterior... indeed the only problem with this, from my current pov, is that the repertoire for the quartet includes all of side one of new york, fall 1974, an album i supposedly don't yet know exists, if you see what i mean... but screw that, i heard that album recently, twice on successive days in fact, i can't exactly unremember it... what i will do for now is avoid talking much about the writing and concentrate more on the performance, the way it takes shape - why is this document so fascinating? because he was already doing these 45-min suites with several different sets of materials linked by transitional passages and (presumably) brief explorations of secondary pieces as well... you know, the stuff he isn't supposed to be doing yet, but here it already is.

actually the french radio broadcast begins with a single three-minute piece from a solo concert on the 22nd - it's introduced as "ruby, my dear" but, er, if it really was that then all i can say is it strays very far from the source... in any case it's a lovely ballad(ish), full of trills and playful mastery... of course it would be nice to have more than one short piece from this performance, but one is better than none at all.

the quartet, as i say, consists mostly of one extended suite. at least three compositions are explored (later on, specifically 23c* and 23b*, but a very different one at the start; there is also a (very) fast line extension some way in, which cannot possibly be "just" a transition), and a great deal of ground is covered... the radio announcer seems suitably awed by it, anyway, and so does the audience. indeed - they always do: so why did the message not get spread?


* * *

the opening theme sounds briefly familiar, annoyingly (though it could well be, i.e. from the last time i heard this..!) - but i can't name it; it begins with b. and wheeler sketching out one of their spare-yet-tensile lines, two voices which work very well together... but not for the first (or last) time the fruit of the faithful sideman's labour is precisely this, that his leader is inspired and therefore takes off at once on a long solo, requiring full steam ahead from the engine room while leaving poor kenny to stand and absorb for several minutes. but what a magisterial solo, on sopranino sax... very early on b. finds some distinctive "falling" phrases that he likes and this discovery launches him (and jenny-clark) right outside, right away. shaw is one of a number of drummers for whom the resulting roiling, squalling tessitura would have been home from home (he fits in quite well throughout... probably doesn't quite distinguish himself as well as wilson the previous year... but we will get another chance to hear shaw, later in the decade...) - the drums push the pace harder and harder, the bass still playing figures at this stage, the reed speaking in tongues of fire - by five minutes in we are GONE (and wheeler is nowhere to be heard), finally by eight minutes the backing dies away, the reed lapses into isolated squeaks... and then just keeps going, unaccompanied, spelling out its impossible song... somehow wheeler is still ready to play after all that (i don't know how these guys do it, but i guess they must be listening intently)... finally there is a shift....

and what sounds like completely new material sees wheeler finally beginning a solo of his own... shaw now switching to vibes in order to get some real weird shit going on while the second bird gets to sing... again, this voice is high-pitched and very lithe and nimble, too quick to catch for sure; but all these peals of sound have brought the monster out of hiding, contrabass squawks and skronks now detonating beneath and behind the brass solo... by 12.15ish they are (sort of) playing together, the two horns trying a theme of sorts, but this leads to a long period of reflection, slow flux and regathering of momentum, a transition-phase while forces are regrouped: 15.45ish, squeaks and drums suggest a new approach and sure enough, the ensuing build-up sees the band at full throttle by 17mins, the sound suffering a little but everyone audible; this is a really high-octane fast line extension, everyone absolutely flat out by 18.30 when suddenly the horns drop out, the momentum is allowed to die off and at 19 mins a lovely swoop on flute immediately triggers the pause which precedes the clear statement of comp. 23c*, the agglutinator, which adds to itself each time its theme is repeated and grows in whole sections...

...surely they must be reading this one, it's just gotta be too hard otherwise, none of them put a foot wrong (although shaw sounds as if he's fudging it after a while) and this despite the ever-lengthening theme (which seems to go on a lot longer than the studio version)... finally a bass solo begins (24.45), but this is a lot hotter and more unpredictable than one of holland's and sure enough, the slapped harmonics attract the attention of the monster once more...what b. can do with this beast is nobody's business, astounding noises he can make with it... they duet for a while, a young warrior and a sea monster, and at length a crescendo of cymbals signals another entropic breakdown and another drift backwards into transition and sleep, dreams... sounds drop in and out... shaw worries the same obsessive, trudging attack... around 30.30 it grinds almost to a halt; then drums indicate the approach of yet another set of materials, and around 31mins we're off to the races with 23b*, the stop-time show-off piece which opens fall '74 so memorably... but here it is going to close the set, it is going to be played even faster than it would in the studio and it is going to last almost fifteen minutes.

- the pace of it - well, all of them love it apparently, everyone just rips into the theme and nails it. as always b. takes first solo and he peaks not once but twice, glorying in the power and drive of the hammering double-engine... a brief bass flurry sets up shaw's solo next, just a fast jazz drum solo really but he keeps up the momentum, and wheeler (as usual) begins with a lot more held back anyway, but quickly works up speed and gets so much flowing that this time one solo isn't enough, he returns for a second just when one is expecting the restatement of the theme - he had such facility, wheeler, and wide imagination... totally happy in free contexts; is he wasted, then? (it seems invidious to suggest it, since those who like his composing seem to like it *a lot*) - when the restatement does arrive, it is so ludicrously fast that at times they are all over the place, but the effect is still terrific... and it duly brings the house down.


centrifuge said...

this was written weeks ago - the thread has been lost long since, so that it scarcely seems to be worth running it... on the other hand i've written the damn thing now...

second part is shorter... oh, and please, before anyone tells mew this is not an album and therefore doesn't count, i refer you back to the exposition:

c x

centrifuge said...

now that i look at this again, i realist that a couple of things are necessary to add at this point... firstly, since the link to huppes & hyalites is long since dead, it'd be worth pointing out that the rhythm section actually consists of jean-francois jenny-clark (can't find the cedilla on this keyboard!) and charles "bobo" shaw... they're not fully named in the article, since i assumed at the time of writing that readers would have clicked the link and seen the line-up; also, the first piece in the group set has long since been identified as comp. 23a.