Sunday, January 27, 2008

building stacks (1)

(hint: just scroll down to the list if you can't be bothered with the text!)

see, i don't know if anyone was actually reading at the time i posted it but i was thinking of braxton playlists, back in december... the post entitled functional stack deals with the subject, though if anyone wants the full story it actually begins in a comment i'd added to the preceding post (dated dec. 16th) - i don't remember ever discussing this with other jazzers, so maybe the whole playlist/mixtape (etc) thing is a habit more carried over from my rock (etc) listening. but i've always found it helped me a lot, facilitating the matter of zeroing in on particular sounds or styles, penetrating to the essence of something by removing a part of it from its own context and placing it alongside similar holographic fragments, different partial images for consecutive perusal... this would be a way of looking at it now; naturally i was compelled to do it long before i thought of it in quite those terms, indeed i have been doing it for years.

when i first got into jazz i carried on doing it... i did it for others and also for myself. a playlist of mingus. one of monk covers, three of monk. two of dolphy. and so on and so on... the way my collection sprouted last year, sooner or later there was always going to be some serious b-listing - but, as i found out when i first tried to assemble one on the fly, it was tricky stuff. on the one hand i don't tend to encourage my former list-obsessiveness if i can help it - occasionally i allow it limited license but even that can get out of hand - on the other, three of the tracks i decided to use turned out to be three variants of the same "prototype" and would have been better placed on three separate playlists... etc etc. yes, it's easy to get carried away sometimes but if it's worth doing at all... anyway, over the last three nights i have been scratching away at this little project, not devoting too much time or effort to it... but wanting to get it workable, inevitably imperfect.

that left me with three volumes, almost four hours of anthony braxton... not much from the later stuff, simply because the pieces i have tend to get longer and longer; basically it covers the years '68-'84 (with the odd exception). the idea is to enhance my understanding of some of the master's compositional principles, especially, and at the same time to work some of the rep tunes/motifs properly into my ear-memory (so that when i reach the collage phase in the braxtothon i will hope to pick up a lot of the key cross-references). and, you know, to enjoy myself while i'm doing it ;-) despite all this self-important rationalisation, the real reason i do it is to enhance the pleasure of the music.

i did try and balance at least some of the elements. this was mostly pretty obvious:

- three tracks with wheeler on each playlist (many of the pieces from the first few creative ensemble books - i.e. what later became known as the 6 series, 23 series, 40 series - were recorded on albums featuring wheeler so there's a lot more stuff with him herein than there is with, say, lewis)
- several albums yielded three selections, so one on each
- one "pulse prototype" on each (see functional stack post)
- several other tracks built on broken-accent time or with variable tempo, etc - not on same list

this was last night i finished, and i only listened to the first one - but it was a lot more successful than the abortive december experiment which wasn't especially easy on the ear. indeed i ended up listening to the entire thing when i only thought i had twenty minutes or so in me - i was absolutely knackered after a tiring week, but each time a track finished i'd hear the start of the next, perk up and think "oh go on then, just one more"... so yeah it didn't go too badly, though by the end of it my eyes were slits i reckon... still the music held my attention pretty well throughout.

playlist one

1. comp. 23b - studio, 1974 (tr.1)
2. comp. 29a - studio, 1993 (tr.2)
3. comp. 6d - studio, 1968 (tr.2)
4. comp. 40i - studio, 1979 (tr.5)
5. comp. 6a - studio, 1971 (tr.3)
6. comp. 40(o) - live, 1985 (encore)
7. comp. 23f - live, 1974 (tr. 5/1st encore)
8. comp. 51 - live, 1976 (tr.1)
9. "marshmallow" (warne marsh) - studio, 1974 (tr.1)
10. comp. 6c - live, 1976 (tr.3)
11. comp. 40b - studio, 1981 (tr.1)

- "marshmallow" is one of only two covers/standards i chose... in this case it was partly because that's an interesting date, and a recording which i didn't have at the time i reached that date in the braxtothon - and particularly because i don't know marsh very well and this could be very helpful in theory, potentially quite instructive

- the final selection on this list restores comp. 40b to its natural position as a closer; i think i can understand why b. opened that album with it, and besides - he had a new closer lined up for that date, comp. 52 (will have more to say on this album when the braxtothon reaches it, till then i'll only go into more detail on the track if prodded/requested)

- the third selection was responsible for the single biggest shock on that first return to the braxtothon-territory :- taken out of context, and heard through crappy laptop speakers i had trouble recognising the piece from my own description of it, indeed that same description appeared now to be so hysterical as to be utterly useless... but when i actually got back to the piece properly (in the playlist sequence, with 'phones) it was easy enough (phew) to see where i was coming from, albeit i was now hearing it a little differently, with a longer perspective... this was in fact the most problematic inclusion anyway, that is i found it the hardest to sit through in this context

- selection 5 is the "pulse prototype"

- selection 7 is in broken rhythm (terrible sound on this for an official release though... the review of this album is coming very soon, indeed next stop in the braxtothon)

- for more details on selection 2, see detour (1) from last tues

the most obvious imperfection is the presence of two circus marches, both played by quartets with trombones (40i, 6c) - in theory this is precisely the sort of axis along which i would split the material. interesting to compare and contrast, though? maybe, we'll see...

details on vols 2 & 3 to follow in due course... as you can no doubt tell, i could be cajoled/provoked into further discourse on any aspect of this whole obsessive business, or indeed on any of the individual selections listed above... feel free to comment, or mail me (see comments) - meanwhile that's enough verbiage for one day...!

keep the faith/spread the word


centrifuge said...

btw, comp. 6d was only hard to sit through the first time - partly because of the cringe factor, i.e. at my own puppylike enthusiasm (braxtothon day one session one, "way back" in october... almost another life now, in terms of my listening to this guy) - and partly because of the shitty production which murders muhal's piano sound. (it almost becomes one of those painful pleasures... like mal waldron at the five spot with dolphy and little, or monk with prestige). with more realistic expectations, reheard this evening, you'll be relieved to hear the piece was easier to endure..! and the leader just sounds terrific even there, his tone reaching right out of that confined space and grabbing hold of my by the ear...

centrifuge said...

NB - THERE ARE NO MUSIC FILES IN THIS POST - for the time being at any rate. one or two things on it are so totally unavailable that i can't see any conceivable harm in putting them up in (sensible size) mp3 form. but let me think on it... and if you have any food for thought, feed me at the above address or right here...