Monday, March 31, 2008

braxtothon '08: session 001 (take one)

i am a great procras - no, wait, i've done that one. still, it would bear repeating, because even this morning, once i have stretched myself mentally and physically and have assimilated the fact that mine are finally the only (human) ears in the house, it takes me a good while to get down to business... meantime, all manner of dithering, fart-arsing around and general tomfoolery takes place before i finally say to myself: right, i'm ready, let's get on with it then.

even then, downstairs with the reclining braxtothon chair set up and remote in hand, i can see right off that there's going to be shenanigans: it's sunny outside, which means the dogs will want to be sunbathing on a blanket, but it's still bloody nippy... which means i'm buggered if i'm having the door open. up, down, i can see it now... well, this is the day i'm stuck with, them's the breaks etc - luckily, i say to myself, this is an album which i know so well by now that i can absorb the odd distraction or two; indeed in the case of the "set pieces" on the first side, there's really no point in even pretending to listen as if for the first time, forget it, it's impossible... (in hindsight: "impossible", so i don't even try. there - that's how easy it is to be lazy about it. not good...)

just a reminder, then, of where my conclusions have reached by this point, regarding this side one: the short programme comprises two creative jazz compositions (a fast bebop number, partly in stop-time; and a modern ballad, in a style designed to recall ornette coleman's classic quartet - itself the obvious blueprint for the braxton quartet in this period), the two separated by an interlude, a musical whimsy in which a six-note descending and ascending phrase begins a series of repetition structures, the sequence being additive so that each repetition finds a new section added to the theme, each new development being (of course) unpredictable; this agglutination also becomes more protracted and more complex, so that each cycle is appreciably longer than its predecessor. can i get away with calling this a jazz composition at all? well... yes, in that it's following a tradition of game/puzzle pieces within that group of idioms (such as waldron's "thirteen", from the quest with dolphy and booker ervin - or any number of brubeck pieces) - on the other hand this is not open-ended, designed not as a vehicle for improvisation but specifically as a link piece, a palate-cleanser between courses. this is true both for the listener and for the players, who for once just have to keep their minds on the written line, otherwise can take a little creative breather, in all probability... finally, the piece has been trimmed down for this studio "posterity" version - a live version from 1973 was longer, i'm pretty sure of it.

oh yeah and finally finally - gotta stop thinking it's altschul on the drum stool!! dunno where he was, but this beloved quartet album (it's not really that anyway, of course) was not made by that beloved quartet... jerome cooper (himself the dedicatee of a braxton piece) is on drums. one thing b. did not starve for, and we can all be thankful for this, was good drummers.

that's it, that's basically the last of what i've been carrying around with me up to this point... now, at long last, are we rolling? action.

* * *

session 001: new york, fall 1974
date: 27th september '74 (main session)
- 16th october '74 (duo session)

so i sit down and reach my ears out towards the music - and as is usually the case when i hear the beginning of (the studio) comp. 23b*, i find myself surprised all over again at how weak the sound is on my rip, this being the very first impression (each time it's as if i forgot, then it's brought home to me again straight away): let's remember for starters that this album, tailor-made for vinyl, has in fact never been available on cd - ? (what, not even in japan? that's extraordinary)... the copy which found its way in through the back door at c#9 was a slightly rough-round-the-edges mp3 compression, presumably ripped by mcclintic sphere from his own vinyl - but how old was the vinyl, how well loved; how many owners, miles on the clock? the sound is a little muffled and distant, and the mp3 compression will also compromise the percussion tracks in particular - BUT... lo and behold, by the time i'm settled in the chair, the miracle has occurred - my ears have accommodated, adjusted for the various "deficiencies" of the recording source, i am just hearing the music. (funny how little effort this actually takes, if one gives freely of oneself to begin with - one little investment of faith, repaid so immediately and so bountifully!)

"freed" (in my overcautious mind) from trying to hear the piece as if for the first time, i have decided on just drifting with it and seeing how long it takes for something to happen which will seize all my attention and jerk the pen to life in my hand... the answer - and i bet most people would not have seen this one coming - is the end of the stop-time salvos, and the beginning of the accompanied section of the theme, because right from the gun good old dave holland is tearing the place up, sounding at once like the ideal bassist for the piece (easy at speed, endless stamina, no need to play diatonic patterns as such... i can tend to forget that holland had been in & out of miles's band long since, having been talent-spotted in the first place... the way things turned out is far more influential on my thinking these days, as we all know). still, the theme itself somehow passes in a bit of a blur (this is the consequence of lazy, pre-selective decision making), albeit a blur which engages my "dancey bits" in the chair... i was distracted there by a thought of how this time, they really nailed the tricky theme, however many takes that took - and then we're back where it always seems we belong, an alto saxophone solo from mr anthony braxton, holland really flying now.

first new thought: the gear-shifts in braxton's solos are close to perfected now - if they weren't before! each tiny element of the solo has its own logic and its own place within the larger structure - there's not time for me to think that right then, i just write gear shifts really, because as well as variation in attack, dynamics, tonguing, breathing, etc etc for each separate "cell" or outgrowth, each one above all has its own rhythm - and with a bassist and drummer as tight and as loose as these two, and at this tempo, that rhythm is infinitely flexible, can be broken down and reconstructed in any number of ways. this aspect of the playing sounds so easily controlled now that it strikes me with startling clarity within seconds of the solo commencing. at the same time, the beauty of the man's tone when he chooses to sing... hooks right into the centre of my ear and won't let me go. above all, unifying all phrases, cells or whatever they are is the extraordinary confidence and authority which the man now exhibits in his playing. related to this: b's habit, common to very many jazz musicians, of quoting (himself and others) is becoming extremely precise, very thoroughly thought-out also.

my attention is hijacked at 3.25 ish by a sort of sucking attack, producing a very strained (partial) tone, highly effective used where it is in the solo, a climax of sorts but not what one might expect! still, it is near the end as it turns out: wheeler is on before 4 mins on the clock, the leader's opening statement (or transmission from source, more like it) kept to a shorter length this time than has sometimes been the case previously; wheeler, unhurried as he usually is, takes off in a manner quite linear, yet still totally unfettered, this man who apparently surprised himself by discovering a love of flying free - perhaps, though, he is satisfied to do relatively little with his freedom... i tend to hear less variation in wheeler's solos than the leader's (but since i switched my head from jazz to free jazz i hear trumpets and pianos less clearly than reeds and bass and drums, less even than trombone... so it could be just me). still, the more relaxed style of the soloist gives us a chance to check out cooper in close-up, flashing away back there, whipping the pace along - this piece flagged at moers festival, no chance of that here, the momentum never slackens...

... until, in fact, cooper himself is given the floor, at which point his solo quickly turns out to be a rather disappointing series of patterns and exercises, a routine jazz drum solo rather than something freer... suddenly we're in danger of losing the whole thing, but luckily the band are too on the ball to let that happen, and just as it comes close to crisis point, holland kicks in again and the theme is being cued up for the restatement. again, they pull this off superbly: not just the restatement but the coda, absent in '73, toured through europe this year: after the final stop-time ascending run, the two horns will commence a series of such runs, varying from time to time, dropping down, going back up, according to a pattern too complex surely to memorise, yet they both (more or less) follow each other - and here is one crucial detail regarding more or less: this series of stop-time arpeggios (or whatever they are) is not especially difficult for a player of a keyed reed instrument, but must surely be a major pain for a player of valve brass! and sure enough wheeler fudges it left, right and centre but it doesn't matter. this is free jazz. he tries his best - and sometimes pulls off a superb one, simply ripping the notes out in one stream, other times barely able to hit two notes cleanly - but the effect is not diminished.

just as one is starting to wonder if it'll ever finish... it does.

phew... not the most concise of starts. luckily the "pre-selection" combines with canine distractions to limit my notes on the second piece (comp. 23c*) practically to nothing - only that the leader's flute is used to evoke playfulness, not frailty for a change; that's it... not that this is anything to be proud of, but it will help us get a bit nearer the end of the side..! for a while i follow untroubled, the music so pretty and so delightful in its surprises and twists, i can never remember quite where it's going and in any case repetition is not an excuse, here, for mere rote playing... every attack must be real, still. but by halfway through, my attention is totally shot and that's all there is to it - before i know it, the pause comes which heralds the most gorgeous ballad which never caught on... and i'm suddenly right back with the music.

again, mercifully, the number of things that grab my attention here is fairly small: freed from the need to summarise comp. 23d* beyond what i've said above, i just listen to it and glory in its thoughtful beauty - this a complex quality perfectly miniaturised in one entry of the leader, back on alto for this jazz number: at around 0.30 he plays just a few notes, a little "extra" breath in there too which creates somehow the most spellbinding sound, all beauty with no hint of sentimentality, and gone before one can fully grasp it - gone into the wonderful "falling" cadences which are written into the theme, a carefree part of a careworn tune, both qualities reflecting the various ways in which ornette led by example and set free those who might hear... those falling steps are picked up again by the leader in his solo, which itself is slower than usual, more inclined to lament and reflect than to burn and twist; whether this change of intensity lulls holland and cooper into somnolence, who knows, but for a moment at the changeover to wheeler (before 3.30), the bass and drums are not really doing anything, just sort of hanging in "jazz space" - but within 30 secs it's rescued, cooper finding a double-sticked, "staggered echo" effect which adds the element of unpredictability which was temporarily missing.

there's a bass solo then... which my notes have discreetly omitted altogether, but the truth is that to my ears at least, nothing really happens in it. holland winds round and round, demonstrating nothing more than the skills we already know he has in abundance. (or is just me? it could always be just me.)

as with the first piece, so again, the restatement puts all thought of a disappointing solo out of my mind, this time not with virtuoso skill and brio, so much as with pure beauty (that word again)... and with that knowing, sidelong glance which now generates an entire aside, in the form of a snaking series of phrases which make their way slowly down, repeat, then - the icing on the cake - give way to the unison squeal (6.37ish) which starts off the nod to "hat and beard", thrown in as a last surprise and over by 6.45, the piece now fading to a close, the first predictable moment of the entire side, but in a good and satisfying way!

- a natural set closer or last encore, how this piece never caught on better is beyond me... no it's not: the failure of this (really quite accessible) album to sell bucketloads tells us all we need to know about the music business, the listening public and the jazz establishment... let's move on before suicidal depression takes hold.

* * *

side two basically has nothing to do with jazz at all - this is where b. really stretches out, sheds any limitations applied (like sets of shackles) by terms such as jazz and just expresses his individual mind as a composer. as a result, the pieces have far more depth to them and do not end, with the end of the performance; each one carries implications way beyond its own running time, establishes a whole dimension of territories which might yet be explored by brave souls.

so the second, freer programme opens with comp. 38a*, a duet for clarinet and analog synth, the performance here being the first of many duo explorations with another non-identical twin, richard teitelbaum... and the piece opens with what seems to be some sort of alarm call, on a space station somewhere, by the sound of it - within a few moments we are aware that we are deep, deep in the void somewhere, out in the realms beyond, where few have ventured except the mighty visionary sun ra: yes, in deep, yawning darkness, where sporadic flashes of light reveal partial glimpses of a huge and alien machine... hovering about, suspended in the dark before this vast and incomprehensible structure is a spotlight, a beam which traces the most vibrant and flowing arabesques on the canopy of the dark, shapes which hang in the air and then fade, shapes entirely unrelated to the enormity behind and beneath but which somehow seem to belong naturally in the same space. the tracer beam of light is warm and draws a pleasingly fat stroke, yet is capable of delicacy and finesse also; the flashes of illumination from behind seem at first random, as unreadable as lightning, yet as the two voices continue to share the space, the level of communication between the two seems to deepen so clearly that the flashes themselves are revealed as the expressions of a living mind, albeit one of a nature alien to our human understanding... yet the human and the machine mind continue to talk...

... by 2.45 in the piece a development both unexpected and inevitable occurs, that of synchronicity, both voices seeming to become one for a few brief moments before shifting back out of phase [this is an extraordinary moment which sounds as if it must surely be an effect applied to the clarinet itself, rather than a line keyed in real time on the synth - but who knows; the effect is remarkable at any rate]. again, the sudden activity around the five-min mark is unexpected and quite exciting - soon enough, the alarm call is heard again (perhaps the timer on an oxygen supply, dictating now a return to the safety of his ship for the owner of the light beam)... and this conversation, which might have gone on indefinitely, is over.

back to earth a minute, b's mixing up of very fast and sloooooow attacks demonstrates once more his advanced mastery of the reed family. and those shapes in the dark are very evocative :)

- next up, after a brief shake/wipe of the slate, is comp. 37*, for four saxophones; indeed, it's specified "for saxophone quartet", and of course the three collaborators b. has chosen for this will, we know now, take to this set-up so well that they go on soon enough to form the world saxophone quartet (a while later, with the addition of a young gun named david murray, not yet on the scene) in order to explore the format in a great deal of breadth and depth. for now, they are three like minds in that they are serious students and masters of reed instruments, dedicated to the exploration of sound - and close listening to this piece is to prove slightly maddening, though i eventually get over that!

maddening, because at first - the piece begins with one voice (braxton) and others enter one by one (as with the multitracked comp. 22*, three and a half years previous to this) - i am sucked into the trap of trying to work out who plays what at any one time, and since i haven't checked the discog beforehand for clarification, i keep changing my mind about that - soon enough i force myself to try and forget this, just listen to the music! well, ok - we're in another experimental space, an open territory for exploration - except that some, at any rate, of the individual utterances are prescribed; yet here is the apparent paradox, so germane to the later musics and at the same time, perfectly reflected even at this formative stage: alhough the limits are closely defined and the requirements demanding of the players, the freedom set aside for individual expression is almost total. the players are encouraged, even required to bring themselves to the music. needless to add, they all converse within it, too.

within a couple of minutes of this remarkable reed summit, i'm distracted back towards picking out the four voices - but this time there's less confusion: for a start, hamiett bluiett is of course filling out the bottom end, as would be normal for him later; and the very reason i'm being pulled back into hearing the separate voices is because i am constantly being made aware of two master scientists, two doctors subtilis who know (already) manifold ways to split hairs with a reed - and these, inevitably, are braxton and julius hemphill. bluiett and oliver lake are on a similar level of technical excellence, but two of these voices are really doing unique things and two of them aren't.

bluiett, nevertheless, listens very closely to the leader and even, at one point, picks up a phrase from him and tosses it right back; essentially, this is a nurturing space, a territory which facilitates (and rewards) trying one's hardest... by several minutes in, everyone is so thoroughly warmed up and so well established within the space that when a unison passage begins, it seems quite natural that the four voices retain their unique characters even while playing written notes. and look what else occurs: as a steady, nagging line is maintained, sound attacks start up to offset it, and the last few minutes of this piece, in their very carefully contained "bottled tensions", not only leap ahead to the collage structures, they leap even further to gtm surely - is this, right here, the first gtm prototype? it could be, couldn't it - so it's tempting to go ahead and plant that flag, but you know what? chances are there have been others already, i just didn't recognise them... so let's forget it. still, this piece really looks to the future; with hindsight, that's clear in various ways, none of which could never have been foreseen at the time.

- so, that leaves just one piece to address, and where does it belong? i've been happy to cut this album neatly in half, and designate this an outer exploration rather than a formal set-piece; and in terms of the performance as such, i'm satisfied with that. as for the map itself, the composition: who knows? history has classified it as comp. 23a*, belonging in the same series (short compositions for creative ensemble, second book, 1971-4) as the three pieces on the first side; and in essence, maybe it is just another simple idea-given-form, like them (* see comments)... BUT: again, one of the key factors about this man, seemingly so ordered and regimented, is unpredictability, and the beauty of the open-ended composition is that even those which are straightforward in principle may contain spaces for total freedom - and in any given instance, that freedom might entail the dissolution of the known universe - sorry, what was that? message from beyond there, i didn't catch it...

back to the matter in hand then - i love this piece, especially this version of it (* comments again)... i mean love it. and in this instance you can forget about naive listening for certain, because months ago now, listening to it intently as it began, i was instantly transported to a battered and disreputable old tavern, near a harbour somewhere (down a back alley, no doubt): a rough part of town, and on a rough old night, but everyone snug and drunk within the weather-beaten walls as the seaside storms do their worst outside; as the walls shake, the old seadogs do too, swaying together as they rattle out an old shanty, a catchy number about a night when things got really hairy, out in the middle of god only knows where, how they escaped with their lives is a total mystery... yet here they are to tell the tale, embellished as always... this image, fully-formed as if clipped from a movie, appeared before my inner eye within a few seconds of the piece beginning, on that occasion some weeks or months ago... oh yes, and it sort of goes without saying that all this is taking place in a harbour on mars, or neptune maybe, somewhere with boiling red sunsets and stormy seas much like earth can provide, but where the ship herself can join in the drunken singing.

'cos the contrabass clarinet does double duty here: in the first half, it plays the part of one of the voyagers, holding down the bottom end of the monophonic line (a temporary obsession from this time - more examples coming up iminently) as two sailors (muted trumpet, violin) add the human fragility at the top end, this while the story is set up - and then ... and then what? the written section finishes, the free space opens up and a miracle occurs at once: suddenly we are out there with them, lost in the fog and feeling the bellowing breath of a monster somewhere very close, seeing nothing else for guidance but for the occasional flash of muted light as an oar catches water... danger is so close... yet is it really danger? was it really going to catch us and eat us? somehow by the end of the ordeal, the monster has communicated its friendliness... can't help its shape, its size... maybe that wasn't the ship after all, maybe it was the monster singing, having long since joined the crew... in any case, by 4 mins the crew is pulling together again, seeing the way out and rowing confidently away... the monster is still there though, so it really can't have been that scary after all. night, fog, tricks of the light... one thing this piece really helps to achieve is the de-monsterisation of the contrabass clarinet!

again... back to earth for a sec! - leroy jenkins, the wild card on this piece, third voice in the monophonic line, does some incredible stuff here... he produces creaks and groans which irresistibly recreate masts and rigging, adds just one more voice, and one which never threatens to dominate or overwhelm the ensemble, but which totally changes the nature of the group (from the basic quartet). in the abstract soundfield that is the second half of this amazing piece, everyone plays their part admirably, but jenkins is just a magician. and so, of course, is the leader: the super-high-pitched "dog whistle" effect towards the very end can only be him, and he hasn't switched instrument... which means he's somehow talking to bats on a horn the size of a house.

the ending of this piece shocks me every time, cos it just suddenly seems to have been yanked away - and i don't know if it's a fault of the rip, or what... but that's it, that at last is the end of this shibboleth of an album...

... and i stagger away.

(grading? really? look, hyperbole aside, nothing is possible other than CCCC... this is a really, really good album whichever way you look at it. also, it's so neatly divided up, so much to offer to any open-minded listener, and such a good place to start - so, is it the best? what i said before still holds for me, that the more utilitarian nature of the side one material lowers the level of the album as a whole - how can it stand alongside the later edifices? it can't... but it's still really good. and yes, listening closely at last i found moments where the momentum flags, two in particular which i see no need to mention again, and it's still really good. any braxton fan who hasn't heard this, can only enjoy it - new converts could not start anywhere better. what else could we ask, at this stage?)


centrifuge said...

re: 23a... and different renditions thereof -

this is the only official version. however, the tune will have been played live all round the european festival circuit, i can guess..? there's at least one live recording of it: at the time huppes & hyalites posted the chateauvallon '73 gig (superb, if you haven't already got it), no reader was able to identify the opener... which just goes to show, perhaps, how much n.y. fall '74 really is an album of two distinct halves: because of course when i went back and checked, the opener turned out to be 23a. it is voiced very differently, braxton on one of his higher horns and, iirc, taking the higher of the two lines while wheeler plays the lower on open, not muted brass (i dug it out recently - that bit of the story will eventually follow in a week one roundup, in due course... if anyone's interested!) - but it's clearly the same tune, the same piece. back then it was also used far more straightforwardly as a short piece for creative ensemble, and specifically as a vehicle for the leader's opening solo - which on this occasion was a marathon, multiple-minute-munching motherfucker of a sopranino excursion (which sheds accompanists along its way and concludes solo). there is then a change of primary material (after a typical transitional period during which the listener hovers in limbo, the players possibly doing the same), but i didn't get that one... didn't listen to the whole set on this occasion... again, details follow (eventually)...

serviceton said...

centrifuge, disappointed to hear the rip of a favorite title (it sounds like it *is* a favorite?) might be a bit average or otherwise questionable.
So I did a rip of my copy for you, in case it turns out to be an upgrade.
The pressing is a little noisy, but really not too bad at all..
These are mp3s @320, as I gather from 'reading around' that you're not a flac-fan.
Though if you had these in FLAC, you could edit the surface noise, generally tweeze the sound, make 'em beautiful... ok, I'll stop. ;o)
Just by way of thanks for this darned braxtothon thing - like (I'm sure) many others, I peek in from time to time, wonder if I can say anything constructive, then leave again..
[i did make some notes on 'for alto' and if you're REALLY PUSHED for (rather ill-informed] comment.......]

the whole thing is *just a little bit* crazy of course...
"What - a guy listens to his record collection, then writes about it - in public?"
"WHAT? It's JUST ONE ARTIST from the guy's collection he's on about !?!!!"
Can you think of a better use for a blog though?
Ha! Maybe not eh? !

So - it's a funny kind of 'work' you do here - but thanks for all your work!

New York, Fall 1974 - MP3 @320Kbps


centrifuge said...

serviceton, thanks for your comments. (feel free to leave your thoughts on for alto in the relevant place, if you wish - i will read them.) thanks also for taking the trouble to rip and upload your own copy of the album; i'm downloading it now, shan't listen to it just yet though.

i'm going to refrain from re-entering the whole "sound quality" debate at this stage. i have enough claims on my time and attention right now, and don't want to invite the hijacking of the blog by the outraged protestations of audiophiles ;-)

serviceton said...

"the outraged protestations of audiophiles"
Far from it, from this quarter - just "peace 'n stuff" ...
It may well be that my LP rip is no better or worse than the one you have, in which case - well, gosh damn.

Frédito said...

Amazing blog, captivating and... special. And if it wasn't enough, what is already an extensive and detailed analysis finds further developments in the comment section... Leaves me mouth open.
Now if I want to say something consistant, I'll have to listen to 23a, with interest kindled (attisé ?, not sure) by the two winds' particular aspect.

Thanks Centrifuge

Jason Guthartz said...

"Though if you had these in FLAC, you could edit the surface noise, generally tweeze the sound, make 'em beautiful... "

don't bother - it looks like the fine folks at Mosaic Records are about to release a "beautiful" box set of (most of) the Arista material:

I may have more details to share in the coming days.

ubu xxiii said...

Some record company of course should reissue all the Aristas on CD. What kind of pressure group eventually squeezed a few Joe Harriott CDs out of the giants?
I've owned the LP for years, & will add something once I've relistened. cent's run-thru is for me like seeing a map of somewhere really familiar.

King Kennytone said...

\ |¬\` ___ ^-


marvellous work again old chap >
always a pleasure to read.

... it is snowing
so i am going out
I might be gone for some time


ubu xxiii said...

What can I add, cent, even after re-listening? Well, on the sax quartet piece it says Lake plays tenor, Hemphill alto, Braxton sopranino. It's a valauable meeting of BAG & AACM (the 1st?) & that 'modulated alarm' material crops up a few times in Europe later (Brötzmann, Johansson etc.)
Much of the album is what might be called a paradigm of future musical developments, not all Braxton's (WSQ as in the mentioned track- Braxton rarely played in this format later, apart from the album with Rova & 1 or 2 GTM moments), the interest in composition for its own sake as on track 2, side 1 (23C) which is actually more tricky & mutable in rhythm than a lot of typical jazz composition, the duos with synthesizer, of which the example here is a brilliant miniature.
23 D (track 3, side 1) may arguably be the closest to straight ahead jazz language, but even here there's a passage of double time in the theme (instead of in the solos, a piece of factitious excitement Braxton has never to my knowledge used).
23A (side 2, track 3) has probably taken on more added dimensions of meaning for me over the years. The combination of timbres, contrabass clarinet, muted trumpet, violin & bowed bass heard at the beginning has to be unique. By the time of GTM Braxton has of course become 1 of the great masters of this, rivalling Ellington, Abrams & Mingus. But the opening material is not repeated at the end; the rest of the piece sounds like improvised counterpoint. Wheeler (his finest hours with Braxton) is the link here, or non-link really, since Braxton regrettably never played with SME, despite getting close to what detractors called 'insect music'.
You'll no doubt be covering '5 pieces 1975' anon; I won't say much about it now, except that I regard it as just as remarkable in its own way as this album.
Since I'm listening on vinyl I'm afraid I can't give time references, short of using a stopwatch.
keep up the good work

centrifuge said...

thanks everyone for your comments. i will get back to individuals one a time but first: jason, thanks for passing that on, very interesting news - ! and let's hope it leads to at least some of the material remaining in print when the mosaic edition is sold out... yes, please keep us informed if you get the chance, i know you're a busy man :)

centrifuge said...

kk, it was cold enough for snow here but only delivered an overnight sprinkling, gone by 10am... hope you returned safe from your foragings ...@@@...

fredito, t'es tres gentil - now, there will be yet more to say about 23a..! i now feel that i succeeded in relistening to it, as opposed to passing on my accumulated impressions of past listenings (which is basically what you get in the main article) - and it's partly to do with the new rip, but mainly because of the "ears of familiarity" effect... anyway, see below...

(if the image is that of a fire, you're more fanning it than kindling it at that stage (attiser...!))

centrifuge said...

serviceton, i didn't mean you necessarily. why - do you consider yourself an audiophile? :)

no, but these conversations tend to get quite nasty quite quickly in my experience. and i can be fairly single-minded myself, shall we say, though i try not to get that way so much in here...

so i listened to your rip this evening (most of it, not all of it so far). first off i started right at the beginning, of course, and my frist impression was that the sound quality is basically the same, that is to say, that with two copies available for comparsion i was now thinking that the subdued reaction, to something so bright and uptempo musically, was more to do with the actual sound captured than the transfer from analogue. (it wasn't my first reaction when i initially heard the album -thought it sounded great then, but it's always been subdued coming back to it, and especially listening to it on the pod recently.) there is also the usual vinyl stuff, needle noise etc which is pretty much inevitable. but on the other hand your side two begins less abruptly than mcc's, and - crucially - ends less abruptly too! it's only longer by a s econd or two, but listening to 23a recently, i've been left dangling each time, not quite allowed to have "closure" with the piece - ! so what i did, i listened to side two first in the end...

... and it may be a little better, overall, or then again it may simply be that in hearing the new version without the old attachments, i opened myself up again and heard with another level of understanding... 37 is dauntingly dense, the duet is also, but really, the quartet piece has so much music in it that one could zoom in on any short excerpt and write a small essay on it. i may have been a bit harsh on lake and bluiett before. lake in particular, let me be a bit clearer as to my views, such as they are: when he was on form (i say was, i'm happy to take others' word for it that his best days are kinda behind him, based on the recent things i *have* heard) he really hits the spot for me, but he can easily settle down into a lower gear, perhaps... i don't see him as a scientist like braxton or hemphill though, it's true. primarily a very hot, fiery voice when he was inspired, he always had tremendous confidence in his tone, and excellent technical facility but was his ever a questing voice in the same way as (those of) the two masterminds? not sure, but don't think so really... his fiery stuff is great though, scalding even, similar to zorn at his hottest (keep sticking up for zorn the sax player! it counteracts the negative graffiti coming from other sources... )

23a was re-experienced fully, all over again, and the *unity* of the piece really struck me this time, rather than the differences between the two halves... anyway, i shall address that in response to ubu below, and again in a recap post..!

back to the sound quality thing - there may be a slight improvement, i'm not sure to be honest and in case you hadn't gathered, the whole thing isn't really much of an issue for me! - but the subdued reaction - well, i went back to side one afterwards, and i think maybe it's more just the fact that at the start, one doesn't hear braxton clearly - i mean hear clearly that it's HIM. it's not a natural vehicle for his own voice, ironically - though of course it showcases his dexterity, etc, is still a bold opener. once, into the solo, that's another matter, instantly bewitching (once you've been bitten - some people don't hear it, we know). wheeler plays fine on it, especially at the start (the coda is almost a thousand-dollar challenge to a brass player i reckon!)

anyway... thanks again, your rip is worthwhile simply for the fact that your side two is complete, my beloved side two ***gush***

incidentally there is a playing fault at 8.09 on the first track..! stylus gets caught, though it corrects itself..?

nothing human is going to be perfect :)) it could be greatly improved with audacity i'm sure, i'll have a go.

centrifuge said...

ubu man, i've gone on quite a bit already and since you arrived last with your involved offering, i shall have to get back to you tomorrow :) it was very thought-provoking as always, thanks for taking the time to do that (i know i'm an extreme case, but it always reassures me a little to know i'm not entirely alone! ha!)

centrifuge said...

serviceton, quickly, i tried to correct the fault but gave up - apparently in correcting itself, the stylus jumped ahead so cutting out the "dead bits" means losing the pulse as well. it's really only a minor thing anyway of course..! i get used to such things very quickly.

more to follow on 23a - below, and also in a forthcoming "session 001 take three" (ridiculous but true..!)

centrifuge said...

ubu, hi... now, where were we? :)

alto tenor etc ... well, yeah, those two really... yes, i checked the discog later of course (in & out of there on a more or less daily basis for months now) but it's not necessarily helpful, esp. at the start of the piece when all horns are playing in the upper registers. it's got a lot to do with what i'm always saying about brax in his earlier days: that he makes everything sound so much like *him* no longer really matters what an instrument was called before he picked it up...

alto and tenor in this instance - case in point, i was listening yesterday morning to a tape which i remembered to dig out, lee konitz and warne marsh in '59. the two voices were so distinct, so very different in so many ways, even before hearing what they had to say for themselves: konitz bright, sharp and clear; marsh breathy, woolly (the image that came to mind). competely different sound - but could i have identified their instruments in a bf test? i'd've said two altos i think. in some of the unisons the respective ranges became clearer, but in solos marsh tended to remain near the top of his range and although his light-yet-complex sound has obvious predecessors such as lester young (and doubtless west coast guys etc) it was weird to think "this is a tenor sax" while he was playing.

BAG meets AACM, yeah... can't remember where bluiett came up. the sonsummate life pro, albeit one who sounds as if he got his first black belt when he was about eleven or twelve...

23c... yes, composition for its own sake, indeed. it has nothing to do with jazz at all does it, you're right. it's just a link-piece for the set programme, creative jazz music for small group - but the link itself is outside the idiom, just a caprice really. and a delightful one, too.

23a is actually, i realise now, the *product* of the two different approaches when merged - i.e. outer exploration of small group set piece. the opening material *is* revisited, but it's not by way of a restatement as such. there will be more to say about this in the near future because i feel that only now am i getting close to understanding the meaning of the piece, i.e. that version in that context... meantime, one thing which may surprise you: there is no arco bass, at least not at the beginning where only three voices sound the monophonic line - holland's first entry (pizz.) is at 0.33, when he enters at a point within the stereo image which remained "dark" until then... ALL that bottom end is the monster of all monsters {{{**@**}}}

five/1975 is of course up next on the blog... not sure then whether you'll like my piece or not! i knew you had that one down as a favourite anyway... well, i can see why but overall - hang on, you'll see soon enough! more to say about wheeler in a roundup piece coming next fortnight(ish)

thanks again... do keep it coming!

c x

Jason Guthartz said...

UPDATE: Mosaic's box set will include all the Arista/Freedom recordings (incl. 4 Orchestras & 2 Pianos), on 10 CDs; not sure about the existence/inclusion of any unissued material.

centrifuge said...

jason, thanks again for the update. the idea of unreleased material is of course so tantalising... that i'm just not going to think about it, don't want to end up disappointed..! if there *is* any, it'll be a huge bonus i guess...

Jason Guthartz said...

CORRECTION: The Mosaic box will be 8 CDs.