Tuesday, June 30, 2009

braxtothon phase 4 - state of play

much movement behind the scenes lately, some of which was detailed (elliptically) in my previous post... but in any case, not a lot of time has been found for the appreciation of music, never mind writing about it! the listening sessions for braxtothon phase 4 were wrapped up some time since - it's now just a question of getting round to recording my thoughts on them... and i'm hoping to turn my attention to this pretty soon (some of you may think this all sounds very familiar... and you may be right...). when it arrives, here's a summary of what's left in this current phase of the continuing journey:

session 010 - details part two (dortmund)
session 011a - berlin (quartet)
session 011b - berlin (creative orch.)
thoughts and conclusions regarding the quartet at this point

- the momentum may seem to have been hopelessly lost, but this is for posterity as well, and however long it takes... that's not the important bit ;-)

more to come more to come more to come


lee said...

Sorry to hear there'll be a delay, but I figured I'll throw down some brief thoughts and if/when you see them maybe we can piece together a few threads of conversation.

Been listening to the stretch of '76-'79 (including Montreux/Berlin, Dortmund, Basel, Performance '79, and the bootleg from Eugene '78). In my mind, George Lewis is the key, without a doubt. The recordings without him lack that explosive intellectual force that is Braxton+Lewis. Even the Basel performance with Muhal on piano (love Muhal, but he's no Crispell when it comes to Braxton) don't come close. To this end, Dortmund is practically unsurpassable.

Been fun to listen to the compositional shifts from Comps 6 to Comps 40 to Comps 69. More close listening next week, perhaps more comments then, too.

centrifuge said...

hi lee, thanks for your comment (which i saw the following day... i have still been checking my email regularly). glad to hear you have been immersing yourself in the music!

i sort of agree and disagree about lewis - yes, that partnership yielded an astonishingly high degree of sympathy and mutual encouragement (or whatever we might call it), but it's a common critical laziness to disregard, say, the entire output of the later quartet with ray anderson as being somehow "ignorable", lesser music which is merely marking time until the '85 uk tour; i certainly do NOT endorse this view myself! - nor do i (now) uphold dortmund as being a pinnacle recording, though it has many wonderful moments and at least two outstanding renditions of (pieces from) b's repertoire... you will probably know this already (assuming you have seen my session 010 summary, or indeed several other articles touching on this subject)... in any case i'd be interested to know in what way exactly you find this concert to be unsurpassable, but you may prefer to wait until i've run the second half of the details (?)

- in any case, you do realise that lewis is on the basel date..? again i assume you do, but it's not clear from your comment... i myself have not listened to basel in probably two years, have generally held off listening to any of the 70s albums much, as they are "fast" (ahem) approaching in the braxtothon ;-)

again, it would be interesting to know if you reached any worthwhile conclusions about differences between the four creative ensemble songbooks (the 23 series being the fourth of course) - i myself started out on this track some time ago, on the assumption that it must be possible to trace compositional development... came to the (tentative) conclusion that it probably wasn't - they are certainly great pieces though :)

bye for now, but do keep it coming if the thoughts are there, i will be reading... (and possibly even writing - !)

lee said...

Hey Cent-I'm at work and trying to expand on my thoughts, which will therefore trickle in over the next few days, but I wanted to respond with a couple key notes right away:

Yes, I did recall that Lewis is on the Basel date. I meant that comment in terms of the way you can look at the lineup for Basel and think "holy shit it's Braxton with Lewis with Muhal with Charles Bobo Shaw on the drums!!?!?!?!?!, and expect that it's going to be Dortmund on some whole other level, which, personally, I do not.

Agree w/ you on Ray Anderson. Also, it's funny that people revere Braxton but refer to a whole period of his development as somehow lesser. Sure we'll discuss this more when you move on to Performance 1979. Soon, so soon!

And I should have bolded or underlined or given some big emphasis to "practically" since that's the key part of my opinion on Dortmund. I can tell you it's not my AB desert island disc, and it's not even the AB disc I listen to most.

But there are a few things that set it apart. I think it's largely due to timing, seems like there was a lot at stake that year for Braxton and Lewis both. Out of '76 you get Dortmund, Donaueschingen, Elements, second half of Montreux/Berlin, Ab's duets w/ Muhal, Creative Orchestra Music, even the Roscoe Mitchell duet, plus Lewis has his solo debut and was likely composing for or at least thinking about Shadowgraph. Don't even think I've got it all there, but I suspect this is part of what's special about the performances at Dortmund. It just seems like the time was right for a barn-burner, and that one happened to be it.

Ahhh, got to get back to work! More later!

centrifuge said...

"Soon, so soon"

- well, you know, soonish at any rate ;-) as you can see, i didn't even manage to squeeze out any of those "minor posts" i had planned before the end of july (though that was also down to technical probs at this end)... there's a fair few instalments before i even get to the 1979 disc, too - don't forget i cover all different recordings, not just albums since i was looking for actual development as much as anything else...

... of course, the original intention was never to cover every single entry on my list, and there's plenty of gaps going back, but for a while now i've felt unable to miss anything much out :-S

as for why "people revere Braxton but refer to a whole period of his development as somehow lesser"... i would suggest that they don't really revere him as such, just have him on their list of people it's good to be heard to say you like ;-) always suggests to me that they probably don't listen that closely to ANY music... or indeed think very deeply about anything much... this by no means just applies to the (non-)appreciation of braxton, either... oh, and just to clear up one thing before it might get started, i'm not saying that i would necessarily choose the word "revere" to describe how i feel about b's music myself (not that i don't)..! of course i do take your point, people do indeed talk about him that way... what i'm saying is that as often as not, it's just because they know from long habit that they can score easy cred points for doing so (depressing state of affairs... as you can probably see i try to stay out of it all these days!)

now... yes, 1976 was a huge year. huge for braxton, and big for other guys on that scene: plus of course it was the year lewis hit the scene. imagine being in one of those crowds, especially at one of the euro festivals once they'd all got a few beers down them... and hearing this guy for the first time! you'd hardly be able to talk about anything else for a month. BUT ... well, this is precisely my point, since the conclusion i've inevitably arrived at regarding the quartet gigs is that they're a disappointment - that is, at this stage the creative energy of the actual cutting edge is spectacularly high, and half the band is not able to move at that (energetic) speed. there is one moment towards the end of dortmund where holland is virtually asleep on the job, though i didn't really spot it until relatively recently, i admit - it's not blatant in any insulting way, but - well, i could go on for ages on this topic and some of it is already there on the blog, more of it is yet to come in the proper place. having taken the particular journey i've taken, i now cannot hear the album without wishing there were two different guys at the back. sorry guys, it's nothing personal (not that they will be reading this... but really i'm sure they must both know it as well, the fire had gone out for them at some indefinable time before... more for one than the other, perhaps, but then they really did work as a team in these contexts...)

hope it's all going well at your end lee... get back to me when time permits! your contributions are much appreciated.