Thursday, August 5, 2010

update/65th birthday celebrations

well, let's start with the 65th birthday bash... i've been so out of touch lately that i didn't know about this beforehand - knew nothing about it until a month later, in fact - and i'm actually kinda glad that i didn't, since i couldn't have afforded to go anyway... but reading about it after the fact still makes me wish i had been there. don't the good vibes just leap off the page?

- i have to thank mcclintic sphere (again) for tipping me off about this (the event generally and that webpage in particular)... by now, with my posting having slowed down as much as it has, i have to assume that even fewer people are checking in here than they were before, and that most of those who have peeped in here over the last month won't have seen mcc's comment on this year's birthday post: hence my saying a word or two about the music now. if you haven't already done so, be sure to check out those streams!

what we've got there: out of the various performances which (apparently) took place over two nights of richly-deserved celebration, the site has made available for streaming the three which feature the maestro himself. these, in turn, rather neatly sum up some of b's most important, most rewarding projects - at least, out of those on which he himself has played. (i would not want to suggest that, say, the piano music or the opera cycle are not important or rewarding.) that said, there's nothing here with george lewis... but still, one gtm piece, one mini-set from the great quartet (although, see below for what that actually entailed), and one short duet with arguably b's longest-standing collaborator; these between them comprise a powerful "brief history". (only those who crave standards, or who perversely insist on the superiority of the 70s recordings, will be disappointed here.)

the first stream features an expanded 12+2tet tackling a third species gtm territory (*1); it's short, around twenty minutes, but very successful and (almost inevitably) filled with activity and excitement. less than half the usual length for such an undertaking, it does miss some of what we've come to expect - not much time for impromptu readings of pieces from the (now vast) songbook(s), and no particular fireworks from the leader, but it's still well worth a listen. actually, the collective's ability to distil its potentials into small spaces is even better exemplified by the fabulous four-minute encore.

the second is - well, it is talked up on the webpage as a reunion for b's classic eighties quartet, and indeed it was, just about: but the version of "impressions" highlighted on that page is actually the only part of the 33-minute set to feature the hornman. the first three quarters of it were played by only three quarters of the band... this is hardly much of an objection, though, since those three players are of such stratospherically high calibre. the set - which for me was rather dominated by mark dresser's massive bass sound and presence - was not (of course) an improvisation, as the webpage gives it; when did this band ever play fully improvised sets..? no, it's rather a semi-collage set: "semi-" because there doesn't seem to be a lot of mix-and-match going on, though in terms of their interaction and group identity, the trio sounds as if it never disbanded. i can't currently put an opus number to the first piece played, though it's very distinctive and must presumably have been part of the book for the '85 tour (doubtless in a year or so i'll be able to name it right away...); this is followed by the first of two repetition structures, comp. 40(o) - which crispell especially seems to enjoy playing (*2); then a short drum solo; a second repetition structure, this time the additive series comp. 23c, and finally of course the cover, the aforementioned coltrane standard "impressions" which our man obviously loves, since he has played it many times over the years (though usually solo; it's actually highly unusual for a set like this to feature another composer's piece, but hey, this was a special occasion).

finally, there is a rivetting, highly-charged improvisation between b. and richard teitelbaum, which for me is probably the pick of the three - just fantastic, and here, at last, the maestro unleashes some of his very best extended techniques and most ferocious playing.

basically, you can't go far wrong with these short sets - really (for me) the only thing missing is an actual solo performance as such... and it might have been nice to hear the quartet play an entire set... but our man was the guest and honoree on this occasion, and perhaps he didn't want to play too long at his own party. in any case, the music presented is more than good enough. enjoy :)


now, the update... with the last braxtothon phase four session finally done and dusted (goddamn), there is only one article left to post before i move on to the next phase, and a new methodology with it (making more use of the composition notes, for a start... not that i will ever be a "proper" musicologist of course... until further notice you will not find any notation or "correct" musical analysis here). that one remaining article is of course the "quartet autopsy" as promised, and it's getting ready to be birthed as i write... no, really... this one should be up within the next couple of weeks, barring any unforeseen disasters; let's face it, it's long overdue. anyone who's still reading... stick around, there is more on the way!

* see comments


centrifuge said...

1. the website lists this as being comp. 361... perhaps it is. i am nowhere near the stage yet where i could confidently tell the difference between most of the gtm pieces! on the other hand, i am pretty sure i have got a recording of comp. 361 somewhere... some concert or other from the last few years..? (on the OTHER other hand, i was never sure about the opus numbers given on some of these audience boots anyway. where do they get their info? are they just guessing?? cos sometimes i think they are... wasn't comp. 358 supposed to be the "last" gtm piece?)

2. during my brief correspondence with pianist alexander hawkins earlier this year, i learned that comp. 40(o) is a favourite of his, and (iirc) crispell's recorded versions of it are a large part of what got him into the piece in the first place.

centrifuge said...

just in case anyone *is* reading at the moment... there is some music on the way very soon. yes, actual music files to download! not often i post those here, but... anyway, first up will be those same short sets from the 65th birthday concert. mcclintic sphere recorded them for me and i've split them into parts - they're coming imminently. i've also got a very good 2000 vintage gtm set, acquired from another blog, which i've cleaned up a bit (edited out a lot of unnecessary gaps). that one will be along a little later in the month.

incidentally, once i really got down to it, it wasn't very hard to put a number to that opening piece from the crispell-dresser-hemingway set... hint: willisau disc 4. details will follow when i post the rip.