Monday, September 20, 2010

quick newsflash

the blog was contacted over the weekend by the renowned and acclaimed vibraphonist - and sometime braxton collaborator - bobby naughton, advertising the new (online) release of a trio recording of b's comp. 23j. the piece, which dates from 1985, features randy kaye on drums and another important braxton sideman, joe fonda, on bass. (naughton played with the creative orchestra in 1978 and afterwards, and continued his involvement with b's music at least until 1988; fonda's own association with b. was almost a decade in the future at this point, but he would eventually become bassist of choice for five years during the 90s, playing in a wide variety of contexts including duets, a quartet playing standards, and the first recorded gtm compositions.)

naughton's interpretation of the piece is rather more sedate in pace and mood than the dortmund version, and seems to be concerned with exploring the ways in which b's tonalities open up complex dissonances when voiced by the vibes. the recording can be downloaded from naughton's website (as linked above). support active musicians!


don't forget: in case anyone missed them, august's posts include a couple of articles which contain links to concert recordings. regular readers will know that i don't post music files very often... get 'em while they're hot :)

state of the braxtothon address

so... here i am again.

believe me, there were times last year when i began to think i would never get here, when the thread seemed irretrievably lost... but with a change of focus at the beginning of this year and some patient work, i managed to squeeze out the four remaining phase 4 entries without too much procrastination. (a quick glance at the list of posts for 2010 will show that i didn't get a lot else done, at least in terms of writing... but hey, you can't have everything. the main thing is that i got the core work back on track..!)

in the event, the close of phase four overlapped with the opening of phase five. with the quartet autopsy nearly finished, i found myself with enough free time to do the listening session for the roscoe mitchell album duets with anthony braxton (long since earmarked as the beginning of phase five), and for the follow-up duet which appears on mitchell's nonaah. (these astounding recordings will take some time to write up.) with this done, i still had to complete the article i was working on, and - miracle of miracles - i got that done the following evening. hence, braxtothon volume two is now officially underway.

as i've mentioned before, this next phase will be characterised by more research into the composition notes. i don't plan to consult many other sources, however, and this is not just a matter of arrogance (though there is probably an element of that): the whole point of this undertaking is to document my responses to the music, my journey through b's career, and i don't want to get distracted by reading too many other opinions. another reason is that i remain (alas) a piss-poor scholar and have only so much time and attention to devote to what has long since become a pretty demanding project; it would take me too long to work through lots of reviews and articles, and that would take time away from the writing. and besides... again, it's not the first time i've said this: i am firmly of the opinion that many (most) professional critics have never seriously attempted to understand b's music on its own terms, so i have pretty limited faith/interest in what they have to say about it. [of course there are exceptions to this gross generalisation, and i'm not just thinking of graham lock and mike heffley - both of whom b. himself considers to possess genuine insight into his music; art lange and stuart broomer both seem to me to have made the necessary effort to get inside the music, and anything they have to say is therefore worth reading. i am doubtless leaving some names out here, and no disrespect is intended: i don't read widely and have probably missed some very good stuff. on the other hand, there are a few well-regarded critics (and i'm not about to name names) who don't get the music at all as far as i'm concerned, who seem content to treat b. as a "jazz eccentric" and write about him accordingly, making much use of platitudes and preconceptions... well, if one is a professional reviewer there can only be so much time one can spend on any given recording, i suppose - but that isn't actually an excuse for turning out summaries which sound good (to the uninitiated) but don't stand up to close scrutiny.]

- but the composition notes are another matter. since i began this project almost three years ago, i have followed the development of b's groups and (to an extent) his own playing, as well as that of his collaborators; but although my familiarity with some of the material has increased, i'm not convinced that my understanding of b's composing has really grown much. partly this is due to my own lack of formal tuition; and partly it's because i haven't yet found the time to take advantage of the composer's own thoughts on the subject. having been sent b's complete writings back in 2008, i panicked a bit when i received them, balking at the idea of getting to grips with such a detailed (and lengthy!) body of work. at the time, remember, i was fast approaching parenthood and knew that i could not really afford to devote myself completely to something which would necessarily dominate my time and attention. so, i put the notes pretty much to one side, to be dealt with as and when. (an attempt, the following year, to get stuck into the tri-axium writings proved sadly abortive: again, i just didn't have the time to engage properly with the material, which is extremely dense and by no means easy to read - that's not a criticism: philosophy is not supposed to be easy to read.) anyway, i feel now that the time has come: if i am to get any further with learning about the composer's ideas, aims and methods, i have to go right to the source. what i am able to learn from this deeper research, you will soon enough be able to judge for yourselves.


something else i am trying to do now is relisten to some of the material i've already covered in the braxtothon. when i first started, i was very reluctant to do this, for two reasons. first, i wanted to use the time available to move forward, as quickly as i could (just as wood must move rapidly in one direction and not look back, lest it revert to water); second, i was afraid that in relistening, i might end up completely overturning my original impressions and have to start all over again. to an extent, this tunnel-vision approach was discontinued after the end of phase two, when i began assembling playlists (and indeed these jumped forwards as well as back, since in some cases i was using tracks from albums which i had not yet covered). but i didn't relisten to whole albums, and i missed out some pieces which were too long to use; so some compositions just got forgotten, and i wasn't able to recognise these when they cropped up again. when i hear live recordings, it's very rare for me to be able to identify all the pieces played; in the case of solo concerts, this is extraordinarily difficult anyway, but performances by the working group(s) are far less problematic since they mainly tend to incorporate pieces from the four creative ensemble books. (true of the 70s groups, fairly true also during the 80s - from the mid-90s onwards, the focus is mainly on gtm of course.) several times i have found myself hearing something naggingly familiar which i couldn't place... in relistening now to some of the earlier recordings, i am hoping to be able to fill in more gaps in live track-listings. (i have already realised that comp. 6n crops up once or twice, post-1972; the town hall concert version has a five-minute buildup to the main theme, which i did not remember afterwards... i'll know it next time i hear it!)

so... that's where i'm at. please bear with me for the next instalment of the core work: more research has to be done before i even start writing it. but in the meantime, i shall continue trying to post more often than once or twice a month, and occasionally i will even be writing about other composers... next up, all being well, is an update to my john carter article from november 2008.

thanks for listening :)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

*** braxtothon master-list, part two ***

with braxtothon phase four now finally complete, it seems a good time to provide a second index*, detailing all the phase three/four articles. newer readers may not be aware that certain recordings have been covered, and even older readers may have difficulty finding them (this being a drawback of the blog format, and doubtless not helped by my own approach to naming the posts - shit, even i have trouble sometimes in finding a particular article..!)

now, just to clarify one little thing: the second wave of braxtothon posts began in march 2008, and these were (naturally enough) listed as braxtothon '08, to distinguish them from the original clutch of sessions (all of which took place in october 2007, though some of the articles were posted rather later). as the 2008 summer wore on, an awful paralysis seemed to overtake me, preventing me from writing up some of the later sessions; i was also expecting the birth of my daughter, and although that could have spurred me on (to make use of my time while i still had it), in practice it just didn't work out that way. and then, in october of that year, my daughter was actually born and of course that was that, as far as free time went - ! heading into 2009, it didn't bother me that i was still posting articles billed as braxtothon '08 (as evidenced by a post from march of that year, talking about phase 3a and 3b - this is not linked below since i didn't follow through on it anyway); but then something else happened midway through last year, and the core work got put completely on hold (indeed my attention got pushed away from music altogether for the most part). hence, i didn't get back to the project until earlier this year, and at that point it finally seemed ludicrous to be talking about 2008 when it was actually 2010. (in some ways i still feel as if i'm stuck in that summer two years ago, watching my precious time elapse day by day, yet powerless to make proper use of it; but then my daughter's imminent second birthday reminds me that time has in fact moved on!) hence, the posts from this year were listed as braxtothon phase four. in retrospect, it is easy enough to determine where phase three ended... anyway, below are links to the articles which make up the second half of (what i recently decided was) braxtothon volume one. confused? nah... :)

braxtothon phase three:


session 001 preamble

session 001, take one: new york, fall 1974

session 001, take two

session 001, take three

session 002: comp. 23e (news from the 70s)

session 003
: five pieces 1975

conclusions so far

how week one happened
(- an experiment that was not repeated)

1976 introduction

session 005
: creative orchestra music 1976

session 006
: comp. 6f (wildflowers)/elements of surprise

extra session: the '76 "special quintet"

session 007
: duets 1976 (w/abrams)

: time zones/company 2


session 008: donaueschingen (duo) 1976

session 009: graz '76 (bootleg - NB music files are long dead)

braxtothon phase four:

fill-in: bremen, 1975 (bootleg)

session 004
: montreux (out-of-sequence)

session 010, context: dortmund

session 010, details (1): quartet (dortmund) 1976

session 010, details (2)
: more dortmund

session 011a
: berlin (quartets)

session 011b
: berlin (creative orch.)

final conclusions on volume one

there was also this:

gap filling, part two: (first byg album)
(- fills a hole in phase one, but was written rather later)


the next post will (probably!) be the introduction to volume two, the first session of phase five having already taken place... stay tuned...

* the first index can be found here, not that it's needed so much since the same list is now in the blog sidebar... the phase three and four links will appear there in due course (thanks again to mcclintic sphere, in advance!)