Wednesday, December 21, 2011

state of play



... as we draw towards the end of another year - one which, if many predictions (and indeed current signs) are reliable, may turn out to be the last complete year of life-as-we-know-it on this troubled and generally underappreciated proving ground of ours... the planet, that is - i just thought the time had come to look back a bit and keep the blog up to speed with my thinking and current activity. after all... this week was "supposed" to see me get that duet monkey off my back once and for all (*1) while the free time remained to me - i have finally decided to take a different, full-time job, since a rare opportunity (round here) had cropped up, which means i am freed at last from the sentence of menial servitude which i had "accidentally" called down upon myself five and a half years ago, just around the same time we moved into this current house, in fact... now bear with me here, i am aware that i don't generally blather on about my private life that much in this corner of the blogosphere (or any corner of it, these days) - but the fact of the matter is that a year which opened with what i thought was the discovery of "where it had all been going wrong" (only to decide again afterwards that my discovery hadn't made any discernible difference) actually is finishing now with genuine, clear, deep and (presumably) lasting change not so much on the horizon as right up close, all around me and everyone in my household.

this is good, this is good... don't worry too much if you struggled to make it through that para btw: the last period of my life has above all been characterised by the feeling of being trapped in a swamp, thrashing around this way and that but never much closer to the sight of an exit, and my ludicrous employment situation (which i don't propose to detail here in any case) has summed that up. well, finally the end is right here, and 3rd jan 2012 will see me begin an entirely new phase of my life... one which has, indeed, been set up layer by layer during the past year (the january "revelations" being important after all; i just hadn't understood how to make proper use of them... so often the way!), but which has been distilling drop by drop in the alembic the whole time, so to speak, with this very blog being the evidence of it as much as anything is... when i look back in that regard, even my becoming a parent seems to be a less significant existential shift than my embarking into the blogosphere and (finally/properly) opening my ears in 2006...initially, as a wide-eyed acolyte of (what was then) the new church of course...

... but this latest shift brings about another (minor - but... ) change in my weekly existence, concerning the one detail of my employed life which i have mentioned here and there in the 'sphere, namely the fact that my working week begins with monday morning off, at home and all by myself with the hounds... furthermore the afternoon of the same day has been the only time mrs c and i got to spend together without the tiny tyranny, so as you can doubtless, etc etc, this is not so very little to be tossing away after all, as if it were just a sweet wrapper... my last ever (...) monday morning, as things have worked out, just came and went this week, and like i said above the plan (ha!) was to read over the notes, preferably the night before (ha!!), listen one final time just to keep it all fresh in the ear memory, and write it up however-long-it-took... well needless to say in the end none of this transpired, and not for the first time recently when given the chance to stretch out and inhabit the house truly in my own time, i surprised myself at slow that desired pace turns out to be... extreme yin to counteract the otherwise self-whipped extreme yang of the gathering intellect... not actually any great surprise when it's articulated like this, you understand, but then it's only sinking in properly as i type it... live from the coalface indeed... (or at the mirror, with perhaps a razor in my hand...) - in any case, though i never did what i intended at all, i had a fantastic time on "final monday" in the end, both portions of it, and the morning did indeed see plenty of braxton... first time i have really used the new (replacement) mp3 player to do any close-up listening as i pootled around... i have thus far put it greatly to use, as much to get the new battery broken in as anything else, but with mainly rock and metal and the odd bit of, say, bobby previte or john zorn... this has not left me empty or unsated, far from it actually (*2) - yet apparently many invisible boxes were still unticked, 'cos when i eventually strapped myself in for the pittsburgh (friendly) experience, it felt as if numerous parts of my system for which i have as yet no names were are at last receiving desperately-craved nourishment... i say in all seriousness... or rather i repeat (as i so often do...(*3)) - man, that was a great hour or so, fucking right on is all i can say... some of it flickered back to me from months ago, most of it was as new of course... such astounding conceptual/structural depth to the music/s that one could never (surely) revisit precisely the same experience as one listens, not over the course... anyway, that in turn led on to a set from the '93 quartet and by the end of the morning i felt older but in a younger body/mind/system, which can only be a very good thing i suspect :))

that's about it for now really - kitchen to do before mrs c and the pink princess return (my bonus prize was a last wednesday, when i would normally be working - haha, gotta do sat instead of course, only four hrs though... easy enough to smile through it now that i'm finally leaving!) - oh yeah the braxtothon - as you can see - has not exactly left the station altogether, even though parts of it have evidently been in motion for months and months now... but it really doesn't matter - from another perspective it's already written... and soon enough it actually will be ;-)

happy seasonal stuff everybody

cent x


* see comments

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

braxtothon redux: you *can* go back


this wasn't the first time i'd revisited town hall: trio and quintet. but, as it happens, this was the first revisit to the actual quintet, as such; i've been back to the trio numbers before. (great stuff. i digress...) it's taken me this long to play comp. 6p (*1) again, for whatever reason (not much time, large quantities of music... obvious enough reasons really).

it struck me how much my hearing has improved (through diligent practice repeated over time = gongfu or kung fu) since those early braxtothon days. and yes, that was phase two but it was still very early, i was very much yet in the flush of enthusiasm which propelled me head-first into the free music blogosphere to begin with, and which had been renewed by (my intitial involvement with) this very project... at the time i remember being struck by how little (b's guest reedman/fellow aacm-member) john stubblefield was utilised on this long piece, and this time round i quickly came to the conclusion that i simply can't have discerned some of the guest's contributions. well, that applies to the earlier parts of the first section, at any rate... this time round i had no trouble hearing two horns all over the place, plus jeanne lee (to whom the piece is of course dedicated, as well as having been written specifically for her - unique occurrence in braxton canon..? *2) after a while too, ghosting her way ever so gently in before any sort of big deal is made of it - no "heyyy! here's the big star", not that we would expect it... it's still worth saying it.

anyway, yeah, i remember the session now... interruptions, compromised listening environment, dog #3 (rip) - always the jumpiest of a high-strung bunch - would not settle, etc etc. and yet i went ahead and drew a whole load of conclusions about the success of a complex work without first allowing for my own failure to comprehend it... yes, that's interesting..! i have not re-read that piece for a long time, and now i do, i am not happy with it at all... well, just goes to show how hard some old habits really do die, because until ten minutes ago i'd have doubted whether i ever ran a piece as blatantly compromised as that one on this website :-(

anyway... like i say, very interesting - yes, my ears have grown a bit sharper but i had trouble in using them properly at all last time out, four years ago and some, and allowed that to pass for a sessionette when it really was nothing of the sort. which is why you have something that reads like a rejected, magazine-demanded thumbs-down, halfway penned and more, in the head, before the actual listening takes place. (not quite, in my case, but i still ran with some questionable conclusions without bothering to recheck or moderate them - this is not, in any case, a mistake which i would make now... i think..!) - so it's very interesting because never mind the extra detail in terms of the two new players, the piece itself sounded great to me this time out, hugely "liveable" and deeply involving space, if one allows it to be, which i evidently failed to do last time. (ahem. mea cupola, etc *3) - OH YES AND specifically, when i said before (i'd completely forgotten this) that "for the life of me i can't see what she contributes to this, and again, this is no disrespect to her but the voice seems to add nothing to the music", i didn't know what i was talking about (temporarily, haha) and really had no right at that time to be asserting so boldly something which i couldn't necessarily back up. like i say, this time i loved the piece even though i still wasn't giving it my full and undivided, pottering about etc etc, it filled the house this time, made me feel a whole lot better and more refreshed, and i certainly did enjoy everyone's contributions, even if it remains the case that mr stubblefield was basically retained as a player of prescribed parts; i am happy to say that i have changed my mind about this piece. and the "quintet"? well, no, it isn't anything like a jazz quintet or whatever, not really, but a) is that what i meant, before? and b) is it important? no, to the latter... and the former, i can't quite recall but the programme did feature (a duo,) a trio and a quintet, straightforward enough, and perhaps the whole purpose of constructing one ad hoc on top of the core trio from a free jazz group - in order to play creative composition - was to show how versatile his trio really was, how responsive to different demands and situations... ok, and in the end i gravitate back towards forgiving myself a little after all, since i know by now that things did not quite work out like that... know being a heavy insistence on poetic license in this instance ;-)

i'm also aware this time of the effect that ms lee, onstage, might have without necessarily even opening her mouth - of course this is not going to translate well to the album, but still, it might pertain to the reasons why b. wrote the piece (doubly) for her... i would do the knee-jerk thing of instantly upgrading the album to a CCCC rating, but i'm not gonna do that just yet, after all i still haven't studied the piece up close at all, and it's long, looong and episodic, phasic, cyclic. magical... to be explored again, and again. i still don't agree with the guy at free the music (as to its being the best album *4) - i don't see the need for "best album" in this case (or many others), and even if i did, i'd have iridium at the top before i started thinking about any sort of top twenty, to be whittled down slowly... etc etc... one masterpiece!, indeed, out of a discography so vast and extensive and... and multifaceted, that's the crux of it after all... but still, i definitely see that i underrated it last time and shockingly failed to pick up my own inadequacies as a reporter. sorry folks. done.

oh yes, and that "b-theme" late on in the piece sounds to me like another potential solo transcription, not a theme as such, but it's still extremely impressive too hear how lee negotiates it even at that speed, i.e. effortlessly, it would seem.

***

brief thoughts on a revisited complete '71, disc one:

1. 6k (which i know reasonably well) is delightful and although it was clearly written with corea in mind, it would've sounded great with crispell too. did it get revived? any ideas?

2. 6j (which i have never fully replayed) is a long one, long and complex and multipartite, and i really wasn't paying any sort of attention not on this occasion. so i have nothing to say about it..!

3. 6a... heh, to think that this was such a "curve ball" on the session, beyond my capacity to classify correctly at the time, couldn't even follow it clearly at first. i mean, why? but then i have heard and heard it, since then, in any number of different versions, this being for years a core canon piece in live contexts. but none are necessarily better than this one, which i've heard the most times also... it was playlisted of course, back in the day (that database long since corrupted alas)

4. i deliberately backed off a discreet distance this time from the mighty comp. 22 - fireworks and all - remembering how emotionally rending it can be if lived bar-by-bar - which i managed in the session and vividly recall even now... much of it still came through, and some of the later sections still sounded very violent and traumatic even without the "ear-lenses" on... man, it's weird now to hear b. playing soprano as such, they were getting that one wrong for years to come on album sleeves (and many of my references to soprano playing in early braxtothon entries will be accordingly incorrect i would guess), but in this case it really is soprano sax, only four times, as specified. now... hmmm, could we not get this piece replayed with some other guys before it's all too late../ messrs. parker and coxhill spring to mind of course... perhaps mr rothenberg... if none of the other south chicago alumni... perhaps one version without and one entirely with those guys? let's not forget, the pages can be arranged in any order so it would never sound the same twice... c'mon, let's see if we can't get something like that off the ground... extraordinary possibilities in this extremely beautiful piece, and with enough focussed attention the spectre of steve lacy would surely bless and attend {{{***}}}

* see comments

Monday, November 21, 2011

warmup/gap-filling #3


[shock horror, i still haven't got round to the final listen-through which will eventually (we trust) trigger the write-up of the collective impressions resulting from my various musings on the mitchell duets with a.b. album... erm... anyway, in the way of things i have continued my recent (re-)explorations of metal's mine(field)s, but have also lately branched out again to include more creative/improvised music... having taken so long to get round to (the braxtothon-omitted) trio and duet, as mentioned briefly recently, i have now "spun" it three times. (other recent plays have included hook, drift and shuffle by parker/guy/lytton with george lewis, and this brings us to, vol.2 by threadgill/zooid... hmmm, that last group is apparently playing the london jazz festival this year, but unfortunately i shan't be able to go... dammit) - anyway, since once again i have found myself having difficulty posting/focussing/keeping my attention on creative music, i thought i would jot down a few half-formed impressions and conclusions about b's 1974 release, in the hope that it might spur me on a bit...]

trio and duet seems an oddly (un)balanced album, with one long original on the first side and three standards on the second; such a combination would be very unlikely now, but back in the mid-seventies it doubtless made a lot of sense for b. to showcase two very different sides to his music on one album. but if it might, in principle, now seem to a cynic that it was somehow just chucked together, i don't think this is likely to have been the case at all: not at that time, and besides not on sackville, no way. here b. is reminding the world that yes, among other things he does regard himself as a successor to the great (set of) tradition(s) known sometimes by the vulgar label-of-convenience jazz.

...  comp. 36 is just beautiful. i have studiously avoided referring to the composition notes for this piece as of yet, noting only (via restructures) that the piece was one of three such for instruments plus synthesiser, all dating from that year, and that it was intended specifically for live performance... which in turn confirms more or less what i felt on first hearing the album, namely that it has cropped up at least once, probably more in live sets which i've heard in the past. (for some reason, pieces from the four small ensemble books are psychologically easier to identify than others, i find this anyway... of course they are the ones which crop up again and again (well... more in some cases than others admittedly), though this is no longer true by the time the collage stuff gets going of course... anyway, obviously the musicians who have played the stuff would recognise it straight away: quite apart from anything else, there is usually a "hook" or melodic tag which identifies most of these blueprints early on, irrespective of how far they diverge from the more-travelled path later, and i can often spot" these in listening without... necessarily being able to give a correct identification. many of the hooks (keys... musical spells... they act as hooks on my attention, that's for damn sure) are maddeningly similar but then, that again is another way in which the music announces itself as b's.

i digress... for a change... i've heard the piece before, not necessarily with synth though (this in itself gives pause for thought). with teitelbaum on the case here, it's just spectacularly beautiful, the results captured in gorgeous (seriously) loving detail by the engineer(s) in such a way that a spectral and spellbinding clarity occurs, within which sounds can only be perfect, as they are; the eye experiences this on certain damp, misty days when one out walking is surprised to see that although visibility is greatly reduced in the distance, up close (and even some way off) everything seems sharpened and magnified, presented for viewing in radiant, lucid detail; the group space created here in the studio by these three players (teitelbaum and the leader joined by leo smith of course) achieves a similar effect for me, - but (of course) in the ear, allowed for these moments to live what is normally reserved for the eye :)

smith fluffs a couple of his early entries, tough notes to nail as "instant" attacks, just popping out of the air like that at awkward intervals... yes, not one but two scrape their feet on the way out, but this sort of thing never did matter so much (at all) in free music, where the freedom is above all spiritual, artistic... here it no more grates than did kenny w. missing out the odd battlement-section of comp. 23b - especially at the da capo... it's not important, and the sound space absorbs and reflects imperfections in their perfect state... as with everything else. by this stage, braxton and smith are both clear (apparently) on how they can work together fruitfully, because the brassman makes a magical contribution to this number, gets right inside the material and is fully involved in exploring its possibilities. those early days when he and jenkins were squeezed into b's groups... that wasn't really gonna work out, but under different circumstances, what could go wrong...

... as for the other two, what occurs here between synth and clarinets is hypnotic and ethereal and generally spookily magnificent, just as the pair would realise again in new york just over a week later... for a while in the middle, the synthman gets to play all alone, and boy does he ever tear things up, expanding the possibilities yet-still further; this eventually bleeds back into the third section, in which a sort of voice-swapping seems to take place, with instruments mimicking other sounds at times (this has struck me more than once on this track, i don't know how planned it was, of course) - a clarinet sounds somehow like a guitar here, a trumpet like a sax there, images shift and merge, magic takes place...

what happens on the flip side (and it still really makes sense to think of this album as a vinyl entity) doesn't witness any actual magic of course, but in truth it's still very good stuff, lively readings of three hoary old standards, b. gradually pushing his course farther and farther off-piste (though whether or not this is how it actually happened... my info on this album does not extend to "take" numbers off the master!), so that by the time we reach track three (or four, on a cd!) "you go to my head", b. is paying only tangential lip-service to the theme and allowing himself maximum freedom, occasionally skating gracefully back towards the imaginary line which represents the "score" and paraphrasing for a second or three before propelling himself away again. this is also, not coincidentally i think, the place to catch holland at his best: earlier in the side i had found myself bored by (yet another) lifeless d.h. bass solo, but his solo on the final cut is full of energetic spark and really quite creative in the final analysis... elsewhere on the side he plays tastefully (of course) and without missing a beat, but -  

but... from this 21st-century writer's perspective, the stark contrast in density and conceptual/sonic richness between the two sides is truly salient and (surely) emblematic of where the composer's priorities lay, and lie. (it is arguably also true that holland's eventual use-by date is prefigured here, but i'm not about to press the point.) side one is just a lot more interesting than side two... and this is not surprising, since b's dreaming eye conceived it, and uses it to thaumaturgical ends. as always with these gap-fillers, listening was backgroundish so no rating, but this one is well recommended.

Monday, November 14, 2011

broadcasting to you live (ish) from the coalface


hello... erm, slight hold-up with the other thing due today (...) - but in the meantime, just caught up with what a friend of mine (and the blog's) came up with by way of swift response to my plea for fresh live materials from the boot-sphere... frédito has kindly provided a good compression from a lossless recording on dime, this being the world premiere (i believe) of the syntactical ghost trance choir


that gets me hot and i'm not ashamed to say it :)


i mean hey, we all know what problems i've had with vocal music(s) in the past... i've lectured enough poor souls over the years... or whatever... this is something very very clean and uncontaminated to my ears, just actual vocal ritual magic, or ritual vocal magic... take yr pick... so good i had to play it twice in the event, indeed listening to it again right now and dog #2 (only survivor of the three-dog pack which witnessed the early braxtothon sessions (and even participated in some)... for 18 months now he has been accompanied by dog #4, a young "sister") is joining in - tho this has more to do with demands for supper than anything else, nevertheless his piercing staccato attacks fit naturally into the complex group space (perfectly captured, despite supposed limitations of recording etc etc... yadda yadda) - as anything would, within this nurturing space... 

... and the really reassuring, nay exciting thing about all this is that although this recording, this concert, was and is a postcard direct from the coalface, the actual oft-discussed-seldom-encountered cutting edge at work, hard at work - yet making it sound as play... it is just one such coalface being worked at the moment - i mean right now, as it were - in a phase which begins  - sorry, continues - to see skewed and unfamiliar framings of (what we hope by now are becoming) familiar scenes and aural/conceptual territories. check it out check it out check it out i say :-D


mo'later (is the idea)
,  c 
x

 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

some omissions...


damn, i knew i'd forgotten something. (and then i didn't get round to posting about it for another week or so anyway. but then... i'd missed the boat already of course.)

i only found out very late (from thb) and couldn't possibly have attended anyway, but there was recently a major event - esp. in these aforementioned times of no live braxton {{{arrggghhh}}} - , to wit:- energies, ideas, intuitions... a smallish-but-perfectly-formed braxfest. i haven't heard anything about it since, being totally out of touch with fan forums etc for music generally (and indeed for anything else really... i'm not a networker, in case that is not already crashingly obvious - !); i really really hope it went well and was a positive and intense (series of) experience(s) for all involved - as well as relatively stress-free for those such as thb, who were getting stuck in at the sharp end of the organising. (i have great respect for non-exploitative organisers since i myself am so disorganised. ahem).

the line-up for this thang was/is mouth-watering enough - and introduces what to me is an entirely new term, since the first concert began with "pine top aerial music" to be played by the maestro with thb, former giant-ensemble quadrant leader matt bauder on further reeds and vocalist anne rhodes (she of this collaboration, one which i have not yet heard actually), with two dancers by the look of it. no, i don't know what sort of music that is... yet! the final part of that first night, after a solo piano recital (comp. 30), was an eyebrow-raising brax-plus-quartet, the latter all female, something i suspect mr b. has been trying to set up for a while (knowing his long-expressed fervent wish to get women more involved not just in creative music but in all aspects of human life); actually my eyebrow was more raised at the name ingrid laubrock, a german-born, british-based (well... used to be at any rate!) saxophonist who was quite heavily plugged by jazz on 3 a few years back. i wouldn't really have expected to see her cropping up in such illustrious company... well, good for her, and again, hope it all went swimmingly :))

- and dcw on night two, followed by the tri-centric orchestra... a gtm "syntactical choir" plus star-studded echo echo mirror house music on night three (the latter being a term i've seen around a bit, but i've never encountered the music for real)... and two acts from trillium j on the final night. yeah, i'm repeating this cos i don't think that link will last long, but also cos... well, it bears repeating. now, of course, if anything knows anything about recordings from any of these concerts... you know whom to call right? :-D

***

once again i seem to have found myself in a rock phase - after scarcely listening to anything for a month or two, i eased myself back in with a real variety of stuff, but re-established contact with an old friend has seen me delving back into metal for an intense spell (brought to an abrupt close when i knackered my mp3 player. me and technology, honestly). then again, i did finally the other day get round to hearing trio and duet which i had never owned and - having found a rip online weeks ago - was only just getting round to playing at all. and... it was extremely enjoyable! all of those early albums are gonna need to be covered as gap-fillers one of these days. all i shall say in the meantime is that i recognise comp. 36, have defintiely heard it before in live recordings without knowing what it was... it may well be the missing number from the "mystery concert". haven't actually sat down to do a comparison yet. what an interesting piece, though... side two of the album was the duet part of course, three standards with holland, and although that naturally piques my interest less, it was highly enjoyable and intelligent entertainment.

***

i did mail mr leo feigin a while ago regarding the peculiarities in the recording of comp. 126, which have been mentioned in these parts once or twice. not received a reply yet though... not sure i'm gonna get one.

***

practically all of the (not many) files i had up with rapidshare have been wiped. this includes the 65th birthday files which had been up for well over a year, unmolested (no longer) as well as the more recent braxton/parker mp3 files. ok, so... i'll try and put them all back up somewhere that allows multiple-choice downloads: might mean popups unfortunately, but r-share have become a total pain in the arse about killing uploaded files... what you gonna do. assume for the time being that all links are dead; i'll advise when this situation changes.

***

braxtothon phase five will continue shortly(ish) with the details from session 5.01 - !

Saturday, October 8, 2011

if it's quarter past october...


... and the third anniversary of a major change in my life has just been and gone... then this blog must have turned four during the last week. happy birthday to you, happy birthday... etc :)

 yep, as before i do find myself wondering at times why i am still plugging away at this - but not so often these days. i've answered that question before: i do it for the benefit of the tiny minority who may be interested here and now, as well as for posterity, for the composer himself... and for me. that's ultimately the point, because i would very probably continue with this even if i knew for certain that no-one ever read it: i feel better for doing it, and tend to feel worse about myself during the periods when it gets neglected. alors, on continue... there will be more on the way, regardless of who is or isn't around to see it..!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

braxtothon vol.2/5.01: background "history"


that is: history ('fin voilà quoi, merci m. derrida)

ok, so... after all this mulling and distilling, plenty of time to reflect deeply and all that... here's how it breaks down:

mr lewis never exactly spells anything out, and heaven forbid the spectre of QT be invoked - oops - (*1) but in ch.7 of his magnum opus he nonetheless wishes us to understand that competitiveness, or the implied threat of competitiveness, was an issue for the aacm when things really got underway (*2). in purely metaphysical terms - or indeed totally pragmatic ones - this is hardly surprising since a large number of alpha genius-level creators had swum upstream and arrived in one small co-operative pool, each with his /(occasionally/potentially) her own ideas about everything: harmony, structure, composition, tonality, instrumental technique and historical interpretation, strategies of self-promotion, the works. that doesn't leave a lot of elbow room at those meetings... everyone better wise up and look sharp, constantly on, the reason above all why the use of psychonautic triskaidekamania (*3) was strictly off the menu on any and all such occasions - iirc muhal chuckled when recalling that little detail (NO DRUGS) in his interview with hank shteamer - not meaning "who the hell would wanna do that?" but rather "haha, no, i've been there once or twice and that way of life wasn't gonna cut it..." - these guys had not arrived at the small pool just to indulge in a pissing contest, they had the team for the job because they knew precisely how goddamn high the odds were stacked against them, and hard work was an absolute basic requirement for involvement - a curious enthusiast would be offered plenty of chances to realise he was in way over his head, nor would it take long...

NOW - that's the basic environmental context, but there is another matter again, focussing in a level closer on the perceived competition between messrs braxton and mitchell, supposedly an open secret among music connoisseurs, or collectors at least... which presumably includes critics too... tongues might be persuaded to wag after a generous single malt or brandy, who knows... scene gossip... whatever... it's widely "known" or at least taken for granted (apparently) in some circles.

the context within which it emerges in a power... regards the question (slightly vexed as it turnes out) of "who got there first" when it came to the aacm in europe - "history" once again told us all that the art ensemble blazed the first trail, and braxton and co came next. right? well, that's not quite the version which unfolds in lewis, it has to be said... the art ensemble did indeed make the journey first (well... sort of *4), but they didn't necessarily come up with the original idea. in their interviews with lewis for his book, b. and leroy jenkins both say that their unit with leo smith was the first to be talking about, hey, let's move to paris and see how that goes; and b. continues: they mentioned this at a meeting and got shot down by the art ensemble especially - "aw man, you guys are thinking about going to europe? we need you here." (*5) before you know it, the aeoc is off to paris and it's already a done deal. see you later fellows... and that in turn, by b's own admission, spurred the others on to get their asses over there regardless, b. himself first, and not wasting any time. (priceless anecdote in one of b's interviews about the look on joseph jarman's face when he subsequently ran into braxton near montparnasse.)

- ok, so we've already established that the south side of chicago is crawling with weapons-grade talent by this time (1969), and within that basic framework, the two outfits thrust out into the hinterlands to scout and build roads are basically the art ensemble and braxton/smith/jenkins... taking the aacm to europe then becomes a specific concern, and a race is begun which the art ensemble win, if only by rather underhand tactics... ok, so we can see how all this could lead to a bit of bad blood (at worst) or serious rivalry at any rate (jenkins himself was clear at least in his own mind about this, as i've said before). but then, for b. at least, paris just never really worked out that well and like miles before him, he was called back (very short version of story) to work while the art ensemble carried all before them with a show so up-front exotic that the french could pigeonhole it and rapture over it simultaneously; few would have concentrated on the quiet one (mitchell) who kept to himself, little or no make-up... one might not necessarily notice him much at all, never mind identify him correctly as another super-intellect like braxton and therefore potentially threatening to french artistic hegemony in this field of serious music: when b. announced himself as a composer not a jazz musician, remember (lock and elsewhere), he reckons he was more or less told to go back to swinging in his tree; in paris it was jazz or nothing for his type, and the love affair was stillborn effectively. mitchell... well, he went about it all a bit differently, only very gradually declaring his interest in "serious composition" (though of course this is precisely how the aacm saw all their musical endeavours, and rightly so) - this difference in approach is in turn emblematic of a more fundamental distinction, as we shall see.


even the rivalries between the two bands - which are all perfectly understandable really, there would more or less have to be some unresolved ego issues (at what was still a very early stage) - is a bit of a red herring when we're really concerned with the relationship between mitchell and braxton specifically. now, b. is several years younger and for a while during his formative years, as he acknowledges later (to lock) he learns more from mitchell than vice versa. when he gets into the army (already mentioned this also), b. works with joe stephenson who compliments him on his incredible appetite for work - joe can only remember one student who was equally driven about his own music, a cat named roscoe mitchell... back in chicago, the latter gets the first record date out, and as a leader to boot; braxton is again slightly behind, and it's a sideman credit first time out (though since the leader is muhal, this is almost a special exception); but b. is quick to catch up and, in any case, within a year or two he has dropped on the music community the depth charge that was/is for alto, stealing a great deal of thunder in the process. so... b's internal drive may well have been fuelled by some mutual rivalry at first, or at least a desire, not necessarily fully conscious, to feel that he was on a level equal to mitchell, whatever else he was doing; but the thing is, these two are both (quite clearly) smart enough to realise early on that they are really no "threat" to each other at all, far from it. they play with fundamentally different approaches to music which transcend mere style (even as the results may sometimes sound similar in a given instance). braxton seems much of the time to need to say all he can say, as quickly as he can squeeze it all in; mitchell naturally thinks in rhythms which are much longer and slower, which take time to develop into a form which can be recognised from without. [this in itself is a gross generalisation but one which (i think) is based on something useful.] mitchell, let's not forget, played that gig in 1976 (*6) where the audience turned up expecting to see braxton and were vocally disappointed; the late arrival's response is that he proceeds to play one phrase, all jagged lines and sharp corners, over and over again with only silence in between, for five minutes before even introducing any tonal modulation, and somehow, somehow this actually did get the rowdy listeners eating out of his hand. it's hard to imagine anyone else utilising such an approach with much success... but then this is typical of the man: although on that occasion he was motivated by a need to bring to heel a difficult audience, he has spoken more generally of his need to warm up gradually before the saxophone tells him "ok, you can play me now". (*7)


by the time 1976 is drawing to a close and the chance to do a duo album comes round, you can't tell me there is still any serious question of unresolved rivalry: on the contrary, using the aacm's turn-it-all-into-art alchemical principles, they encourage each other to the "loftiest heights" critics are so fond of envisaging (but which seldom seem to exist in this imperfect world), producing music in the process which, as we know, had professional producers getting all hot under the collar and saying things they would never normally say... yes, each creator knows the other will be playing at the top of his game, but that need not be intimidating. the album is straightforwardly balanced: two players, one side for mitchell's music, one for b's, absolute equality and mutual respect - and if it's still technically mitchell's show, duets with anthony braxton not the other way round, this is really only a fairly trivial thing, perhaps fitting in any case because of that slight seniority, and besides - within a year the roles will have been reversed, mitchell (and jarman and...) appearing on b's album and playing b's music, too. it all works itself out perfectly and by 1980, if not before, the two men are co-leading a creative orchestra quite successfully on the euro tour circuit. rivalry? really? and this is why i believe b. when he says that it is non-existent - i think perhaps the real truth is that whatever ego-related static may have once pertained to the situation, it has so long since been resolved that it's scarcely worth remembering, at any rate. both men are creators, first and foremost. no time to dick around - and like that, we're finally off and rolling again.


* see comments

Monday, September 26, 2011

a bit of a mystery...


while i'm sorting out the braxton/mitchell "rivalry" post (which i'll aim to put up before the end of the week), here's a quickie... the artist formerly known as king kennytone recently drew my attention to this audio clip, which (despite the tiny size of the file) is actually 46 mins long, not so much a clip really as an incomplete concert... it's quite interesting, but my main reason for posting about it is to cast doubt on (virtually all) the published details... as you will see if you download it, the concert purports to be the "braxton quartet" (though whoever is playing on this, it's very unlikely to have been a regular working group), wollman auditorium, columbia university (nyc) - the date is given as june 13th 1976, although some doubt is allowed there. tafkaKK found it here, though it probably originates from dime by the looks of it; the "details" which were supplied with the recording are also duplicated here (as i discovered while conducting my own, totally inconclusive, research into concerts b. played at that venue).

ok, so... going from the top:

if the date is correct, this should be the correct personnel:
Anthony Braxton - reeds and flute
A. Johnson - piano
Dave Holland - bass
Oliver Johnson - drums 

- why "should" this be the correct personnel? what evidence is there that this line-up was playing with b. at that time, and who the hell is "a. johnson" anyway?!  even assuming that's a typo (may have meant to write "a. davis" - anthony davis is indeed a plausible guess for this period, although muhal richard abrams is pretty much equally plausible... and there could easily be other names added to the list), why would one assume that oliver johnson was still drumming with b. in 1976, when he doesn't appear in the discography after 1972? for that matter, i'm also not convinced that this is indeed dave holland on bass - to me the arco technique sounds shakier than holland's, which is normally ultra-reliable. (my opinion doesn't have "casting vote" status here, and i'm not saying definitively that it's not holland - just that my impression was that it isn't. fwiw a bass-playing friend of mine agrees with me that this doesn't sound like dh; he suggested maybe fred hopkins..?)

even though we don't have the definitive date, this is most likely as it's the only time AB is confirmed to have played this venue.

most likely... mmm. b. played this venue on several occasions, though not necessarily as a leader; for example, the leroy jenkins/jcoa for players only album was recorded there in 1975. but in 1977, the same venue saw the four-day aacm residency described by lewis in a power... (if anyone is interested in this, whitney balliett's detailed write-up is available here.) could this recording not perhaps date from then..?

The first 10 minutes are a duo of AB and Holland. Then the drums come in for 10 minutes of trio

- what amazes me here is how the screamingly obvious gets totally overlooked. yes, the opening ten mins are played as a duo (whoever the bassist is... and yes, of course the annotator did at least get the piece right, it is indeed comp. 40f); and around 10.35, during the bass solo which so often with b. signals a change in focus and/or primary materials, applause indicates that other players are taking the stage. we do then get a few cymbal taps (though this is in fact the last percussion we hear for several minutes); but the most noteworthy detail is that two flutes are quite clearly heard in the next section. did the writer actually listen to the music at all, or just guess?? (actually there are times around 15-16 mins where it almost sounds like three flutes, plus bass - still no drums at all - but i can't quite make my mind up about this; what's not in doubt is that there are at least two!)

- at 16.55ish the piano enters and another piece is being played. (this nagged at me - it might be comp. 40n but i'm not certain of that, the role of the bass is not quite the same for a start.) now we actually do get some drums, as well as bass - there are still two flutes audible. in other words, what we are hearing at this point is a quintet (at least!). by 19.30, it really does sound at times as if there are two flutes onstage and another reed, presumably a high-pitched sax - but this impression comes and goes and it's not as if i have spent hours and hours poring over the recording. anyway, this piece continues until 28.00 precisely at which point a descending piano figure, which has been repeated several times already, suddenly leads to free-for-all mayhem; and that's what we get until the abrupt ending during the 47th minute.

don't get me wrong, i'm always grateful when new recordings show up. what irritates me - if i hadn't made that clear - is the way people all too frequently add dubious information to such recordings (presumably in the hope of making themselves look more knowledgeable than they really are) rather than just admitting that they don't know. we are told that orchiddoctor, who supplied the tape, is certain of the venue; assuming that this is reliable, could we not just have left it at that? "venue known, date and personnel unclear, any help etc etc" would have been vastly preferable to information which is likely to be wrong, and is probably only a guess anyway, but which will now reverberate around the trading community till doomsday, this being the way such things tend to go: mistakes are invariably repeated. i myself am quite happy to say that i don't know who plays on this and i won't even try and guess the year, though i would say that mid-seventies is almost certain because of the material; it wouldn't surprise me if at least one other high-profile player turned out to be have been involved (which is why i wondered about the 1977 aacm-fest), but we may well never know for sure. never mind, never mind... there are more important things to worry about than this. still, if anyone can help with any details here - useful ones that is - do please drop me a line!


Monday, September 19, 2011

the experts (1) - thb sextet 2010


(since i had in mind - still do - a brief post about that first james fei album, the symmetry seemed too perfect to ignore when i caught up with this recording the other day... of the "wesleyan period", these are definitely two of the guys i'd have at the top of my experts list when it comes to b's music..!)

taylor ho bynum sextet at saalfelden jf 2010

this concert knocked me the fuck out, no kidding... it comprises one complex, long-form piece and one long encore, a (not exactly improvised) skewed blues which is just pure pleasure...

the leader opens the first piece himself, taking a little time to establish some of his core vocabulary (and also establishing a pattern as we shall see). the next thing i really remember is a very hot alto solo by jim hobbs which certainly grabbed my attention, but in any case the main section which follows the opening is what sticks in the mind best 'cos this was damn hot intelligent groove-based stuff with all sorts of spikes and concealed pockets, and it had me thinking of charles tyler and steve reid... this the first of several sets of names i shall invoke over the course of this brief enquiry, not with a view to pigeonholing mr bynum, nor even to aiding the reader with an understanding of his music since this was, after all, just one performance..., but rather in the course of making a wider point.

two basic things about the structure of "apparent distance": the leader's cadenzas punctuate it, not only revealing more about thb's language and personal expressiveness each time, but also signalling transitional shifts between territories (sound familiar?); and solos are not quite the same as normal here - wait,  that is, they are just the same, but somehow much greater than the sum of their parts, each player besides the leader enjoying one phase of totally dominating the group sound in addition to all the interaction required of them. (thb admits afterwards that it's a hard one to play!)

for a long while in the middle of the piece (which lasts around 45 mins btw) the name which kept coming back to mind was henry threadgill - specifically the sextett, above all suggested by the instrumentation (two brass, one reed plus double strings): the unusual combination allowed for some fabulously rich and "liveable" group textures, and besides which, for anyone with even a little knowledge of thb's past associations, a look down the personnel list brings a frisson of excitement, since one knows this band just can't fail... that too is a hallmark of the threadgill sextett! the music itself - apart from that long main section kicked hard into motion by hobbs, it didn't necessarily remind me of anyone for the most part, it changed and shifted constantly and never let me doze off at all...

... till another last cadenza by the leader had me marvelling at how much richness he could infuse into simple close-mic'd exhalations of breath, then mixing this in with his playing (in a manner which reminded me at once of b., though the spirit of bill dixon also seemed to hover over the performance *1,2) - what these references really indicate though is the level of mastery being achieved here, the sound of a vocational creative musician after countless hours of hard work and detailed soul-searching; towards the end of this final major statement by the leader, tomas fujiwara starts up a dry, rattling march to the scaffold and an echo of another (possible) funeral drum appears (comp. 23a *3). the gravity of the theme which takes us out, when it eventually arrives, had me thinking this time of the early mothers of invention (with the superb-as-always mary halvorson filling in here for don preston, occupying much the same areas of the group-space). it really is an impressive ending to a most interesting piece.

(i hope that it is really superfluous to repeat that) none of these reference points above is cited for any other reason than to give a sense of how listening to this band allows us to hang out with masters past and present... precisely the value of witnessing such a performance is that it reaffirms that special experience of the fully committed, which is that one's attention and wholehearted desire to learn is rewarded with access to the great continuum, and one begins channelling energies from outside - from the collective knowledge pool of the great minds... i have experienced this myself in martial arts practice, and can therefore imagine it applying in the same way to music - and indeed to numerous other artforms; one arrives at a state of focus wherein any questions one has are immediately answered, as if from within... and for a short while in our confused lives, all is laid out and clearly visible... in any case i don't have to imagine anything here, not when i can hear it for myself, can recognise the (heightened/sharpened) state by the effects it has on the ensemble.

i haven't mentioned that the drummer's role is pretty demanding above all on this long piece, everyone has to concentrate hard for a long time (though everyone gets to lay out at times too) but the drummer is called upon to provide a great deal of fire and momentum, and tomas fujiwara does not let us (or his regular duo partner) down.

the encore is just announced as "a blues", a light relief for the band after such a hard main course but, naturally, this is game playing of a very high order, recalling of course the piece simply entitled "blues" from mr lewis' masterpiece homage to charles parker - in some ways, and merely because it cannot possibly be unaware of it - and with shades of many other highly-refined practitioners of artistic entertainment... the dutch spring to mind, more braam-de joode-vatcher than icp perhaps, but that sort of level of sophisticated play - the name mostly other people do the killing also leaps to mind, although this deep-cleanse debrief (after the intense opening number) is far less manic than MOPDtK: in any case it is easy, relaxed-yet-watchful ludic mastery on all sides and just sheer "earoticism" for the listener... the ending is totally unexpected, simple and highly effective!

when mr bynum tells us afterwards how lucky he feels to have this band available at this time, etc, it could all get a bit gushy but in truth, after a performance like that (and with deeply-bonded players in some cases... jim hobbs and thb go way back, he and halvorson have been through a lot together too..!) we can well imagine how astoundingly privileged he must feel, looking round the stage at his marvellous players, all of whom are gathered here to play for him... it gives shivers, rather than any nausea - ! the sort of non-arrogant pride which no heart need ever feel shameful about reflecting.

***

i mailed thb to gush a bit, later the same day..! then the next day i dug out another recording, this one from (i think) the last time i recorded a show from radio 3, namely this one - and before i even got to the music i heard (prob. for the first time) the little interview in which bynum talks of how interested he is in (writing and arranging for) unusual instrumentations; he doesn't namecheck threadgill as such on this occasion (though that is the obvious comparison, for medium-sized ensembles especially) but he does communicate his evident fascination for unorthodox sound groupings and collective timbres. on this earlier occasion the sextet has two (unconventional) guitarists - mary halvorson joined by evan (not ed - sorry taylor!) o'reilly - and jessica pavone on further stringage, plus (another former braxton lieutenant) matt bauder on tenor, the ever dependable mr fujiwara on drums... so a totally different set of combinations of course, and indeed totally different music since this was a suite of three distinct compositions; but, again, as alive and vibrant and filled with the unknown as a rainforest at night.

- and finally there remains the (large) question of b's influence... of course it is there, and openly acknowledged; and traces of b's music can also be heard at times in the (super-)structural blueprints for bynum's "suites of rooms": he seems to favour longer, developed pieces in concert at least, whether several numbers segued together, or a single collection of experiences linked by the same guide or narrator - and it doesn't take a huge leap to see that this latter description could easily apply to diamond curtain wall or, especially, to gtm. BUT this music is not the same as either of those modalities, nor the same as anyone else's concept: this is taylor ho bynum's music, and the two concerts i heard over the two days, utterly different as they are, have more in common - in terms of shared artistic animus - than either has with anything else i can think of. highly highly recommended.

* see comments

Monday, September 12, 2011

tangential intersect with centrispace


much movement behind the scenes, round these parts... this last weekend has been a long one, no work on sunday, and with the girls gone overnight on saturday, i had the long-awaited opportunity to expand and relax, fill the house with music all day and into the night, actually clean up the place somewhat, do some tai chi, some typing and even watch a movie (something i often think of doing on "me time" but rarely achieve - it was time well spent. *) - as well as the parker duets post and sorting out the location sheet for the slideshow, i have written the long-promised "rivalry?" preamble piece, bar a little minor tweakage/date-checking: it will be ready to go up a bit later this month. there is also another vignette on the way about james fei's first solo album on leo lab (hardly recent or anything, just overlooked). we'll see about students studies 3 (can't see why not) and then... shd be about ready to polish off the actual braxtothon session/s for those pesky duets after all this time. like i say... it's properly underway now, no more circling around and around...

... and yes, jon-a, that really is right isn't it, "act 2" of comp. 126 is just a recap of that last section of act one. how did i not pick that up... mmm, i'm gonna blame that on my friend mary jane, she is a terror for taking my attention this way and that at times - if i'm not really focussed on something (which i wasn't, as i said at the time)i can lose the plot a bit really... iirc i did think something was a bit odd but then got confused and certainly didn't go back and check. (if the truth be known... even for me, couldn;t be arsed to go down that road right then and there. thanks again to jon, for the heads up) - i shall mail mr leo feigin to see what (if anything) he remembers about this... the chance of getting the full story at this stage in the proceedings seems rather feeble, alas...

more soon, c x

* comment

slideshow one


just occurred to me a few weeks ago... in case anyone is interested... here is a folder containing all the original pics i've used so far. there's a few extras in there too... and a text file with all the location details and a (very) few anecdotal remarks... almost all the shots were taken by me, two exceptions i think, and the vast majority of them date from a five-month driving trip round europe undertaken by mr and mrs c. in 2003 (april-august). well... i always knew it had been the right thing to do, for a variety of reasons :)

it shd be clear to most by now that i am not a real photographer (fauxtographe we can say in french, a perfectly homophonic pun implying one is a "false/fake" photographer - doesn't work in english alas). i have an artist's eye for (simple or complex) composition and that's about it - even when i used an SLR (for years growing up) i never learned how to master the camera properly, too lazy a student even then, but i usually managed to take shots that were and are good enough for me, and that's all that's important really - besides, who knew how much use i would end up getting out of some of them once i got confined to a low-end digital (most taken with an old canon powershot A40, more recent ones with an A80, that's that!)... i wonder if i haven't sort-of created an artform here, or helped to co-create one, at any rate...

slideshow with music works wonders! repeated exposure may open up doors in your dreams {{{@@@}}} 

***BONUS - if there are any hardcore c#9 fans left out there, this much smaller group of nine pics will bring back a stab of nostalgia ;-)




Sunday, September 11, 2011

london (new york) masters


*** music file included*** -  see end of post.

man... it seems a looooong time ago now, even by the delays-as-usual standards of this 'ere blog, that i first planned to write something excitable about this concert; and for a whole variety of reasons, i just never ever did. (it's hardly a singularity in that regard.) since then, i acquired this album and that (naturally) changed the nature of the still-planned post (still planned because - i repeat myself once again - the photo was already earmarked!); now it was more a matter of generalising about what the two recordings had in common, etc. or was it? i still didn't get round to writing about either of them.

in a (very real) way, there isn't much to say about them anyway - even for me (compelled as i am to describe and delineate that which others would leave to speak for itself). like all fully (or largely) improvised music, the sets cover too much territory to be usefully "mappable"; and besides... is it not enough, just to know that you are guaranteed to hear two world-class grandmasters, wholly absorbed in the process of co-creating? what reader of this blog is going to require any further incentive..? but there remain just a couple of things i wanted to share about them (as well as a further point which will follow)... first, one might think it would be common knowledge by now (but it probably isn't) that these two men are not always defiantly "awkward" sounding or intellectuals-only in their playing: far from it, and indeed when i first heard the new york boot, the opening few minutes had me thinking of lee konitz and warne marsh rather than any two free firebreathers. (admittedly this doubtless had a lot to do with the fact that i had just been listening to those two gentlemen in the car on my way home..! back when the car stereo still worked, aha...) the earlier london concert begins with a similar passage of quiet restraint, both players essaying very hushed, breathy attacks which only gradually become something more forceful... of course, once that force is achieved it's as if it had always been there in the first place, though initially inaudible... the sheer tensile strength of both players' timbres is a continual marvel. parker, incidentally, usually sounds nothing like marsh who often played with a sound which belied its tenor origins: in these duets, parker's tenor consistently "outweighs" braxton's alto, and it's usually easy enough to hear who's playing what -  although there are moments too when both players are letting rip and it becomes harder, the sound more fully enmeshed...

... which is the other thing i wanted to mention, because in those (glorious) moments when both men are really pulling out all the stops and using various extended techniques (multiphonics, circular breathing etc) at the same time, the ensuing storms seem to be more like the work of a saxophone quartet than a duo :)

now, that other thing... mr parker had of course been b's last instructor on the saxophone: sometime in the mid-seventies, he taught b. circular breathing. (i have still not been able to pinpoint this date in the recorded legacy yet... we'll get there. doesn't have to be me..!) he is also one of a pretty small number of guys whom i would consider to be on an equivalent level of mastery with b. quite a few of the others have either left us or are numbered among the usual aacm suspects... i'm not about to undertake an exhaustive list here, you understand - but it's worth mentioning at this point that in an interview for bbc radio 3 in 2004 (*1) b. began by saying that since he found himself in england again he wanted to express his love and admiration for... the following six players, a short list which i (being me) at once committed to memory: i remember it was derek bailey first, then five reedmen in no order... parker coxhill osborne harriott watts. (nor would that have been an exhaustive list; 's just those were the names - the voices - to which b. felt compelled to pay his respects on the night. if i used the same shortlist as a starting point i might add, say, john butcher who is clearly not just a master but a grandmaster of some standing. alan wilkinson would be on the list too.) ANYway... the point: these two hold each other in great respect, so when b. declined parker's invitation to renew the acquaintance in duo (for what i soon found out was this residency two years ago), this was not, he made clear to me, any sort of snub against mr parker - far from it. no, he was simply sick of seeing his music be hijacked for someone's else's 10-second coffee-table trend, i'm putting words in his mouth there you understand, but i know he did dread too much the thought of reading reviews in some journal or other to the effect that the performance was "the best thing he'd done in years" - what invariably passes for a compliment among the chattering classes (*2). - and yeah, he had reluctantly declined, as i heard it told.

isn't that a shame? that a culture which supposedly values the (true) performing arts tends overwhelmingly to produce glib, shallow "critics" who scarcely really even pretend to be paying attention, then expect you to be grateful for some prepacked pleasantry just because they were smiling (mouth only one suspects) when they said it? isn't that really just a load of shit?! pretty much... no names, no names... there'd be no end to it anyway if the truth be known, i hate the music press and have done for years (no longer hate it in fact since i never read it!) - there are people out there at present who are trying to write intelligently about creative music; not that i'm the best person to ask - but of course there is always eartrip... and i have enjoyed point of departure also (though at least one of my "unfavourite" crits, yes that one, regularly writes for that very organ). (*3) BUT ahhhh fuck it, i've already said it... no more banging on right now.

it's all due to change anyway, 's what they tell me...

so, anyway... the new york duo recording, i rediscovered recently, was only ever in flac at i.sol so if anyone would prefer a smaller, quicker, perfectly serviceable hq mp3 rip (and there's an oxymoron, right audiophiles? heeey): it's...  here

(get it before rs lose interest in it...)

* see comments

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

...and further confessions!


dear oh dear, pouring out of me like a tidal wave, they are ;-)

ok, well, the first one is easy enough: in one of my (numerous) comment-footnotes to the previous post, i thought i detected rhythmic assonance between dave holland's "four winds" and b's comp. 23c, but didn't check the date on the latter, being pushed for time and with a lot to get out (!). composition notes actually date that one to 1973... which makes holland's the "prior art" in this case (thanks to neil f. for that one!). except it pretty much doesn't, because b's piece is considerably more ambitious and would in any event be a case of only minimal convergence; if the other way round, holland's simpler and shorter theme might be deemed to show sings of influence. all we've been able to deduce here is that in this instance he/it didn't. not quite the same as influencing the maestro, but it's worth at least clearing that up.

staying on the subject of conference for a minute: fwiw i playlisted four of the six tracks from that album, back in the day (specifically 2002-3) and thus heard all of those, at least, on numerous occasions. the title track was indeed on one of my ballads compilations and "four winds" was on another. besides these, my favourite was of course "see-saw" which i've talked about plenty of times before (though i'm not about to chase up the links right now, maybe later if i remember to come back to it!) - loved it (frequently anthologised it for friends also)... until i discovered it was just a less ambitious reworking of b's comp. 6i. naturally that did take the gloss off a bit. the fourth one was "interception" which to my ear is a more interesting theme than "winds", though maybe not by much. it used to remind me of zappa somewhat too, though i can't now think (off the top of my head) which zappa piece/s it resembles.

***

now: i don't know how much relevance this has, probably some, it's really only just occurred to me to bring it up...

but:

I WAS A (failed) TEENAGE HEAVY METAL GUITAR MAULER

's true, 'strue... i must have been 14 when i started, and of course it's dead easy in principle: these days you would start with green day or something, but for me it was 1984 and learning began with the sex pistols, and other basic riffs like "iron man" by black sabbath or "smoke on the water" by deep purple... amazing how encouraging it is when you "play" your first "tune" - and how quickly one can start to put on airs when one "knows" some "chords" (this set of inverted commas refers rather to the (true) joke that what passed for chords in heavy rock back then and since time immemorial were more often than not a root-and-fifth, beefed up a bit if necessary with an octave... the ironic thing about that is that in my case, before i could get my hands on an axe of my own, i first had to indulge my curiosity with my mother's spanish guitar and chord book, thus learning the fretboard shapes (though not understanding the use) of all sorts of exoticisms which, of course, were seldom if ever employed in the realms of the tight trouser brigade - not back then; in these post-slayer days, all bets are long since off)... it lasted a few years, i played rhythm guitar in a couple of mates' bands, briefly attending rehearsals etc... nothing much came of that... was in a band called satan's choir when i was 15-16, playing (competent) rhythm and (duff, formulaic) lead - the other guitarist, my best friend at the time, was much better than me and also wrote all the original material - not that it ever got finished, and the only public performance the band ever gave was all covers and one joke original (which i shan't name right at this moment, ahem...). so... i didn't exactly set the world on fire. i had no formal training at all on this instrument and was entirely self-taught, copying records (as they were then)... and any attempts i made to dip a toe into theory ended up with a sharp withdrawal, so that i only ever had a motley, magpie's collection of (verbal and conceptual) terminology at my disposal - but, you know, i have known better musicians than me in my life and when i hear interesting things, i file them away and never forget them so... if i sometimes appear to use terms that only a pro would use... i pinched it somewhere, somewhen or picked it up at a bus-stop one day, it wasn't learned in college. but i think this is obvious enough ;-)

anyway... this is why i've never brought it up before. (some of my online friends probably know already, it's not a secret or anything, it never occurred to me that it was relevant.) but yes, thinking about it, i do have some background and here it goes... what now strike me as the relevant bits: raised on both classical and rock music, not much else, able to talk my way through rock and pop, and identify numerous major composers/pieces of music by age eleven, twelve (education in classical music frozen at same age, as it turned out)... one aunt was a music student, proficient on 15-20 instruments, good enough on piano to teach kids and play church organ for hymns/at family weddings etc - was once (as i understand it) a national standard recorder soloist, one of not many at the time, now much involved with the national youth recorder orch. of britain and a singer in the city of birmingham symphony orch's choir. she was my favourite aunt when i was a little boy, but she failed to make any headway teaching me recorder, which i didn't really want to keep learning and soon dropped. it didn't rub off at all, but the aptitude is in there somewhere: we did the "bentley ear tests" when i was at school (age 11 i guess) and i came second out of 2-300, however many it was (the guy who came first, my other best friend in those days, was the school prodigy, grade eight piano by age 11, remember him playing beethoven sonatas etc, i believe he is now a professional organist in the south of france). that in turn led me to being talked into piano lessons, and in theory violin also, but the latter never quite happened, partly because the former just didn't work - i quite enjoyed messing about on the piano for about a year or so, and for that matter enjoyed the pieces i had to play for grade one, but i couldn't read at all, could only play looking at the keyboard and if i made a mistake, i basically had to start again since i could not return to the score. all i had ever wanted to be, ironically enough, was a drummer, but again, at a private school that means learning (on a rubber pad) to read scores so you can stand there in your penguin suit reading page after page of rests and then going "bong" - no, that killed my interest in that stone dead, and my parents could afford neither a kit nor (i suspect) the room for me to practise it, so...

... forward a couple of years and the guitar comes out from under the sofa one evening after i'd been listening to something or other... probably the pistols... just getting into heavy rock etc... now, i've already outlined the extent of my glittering career, but for a while back there i did at least put some work into it... once thrash metal really bit in 1984-5, i was hooked and spent many hours figuring out riffs and trying to learn solos... as most readers here won't necessarily know, thrash raised the bar for discipline and technique in rhythm guitar (did less for the other instruments... although it also produced some very notable drummers - bearing in mind that modern metal drumming is all pattern-repetition and not much rhythmic sense in many cases, death metal being the exception - but then blame keith moon and roger taylor jointly for that one, i reckon *1) - and although most thrash was military-stiff, - either fast or slow, but in either case still pretty simple - there were also natural virtuosi in the scene from very early on, such as dave mustaine (megadeth, ex-metallica) and gary holt (exodus) who were excellent soloists and also capable of great rhythmic subtlety and sensitivity, so that not all my templates were "braindead headbangers". (haha, i myself could do a pretty passable impression of one of those at the time, mind you.) i practised and copied - could never write for shit, one of the things that led to my jacking it in - which eventually meant transcribing solos (in guitar tablature), so that i did have to learn how to distinguish tonal effects and different timbres, etc as well as varieties of attack, and so on. ok, maybe i actually learned more back then than i have bothered to realise. (*2)

yep... i am that cliche, the frustrated musician turned critic - except that i'm not, because a) i am not exactly a critic and b) i am not frustrated: have never stopped loving music, never had to forgive it for the fact that i was never anywhere near as good as i would have wanted to be. i always did have high standards... or at least, i wasn't born with 'em, but they sure got in there early in my development ;-)

- these things have (sort of) come up again... no, i am not a "proper" music student and never was (or even close - except via osmosis..!); and i cannot therefore be a "proper" musicologist... but still, i'm not entirely ignorant of these matters either. (though again - all modesty aside - is that not kind of obvious by now..?)

***

a comment was left recently by "jon-a" and although i acknowledged it, i haven't yet found time to give the matter my attention. it was left against, and concerns this post... anyone care to weigh in? i still haven't enjoyed much listening time lately (though as you can see i have been at least thinking about music again); although, the more i think back, the more it seems that i did notice (e.g.) some of the spoken passages repeated; i did not take the time to verify whether a part of the recording is actually duplicated. if so... i guess an email to mr leo feigin might be in order, to ask what that was about..? (i will ask the maestro too, though i rarely get answers to direct questions!)


* see comments

Monday, August 29, 2011

a confession



... perhaps a belated one... i'm probably not the best judge...

the blog was contacted recently - well, i was personally really - by a youngish (i think) bassist going by the moniker mars will send no more. i'm guessing that someone had told him about the conference entry from all that time ago... back in the blog's second rush of blood... and that he had hopped over specifically to check it out. in any case, i responded (as i always do and will, unless it's just anonymous abuse) to some of his points and discreetly left others unanswered * - anyone who is interested can of course read it all for themselves (if they haven't done so by the time they finish this sentence!). but the main reason i have returned to this matter in post form - having told mars... that i was disinclined to say any more about the whole business of conference in particular - is that i directed him to the quartet autopsy for evidence of my more measured, explicated and even-handed take on the "holland question" (i am more than usually happy with that piece btw)... and when i subsequently re-read the article myself the following day, i found myself thinking that maybe my correspondent had already read it; and that at any rate, if he hadn't and then proceeded to do so he would not be much reassured, would indeed probably fail to finish it (or even get very far through it perhaps) - which would be a shame, since the (very) good things i had to say about mr holland's abilities were mainly reserved for the last section (so as to go out on a good note, as it were).

so apparently again i find i am not finished with this. that needn't be so surprising either since i have never withdrawn the "go (directly!) to hell" warning from the blog sidebar - though until recently it had been a long time since anyone bothered to try and give me a hard time about "it"; several times i have thought about removing that superfluous and rather belligerent remark, and have always decided not to (again just this week). there is something about the fact that a (rather halfhearted, certainly informal) "review" that has been considered so far beyond the pale by some people should nevertheless be regarded as the best one published, by one of the four players who participated in said recording * - it brings out something in me that is not necessarily that likeable, but it's not on display very often in these parts and there may as well be an acknowledgement that it's there.

i digress... the other thing that struck me the day after i responded to the recent comment, was an old twinge of guilt or remorse or perhaps just embarrassment: as if on some astral plane i had found myself just then bumping into mr holland in person and having to introduce myself... would i not feel the compulsion to apologise, first? yes, i would for sure, though it would probably be accompanied with a laugh... after all, i can't very well take any of it back, nor would i wish to (none of it was intended personally anyway of course)... but yes, i would feel that way; and if it turned out he had read any of various blog entries himself, not to mention that one, i am honest enough to imagine that the apology might force itself out before i could even stop it. now, i am not necessarily very likely to run into dave holland in real life (though who knows... who knows) - so, and not without a great deal of preamble of course, here goes: mr holland, i am sorry if i have caused undue offence to you through the candid and at times rather irreverent way in which i have assessed your contribution(s) to mr braxton's music, or to music in general. it was not intended to be insulting, ever; but (of course) i was always aware that it could be received that way if you happened to find your way in here. after a long time of not properly facing up to that, i did feel that an apology was in order.

now... one apology was in order, and that was it. to those who have taken up "arms" on mr holland's behalf, since by now they may be awaiting their turn: much as i can sympathise with your motivations (and i can - i too have felt the need to defend someone else's reputation on occasions, including musicians living and dead), i don't feel the need to apologise to you guys and i'm not going to. (*) you just have to take it... that's how it goes... console yourselves with the knowledge that the devastating triumphs you have already enjoyed over me in your heads are as good as it gets in that regard; if we met in the flesh and you had your chance, it wouldn't go anything like the way you imagined it; that's not me puffing my chest out either, it's just... the way it goes.


***

ok, so... that longish gap between posts has finally been closed... the most likely next few posts are: one dealing with - or occasioned by - two of b's duo concerts with evan parker (or maybe the only two, i don't know); "student studies 3" which gathers up observations on some of the interviews with b. included as appendices in the composition notes; and then, haha, and then the frigging braxtothon which still somehow feels as if it's just round the corner but, like tomorrow, never comes... it will come, unlike tomorrow... but in any case the other posts and "postettes" variously promised or at least dangled under the reader's nose this year are not likely to be written any time just yet, which is not to say that they'll never turn up... keep checking in, you never know...

... there will also be a little "bonus post" in a couple of days, for once nothing (directly) to do with anthony braxton..!


* see first comment

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* see third comment

Monday, July 25, 2011

(yet) another hiatus

sigh... this is all very disappointing - not that it'll come as a surprise to anyone - but i just haven't been able to knuckle down to any writing recently. as a matter of fact, i seem to be in the middle of a non-musical phase: i've scarcely listened to anything over the last month or so, and when i have, it's rarely captured my attention. this is strange, but i'm sure it'll pass: it's happened before, and it never lasts too long. meanwhile: there is not yet any sign of the "rivalry" article that i promised in my last post; and yes, that is pretty frustrating since i'm quite clear about what i want to say, i just don't seem to be able to say it yet. well, like i say, any regular readers will be used to how i operate by now... in the (rather unlikely) event that anyone out there is actually waiting for said article, please be patient, it'll come. who knows, perhaps by expressing my annoyance at my own lack of productivity, i will trick myself into getting my finger out ;-)

something that has occurred to me - and i'm not just making excuses here, since after all it's no secret how unreliable i am - is that my own lack of inactivity may be (somewhat) related to something b. told me the last time i spoke to him on the 'phone (this was a few months ago now): he is not getting booked for gigs these days. he has "no work coming in", as he himself put it. can you believe that? we all know that life as a creative musician is an uphill struggle, with little or no money and practically nothing in the way of media attention, but this man is one of the most famous names in the scene - "famous" of course being a relative term here. when paul rutherford died a few years back, some people (mainly stateside) expressed shock at the fact that he had been living in poverty and had hardly worked at all for some time; but rutherford, for all his (very considerable) talents, was nowhere near as well known as b. i still can't get my head round this one... and yeah, i do wonder whether this little bombshell is in some way linked to my own lack of activity, my withdrawal from music for a while.

***

one thing i have done - i finally FINALLY got those damn discog links fixed. all of 'em! at long last... that is, i think i've done them all - if anyone happens to spot one which is still dead, do please let me know and i'll get it sorted. (yes, i know that some of my music links are dead - you can blame rapidshare for that one... i am going to try and get those reupped one of these days, but it's not my top priority at the moment.) things have been moving v-e-r-y slowly around these parts lately, but at least they are still moving. just about ;-)