Monday, January 31, 2011

65th birthday (re-)revisited

my first two blog posts in august concerned the braxton birthday benefit bash which took place last june in new york. at the time, only some of the music played at the main concert (june 18th) was available, namely the parts of it which featured the "birthday boy" himself; the rest of it turned up here, one month ago today. (i left them a comment correcting their personnel details for the gtm set, though i wrongly assumed at the time that the actual music files would be taken down after a couple of weeks; this always used to be the case with that site, but apparently hasn't been for some time now... evidently it's been a long while since i last visited their pages!)

it's a very interesting and varied line-up to be sure. the evening kicked off with an "invocation" by matthew welch (bagpipe specialist and - i believe - former wesleyan student, previously known to braxtophiles from his participation in the recorded version of comp. 247; he also recorded a full album of b's solo compositions, which alas i haven't heard *). the bagpipes are a strange beast, originally as much a weapon as a musical instrument (used on the battlefield by the scots, both to stir up the blood of the soldiers and to strike fear into the hearts of the enemy), and they have a very strictly limited pitch range and tonal palette, but they are well-suited for certain ritual purposes and do a good job of opening proceedings here. in the last minute of the performance, welch introduces a subvocalisation into his playing which completely transforms the sound, to thrilling effect.

the intricately-interwoven duet which followed, by steve coleman and jonathan finlayson, is listed on bigo's page as "unknown braxton" but there is no explanation given as to who supplied this info or how they know it's b's material being played. i certainly can't identify it, not that that means it wasn't a braxton piece; after all, there are so many to choose from! the most obvious place to look for comparisons was the april 5th 2003 concert at tonic by b. and wadada leo smith, released on two cds by pi recordings; the music played on that occasion included three braxton compositions, but the coleman/finlayson duet doesn't match any of those... i'm at a loss really to know where else to search! in any case the music is very much in the required spirit, and coleman's amusing speech (in the second part) strikes just the right balance between respect and irreverence. [coleman needs no introduction from me, of course; and although he's never been associated with b's music as far as i know, his status as a hugely-influential alto player, bandleader and composer in his own right makes him an ideal choice for such an occasion, a torch-bearer of sorts... finlayson is rather less well known, but already has an impressive cv; besides his membership of coleman's groups, he is currently associated with mary halvorson (among others) and plays on her much-debated saturn sings album.]

next up on the night was the richard teitelbaum set, which unexpectedly became a duet with the man of the day - this one, along with the other two sets featuring b., is discussed briefly here (fwiw my own indexed rips of the music are still available for download). this in turn was followed by nicole mitchell's black earth strings (though bigo's rips place these on "disc two", out of sequence in order to fit them in together). unfortunately, no data is provided here as to precise personnel or track titles; one or two of the pieces almost sound braxtonesque, but i don't think any of them are b's compositions. as the band's name suggests, strings dominate the sound palette here, but for me at least mitchell's own magnificent flute playing is what demands the attention.

the fifth set was the all-star, one-off (?) grouping of john zorn, dave douglas, brad jones and gerry hemingway. perhaps unwisely (or perhaps it's just me) they chose to open with their very energetic reading of comp. 23d, after which the remaining two numbers come as a bit of anticlimax... these are one piece each by douglas and zorn (apparently - i'm reliant on the info provided by the site for that). the braxton number itself, considering it's essentially a ballad structure, is attacked with real vigour. suffice it to say, the excitement suggested by the quartet's line-up is realised in the performance.

- and that brings us to the final two sets, both also discussed previously on this blog. (the trio/quartet reunion set is one unindexed file on bigo's page; my own version of this set is split into its separate components.) what i hadn't heard before was braxton's speech, preceding the climactic gtm performance. this in itself is well worth hearing, of course... and let's all hope that our man's wishes come true and that the future sees more opportunities for real musicians and real music, not just radio-friendly entertainment. (seems unlikely, but yes, we can hope!) the same speech also confirms something i had previously wondered about, namely that the piece played by the 12+2tet is, indeed, comp. 361.

and that's it from me for the time being... as always at this time of year, i am pretty happy to see the back of january, with its grey days and long nights: roll on spring! if you haven't already, go get the music :)

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Monday, January 17, 2011

cent's 2011 manifesto

 1. so, the year ahead... insofar as we can plan these things at all (not that that's ever stopped me...) - well, for a start this was "supposed" (in my during-xmas head) to be braxton month - having acquired a small pile of mr b's back catalogue recently, thanks to a leo records sale (for mail order customers only)... and having also picked up numerous live boots in the last few months which i really haven't heard yet, such is the "mental scaffolding" which gets attached to the "task" of listening to a braxton recording these days if i'm not careful... i planned to listen to at least of these various recordings this month then spread out my impressions over remaining winter and into the spring - but here i am halfway through the month and none of this has materialised yet. i have not listened to very much music at home since new year, full stop - just the way it's worked out, and as usual it's the combination of parenting and the lower energy levels that being 40 tends to entail for me (*1). 


it's still gonna happen, it's just gonna get squeezed in a bit. tonight and tomorrow, and till the end of january, i shall be giving house room to at least six live concerts, i hope, in addition to the four cds i have yet to play (three of them doubles). the write-ups will be different from usual, picking only a max of five points for discussion in each case and trying to keep it brief. (ish)

... other than that, eventually phase five of the braxtothon will unfold in earnest, starting sooner rather than later, and that pesky live review will get published also (still relevant since, like my last concert reviews, it ultimately deals with something rather deeper and more wide-ranging than the details of one performance).

- and, y'know, whatever else crops up over the course of the next year... more on the way, in other words..!


2. so, about that picture then. please bear in mind that if i actually did have the messiah complex that publishing such a photo would seem to imply, i would have done it three years ago (well - two years eleven months in point of fact). actually it would have been a bit less since i did not yet understand why the photograph got taken. that only hit me like a thunderbolt in june 2008 when i went looking for pix taken on the maestro's birthday, and found myself in two coastal towns beset by a bewitched smuggler's fog, with an unusually high number of resonant and memorable images to select from - and, no fucking way, hang on, you mean that picture was taken on b's birthday, that's... ahhhhh, ok, i get it..! - !!

-obviously i had noticed the captured coincidence of the image well before - indeed, the very same evening of 4th june 2003, when we got back to the tent and i had downloaded the photos to the laptop. "shit, look at my wings!" "uh..? oh yeah..!" - (as you can see) mrs c. had the camera that day - at least at first - and for once i was standing around aimlessly waiting for her.

ahem, anyway... i genuinely didn't see where i was ending up when i wandered off - the resulting aspect of staring-vaguely-into-the distance could have been taken of me on any one of thousands of such occasions - and neither did mrs c. who, herself, was taking her time looking back uphill, setting up another very good snapshot. when she looked back down she was only filling out the composite view for herself and took the pic very quickly.

even at the time i didn't suddenly get obsessively ego-wanky about it because i never concluded that wow, i am an angel. that's not what this means. the painting of the wall and manhole cover has (presumably!) been of human agency, after all. nevertheless, something of a blessing from the other side has been received, and directly received, by both of us, and hence by anyone who meditates upon the image. trace elements (relic traces) remain which immediately establish their own psychic frequency in an open and relaxed mind's eye.  {{{@@@}}}

- not until five years later did i understand the deeper signficance of the picture's background and context. in visiting salvador dali's childhood haunts - we started out driving across the hills to cadaques, then moved on a little further to port lligat and encountered the same unearthly morning microclimate in a different environment, equally resonant and memorable - (i) (we) chance had unconsciously delivered us to catalunya ready for that day. and you gotta understand that in my head,  braxton's was just one name among dozens at this point (*2).

ok, so that's that really. actually the choice of pic was forced on me this time - i have temporarily misplaced the masters of the europe tour pix - that idea would be scary if i ran with it, but there's no need (they have not left this room); - and the choice was therefore whittled to a small handful of images left in the "pot", - but at some point it was always gonna be revealed anyway. (and i'd already had it up on my blogger profile page for a few weeks, a couple of years ago.) - once i'd thought about it for a minute, this seemed a most auspicious occasion on which to unveil it on the blog. [ i did send it privately to mr b., on the same occasion that the port lligat birthday shot was posted on here. i mean how could i not. didn't gush about it too much i don't think. (hardly any need...!)]

- i bet that LOTS of people have stopped at this exact same point in that steep little street, without realising why they have ended up there for a moment. many of them have probably been captured there in photographs. hey, if you visited cadaques without a camera you'd be kicking your own arse all the way back up through the pyrenees. it would be interesting to know, in these cases:

- whether an obvious synchronicity could be established with regard to the date;


- if so, how long it had taken for the penny to drop



3. ok, so thanks for listening - now i got to get my arse offa this sofa and outside to do some goddamn gongfu: it's been insane, the relaxation of the winter freeze brought with it seemingly weeks of heavy rain and endless grey skies, and little or no tai chi practice, so my body is full of bent and squashed corners and blocked points. off i go. more soon and all that.

take it easy, give it hard

c x

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