Monday, February 7, 2011
braxbites #1: jump or die
[the night of music (sunday 16th jan) was indeed followed by a morning of music on monday 17th, but that was about it until now, the way it panned out. i still had a small pile of partly-heard and unheard cds and a bunch of unheard live material. however, the very first cd i bought with my xmas money was one i managed to play a few times, and under different circumstances each time...]
jump or die - think fast!, in other words, and then commit yourself - this is the name under which two small groups of high-impact, left-field improvisers left their mark on modern music in the early nineties, with the enlisted help of three additional players. splatter trio, it seems, was led by composer, percussionist, arranger (etc) gino robair with multi-reedist dave barrett and myles boisen on chordophones; debris, from a completely different part of the united states was apparently headed up by multi-reedist steve norton with cornetist keith hedger, drummer curt newton and utility man arthor weinstein on a variety of "wildcard" instruments. once the two groups had been linked together, with two recording sessions to be produced by norton and robair, three further musicians were pulled in: a trombone, another multi-reed and a mallet percussion specialist. the pieces played, all by mr b. in this case of course, were collected in sheet-music form at wesleyan by guest reedman randy mckean; they are (mostly) collaged and vary each time as regards instrumentation, all then players never being heard at once. the two pieces (cuts 5 and 9 on the album) which feature a nonet are both conducted by robair, who does not play on either.
the album... is just a remarkably well-aspected and -favoured meeting of like minds, and the musical record of it buzzes with excitement like a live wire, right from the first few notes.
as promised, i'm gonna cut back on my ambitions for these interim articles, so i shall limit myself to two general points of discussion here. after all, each and every selection on offer has been lovingly chosen, arranged and rehearsed (?) just for this one-off date (*), it would be so easy to succumb to temptation and examine each and every performance; ah, but then it'd never get written up knowing me and besides... this is nonetheless not core canon, brilliant as it is.
1. the band chooses material which in a number of cases has never been recorded by the maestro himself. some of these pieces were doubtless performed in concert over the years, though how anyone apart from the band members in question would know their opus numbers... well, anyway, it's great to have these works undertaken here. (and of course some of the pieces have been waxed before, as regards which, see below...) the very first cut on jump or die, a collage structure for the two core groups as one septet (with subgroupings as arranged beforehand), begins with comp. 40e, a number which left me scratching my head - until a check in at restructures confirmed that the piece does not appear in the core discog as such - and which hides behind its numbered door another barking-mad march, indeed a mad hares' march, all springy in the first part of the theme and pinging all over the place in the second. how did we never get an official version of this? praise be to norton and robair :) - we are also treated to a "mash-up" of comps. 50 & 53 (where the former is again unrecorded and the latter but recently issued as secondary-territory material on the rastascan dvd... mmm, must try and get hold of that..!). comp. 48, one of four "straight" readings (i.e. with no secondary materials) was a "premiere" at the time: b's own (second? third? etc) great quartet would reclaim it a year later, at yoshi's, and indeed unveil it as the opening number... but these reprobates actually got there first. (sort of.) comp. 15, again, is otherwise unrepresented in the guthartz discography.
- this is just great, that these guys managed to put so much love and heart and edge and stomach into the project and were prepared to get unheard music out there as part of the agenda, ah! makes one glad of the human race after all. (sank 'eavens... for free jazz, not leetle girlz on zis occasion... down, maurice)
- that first cut btw - it takes in five different sets of material overall, the most notable and eventful collaging clearly rehearsed, with debris' collective incursions of comp. 69q broadsiding the down-and-dirty rendition of comp. 40p being teased out by splatter - 40p so memorably brought to life by b. and muhal before, sounding oddly light on its feet here voiced by sax(c)ello, but very effective rhythmically; and its that rhythm which is casually undercut when the faster 69q is joined by the other four guys. this (critical) forcing together of parallel horizontal strategies in an unstable balance is a really crucial (er, critical) element of b's music, as was well understood eighteen years ago by these guys here in the experimental chamber. as it happens, today i last heard this piece an hour or so after listening to '97 era gtm and this clash-of-tempi therefore ended up reminding me of that... but preceded it by more than five years. terrific opener, needless to say. (and the first entries of singing alto early on are very braxtonesque indeed... someone's really been working at that!)
2. this album contains the best and most exciting version of comp. 23d i have ever heard, not including the "original" (i.e. the '74 studio version with wheeler & co), though it is actually quite a lot more exciting than that one even, given the way it gets turned inside-out long before the pulse track (108a) even pokes its nose round the door - the actual collaging doesn't begin until 6.30ish (out of an 8.30 track), but this one has gone stratospheric long since, has actually come down to a more earthly orbit again by the time the pulse track kicks in... along the way there, the stripped down combination of robair + boisen, norton + newton is a highly flammable recipe as it turns out, and all manner of controlled mayhem erupts from what remains a very sedate, wistful-yet-cheerful exposition; with the fireworks over, it's the two lieutenants who pick up 108a and the leader-producers who are left to rub up against it. just... fabulous.
yes yes... "every home should have one"... any bigtime braxtophiles want and need this album. they all jumped, every time. there were no casualties
* see comments
Posted by centrifuge at 5:03 PM