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


centrifuge said...

the liners make hopeful mention of a possible follow-up... realistically we're pretty lucky we got the first one, so let's all just be happy with that ;-)

Frédito said...

I received the cd a couple of days ago, currently savouring the liner notes. I don't want to "jump" on the listening experience...
Merci pour les conseils et la chronique, Cent' !

centrifuge said...

hey man... great to hear you scored yourself one of these, i hope you enjoy it (sure you will!) - je te promets que je t'enverrai un 'tit message un de ces quat's


Lucky said...

you probably have seen the free dl at the 'new braxton house':

francois couture rolls the drums:

"Anthony Braxton fans, PAY ATTENTION, for this is huge news. You read the title right: “New Braxton House.” The Braxton House label has been revived as a download-only netlabel and, starting March 1, 2011, it starts offering: 1) Braxton’s deleted catalog, and; 2) a series of official bootlegs and previously unavailable live recordings, all as download releases, in pay-per-download and subscription schemes. And just the release the beast, the label offers a free release: this Septet (Pittsburgh) 2008. So here is the septet – basically the same one that will perform at FIMAV 2011 in May – in “Composition No. 355,” recorded on May 30, 2008 in Pittsburgh. Excellent sound and a strong piece with an insisting pulse and many small-group passages - the duet between Taylor Ho Bynum and Mary Halvorson is in itself worthy of your time."


centrifuge said...

"you probably have seen the free dl..." - only just, the mail from the TCF came through to the same address as your comment!

yeah - not sure what to do with it, i guess you have to add it to the card and then check out paying $0.00?! maybe they hope you will feel guilty and buy something else at the same time ;-)

i gotta contact them actually... me and them need to get hooked up somehow, i have talked to the man about this (once) and he agrees but there is no actual contact yet...

GREAT to see the site launched and live though :))

Frédito said...

Cent', concerning the "purchase"" of the free download, it goes as you guess.

On Jump or die : I have played the first three tracks and enjoyed every second of them.
I like the exchanges between bass clarinet and guitar on 23D, as Ed Hazell did according to the liner notes. And those "additional" instruments, very spicy.
That's just a few examples !

centrifuge said...

i'm tellin' you man, you can't go wrong with that album. the gods of music were smiling on that project :)

yes! i plan to post soon about the site launch and the free music associated with it... pittsburgh septet is GREAT, i loved it... mailed you and several others while playing it..!

there is other good stuff in the bootlegs section (not big yet, manageable) - check out the los angeles 92 gig...

Frédito said...

I got your e mail ;)
Yes, the 1992 Los Angeles Orchestra concert is superb, received a 18/20 rating in my personal notes.

Jump or die, which I have now played in its entirety, what a lovely record.
Delightful barkings on Comp. N° 50 (even a barking exchange, if I heard correctly) ; and so much more !

centrifuge said...

hi man, and sorry i couldn't respond earlier to this - it came just before i lost my internet access...

- you mark out of 20, that's interesting... i know other people do something similar... i never do when i don't "have to", just don't think like that (which is kinda interesting in itself). if i *did* it'd more likely be a "star" grading which is similar to what i use in the braxtothon - more of a recommendation system than a "score" or mark... but how does it work for you? do you have several different categories, scored out of five... or what?

Frédito said...

Warning : please pardon the construction of my english phrases. Some of them might be correct, others might not.

This mark system is a very recent habit I took after having evaluated some records at an online marketplace or at Discogs. I found that the stars were not accurate enough, particularly between 4 and 5 ; I needed more categories of good, very good and excellent-exceptional records. More nuance. I hope that the more I will use this evaluations (I do it for every listen now) the more accurate and clear my categories will appear. I think Mr Braxton's records are a good example because when using the five stars system I used to give four or five invariably. Came a point where I needed more subtle evaluations in order to consider minor standards like the sound quality, the short duration... (all this can be summarily written down aside the numbered mark).
Well, perhaps this is a temporary lubie ! At the moment I have some fun doing it. (sometimes I still use the stars. There is no strict reason for that)


Tonight I found par hasard a page by a french writer called Marc-Edouard Nabe ; it's about Braxton ; Nabe used to sing Composition 23A in the streets back in the seventies. -
I know he made a book on Ayler, I have to read some Nabe one of these days (when I find his books at affordable prices).


Second visit to the GTM Outpost (2003) today. Disc 2, with vocalist Molly Sturges joining the 2 saxophonists. There are some little instruments and objects involved too.

See you Cent'

centrifuge said...

hadn't heard of your french author fredito - i did have a look at the page you linked to though. my french is apparently getting rusty! i struggled a bit with some of it :(

i myself don't like marking or scoring things unless i have to. when i wrote for a magazine (years ago now) i was able to use the "five star" system and treated it as i said above, as a recommendation only, rather than a "score". after a certain time they changed it to a mark out of ten (or was it a percentage? can't remember now) and i was most unhappy about it, doubtless pissed and moaned about it to the editor. to me there is something far too cut and dried about it... anyway, if i am just listening for myself, it never occurs to me to score or mark anything... but i think i may be in a minority here.

qu'est-ce que ca veut dire que "lubie"?

Frédito said...

Lubie means whim.
I really think that this marking trend I have will eventually pass, perhaps replaced by written impressions. For now both indications tend to be coupled (for the last couple of days I've been marking individual tracks of one record ; what's next ?)

centrifuge said...

haha, marks for each minute of course, or at least for each movement :)

what score did you give *jump or die* just out of interest..?

Frédito said...

After 2 listens, I gave Jump or die a 18/20.
Perhaps my next listen will earn them 5 stars ?
The Braxton records that I'm considering giving the 5 * are for the moment being the ones of particular importance in my listener experience. Dortmund 76 on hatology was my first Braxton coup de coeur, as I recall ; the duo with Max Roach I liked much too, the latter being my first exposure to this type of collaboration, along with the Shepp-Roach duo. Thanks to my local library in the nineties.

centrifuge said...

your local library..? ah, the benefits of living in a country which has some conception of culture..! just to confirm my fears i entered the search string "anthony braxton" into MY local library catalogue online; it returned one result, some heinous r&b compilation album (that'll be *toni* braxton then). depressingly predictable :(

which duo with roach - studio or live? i presume you've seen the verona bootleg at TCF... i haven't played that one yet.

as for dortmund - well, it was significant in my listening development too, but as you know i am no longer as fond of it as i once was - still very good of course...

Frédito said...

Actually that library was in the parisian suburbs where I grew up and lived until 2006 (even intra-muros Paris in 2005-2006, a considerable wealth of music to borrow as you know). Now I don't complain about my little coastal town in Brittany, I've known worse places, still I would love to see the promised multimedia library (médiathèque) see the light of day after many years of legal obstacles. (fingers crossed for 2012). The place (a wasteland) got covered with vegetation over the years, it's known as a little paradise for fox and other animals. For now we only have a book library, better than nothing of course, but rather... conservative and dull, with some rare exceptions.

The duo with Max Roach is One in two-Two in one, on hatology. Recorded in concert at Willisau.
I haven't heard the Verona concert yet.

(I hope we don't "spoil" too much this Jump or die post ;))

centrifuge said...

heh... i wouldn't worry too much about that :)

yeah, i have a copy of that live duo with roach as well as a couple of bootlegs - they did a studio date (*birth and rebirth* on black saint, rec. 1978) before any of those, though for all i know they may have begun their "partnership" in concert... i am realy not sure.

of course it makes sense that a (suburban) parisian library would have a lot more stuff than one in brittany. still, when i first got seriously interested in this sort of music i was living in (suburban) london and the libraries there didn't have any braxton either..! (or any art ensemble, c.t., sun ra etc etc ... plenty of mainstream jazz of course)