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!

No comments: