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

1 comment:

centrifuge said...

1. back in the day, i used to put * next to the opus numbers to indicate that the system itself was not yet in use. the piece would ONLY have been known if at all by its diagram. i eventually abandoned this convention as you can see :)

2. the hell shd i know? heh (instinct says it probably *isn't* unique)

3. there is actual catholic programming in my family... so, if i've used their expressions before on this blog i don't wish to use them again! not without a "deliberate typo" to let you know i don't buy into it. disclaimer over ;-)

4. he didn;pt say best album as such. what he did say, see for yourself but it boils down to the same thing.