Saturday, December 29, 2012

...further live broadcasts...

... ah yes. järvenpää... now, what i had originally meant to talk about, which was the very first thing i had been struck by just before i started thinking of desert island discs, or whatever: the way in which all manner of skewed and bent attacks - smears and slurs and satan alone knows what else - take both the listener far out into the hinterlands, and very quickly about it, but (take) also the ensemble beyond itself, into a group-identity configuration which transcends its localised and (putatively) lowly origins. - this within just a few minutes, so that by the time five minutes came up, it already felt longer (and the effect increased at a exponential rate over three quarters of an hour!). yeah, best-of motherfucker, this would indeed then be the kind of "excitement in the mind" which triggers that sort of self-serving, masturbatory thinking and scheming and stroking (*1).

so i actually got the chance to revisit those few mins today - then jumped quickly ahead to about five mins before i got cut off last time, i.e. to the overlap between comps. 144 & 145... and picked up from there. the second half of the cd continues to be equally thrilling, fulfilling and generally kelsey-defying as the first; and once again, in the cold (bloody cold actually, and rainy yet again *2) light of a new day, nothing happens to make me change my mind and take this one off the new shortlist. (and yes, i will eventually make it public... but not just yet eh)

- i really think it's a remarkable one-off, and although the style and sound is of course recognisable, it genuinely doesn't sound like any other album or recording of b's that i have yet heard, so i am raising a glass already just for that. (many hundreds, thousands of miles on the clock by now, let's be clear about this.) like i said last time out, buy this one now if you haven't got it, 'cos like comp. 192, once it's gone it'll be gone, at least for a while. (the duo with lauren newton has been unavailable for a few years now. utterly memorable music, needs to be back in print really... hint hint) - but what of the other one i mentioned, that time before..?  this was 11 compositions (duo) 1995, duets (yet again with the duets - but you know what, i never ever get tired of these) with american koto student brett larner. well, this one i didn't buy from the label in the end, cos amazon had a like-new copy which needed rehoming, and far more than just saving a few quid, this part of my collecting (giving a perfectly healthy, but unloved braxton cd a good happy home for the rest of its life) is one which i am always content to indulge, but again, copies of this are not necessarily that easy to come by so if you want it, again, it won't ever be going in the sale so just buy it already. the question is, is this one of similar quality?

just listening to this one now, of course, hence the follow-up live broadcast as it were... if you squint your eyes you may even hear the music in the ghostly astral distance, it's after all playing to use "as we speak" - and yes, it's very good indeed, beautiful and never-conventionally-tonal playing from larner the learner, and even by b's standards, he was having a very good day when this one was cut, and of course one can hear here (as always, mind) the way in which the maestro himself never stops learning, especially when one of these relaxed, open-ended duet masterclasses is in session. the material is very well chosen (again, as usual) and each piece gets fully turned inside-out at least once in the course of a very lively and sympathetic reading. b's horns really were captured very well on this date, and larner's turns out (like lewis's or gino robair's) to be a natural voice to match our man's music. familiar faves such as comp. 74a (which i still haven't yet dealt with properly... i know, i know...) get rotated through the kaleidoscope here and comp. 72c is just crazy, and rivetting with it. i will be happy to come and hang out here again, most strange a temple though it be, for the vibe is indeed very spiritually uplifting, and the music fresh and thrilling. yep, again - buy now or regret later. both the finnish disc and this one have nice covers too, and will grace any serious collection ;-)  (*3)

* see comments

Friday, December 28, 2012

live from centriSPACEd

ahhhhhh goddamn that feels good.  ... - mmm... more collapsing groundwards from the wagon, presumably (at least) while the latter was in transit... after a three day break over christmas itself. (yes, i still live in a family which ceebrates xmas. probably wouldn't really, if i lived on my own by this point in my life..? but i am outnumbered by girls anyway...)

this time, i had the inestimable pleasure of discovering "love at first play" for a particular album or project, which on this occasion was brought about by a (truncated) spin for (järvenpää) 1988  - and, well, suffice to say that i have even (at long last) started chucking together a "best ever" shortlist for my own personal listening and learning purposes - purely because there was well, well under five mins on the clock when i first decided that this could well be an all-time favourite. thirty-six minutes-and-change (et non, j'ai pas dit... , quoi *1) later i still felt exactly the same; and even though i was then "rudely" interrupted, and ended up having to terminate the session with just under 45 mins on the meter... i didn't gnash teeth and moan, didn't even (in all honesty) give a flying fuck, for the simple reason that the music preceding the girls' returning home was so intensely personal, and so brilliantly conceived and realised, that by the time i cut it short i felt as if i'd been hanging out with the players for the last seventy-two hours "straight" (as in, no longer even slightly straight in my case, but fuck it, go with the flow - while there is one...), and (therefore) as if the full seventy-minute performance would have been the equivalent of more than a week, casting curious projections exponentially upwards and out from the vast number of different ideas turned over and examined in the section which i did hear, which probably includes the whole reading of comp. 144 at any rate... ah, man, this is so so so good, such a quintessential example of b's ability to follow in the footsteps of stravinsky, miles davis, roland kirk (and share again a parallel-ish trajectory with the more serious explorations and wilder contemplations of zappa) - and raise the standards of those his collaborators to the nth degree - for as long as the group microscope effect was, well, in effect.

without having (yet) the time to do a proper in-depth analysis (... of an album which i still have not heard in its entirety), i do want to get one thing off my chest, ready for the (optimistic!) new year: and it concerns the well-regarded (?) jazz critic and underrecorded/underappreciated (?) soprano saxophone player chris kelsey. mr kelsey presented a good enough cv (*2) that they gave him (years ago) the job of doing the biog-precis for allmusic (guide, as was), and very complimentary and sympathetic he was, too. yet it's only just today that i discovered this pissy strop of a review (, and i'm really not sure how much distance-in-time separated them).

so... chris thinks that b hasn't bothered to understand the art of composition. that's tough talk, against a guy who has become noted as a professional academic with at least one special(i)ty being the study of composition in all its manifold guises - so open-ended is b's approach (as regards external stipulations or proscriptions to the individual's sources for inspiration) that the advice he gives over and over is for players to work out music which expresses all their interests and tastes, to strive for no less than that. (it has had great effect on, for example, steve lehman and tyshawn sorey just recently.  - and others, like mary halvorson obviously... one of the most exciting and talked-about presences in jazz these days, as i understand it... et al. taylor was heading for it anyway i think, though of course he will have benefitted from b's association, but then so was true for the leader.)

yes... hmm, it's a downright insult really. and some of those snippy comments... while all the time trying to sound level-headed and cool... this combination always sparks up my internal alarm-system, reminding me "personal vendetta! do not trust" - and i can only suppose, without wishing to dignify that "review" (and to be fair he does recover his composure to say some good things about the recording) with too much more of my time, that the avid student kelsey nonetheless found himself undercooked when put on the spot to play some of the maestro's fiendishly-challenging, taboo-shattering written lines - or perhaps just tried in secret and failed miserably, and was disgusted with himself - and took it out (in the time-honoured tradition) on the vehicle of that disappointment, to wit, the composer whose difficulties occasioned the unpleasant self-discovery. something like that took place, for kelsey lets his guard slip enough to fume audibly when talking of how tricky those lines are to negotiate, how they "don't fall naturally under the fingers", as if a primary requirement of a written part were to pass muster as a fingering-exercise... well, fuck that...

... he's right enough about the fact that b. writes for musicians who don't (numerously) exist yet, but also basically wrong about quite a lot on this occasion. and as before, it's the (public) (personal) sense of insult which i'm looking to avenge, in miniature, en passant but like allmusic, left up there for public viewing at any time. - 'cos this album really demands serious attention, and really really rewards it, many times over. look, these days of course i find myself thinking at first "what will there be in this one that i haven't encountered before?" - and this time there were so many answers to that rhetorical question, it being i believe unique in b's recorded oeuvre both in the striking (forced) instrumentation - four reeds, trombone, one high string-player and one low, doubling-up on cello and bass, and drums - and also the atmosphere it captures, which is a soundspace of the rarest and most densely-populated sort, moving (effortlessly) very very fast indeed. so much for, the players acquit themselves ok but are better improvisers than readers. no, i never did find myself thinking (of a single utterance, never mind a passage of interplay) "ooh, that didn't really work, they missed that here or were a bit all over the place there" - nope. on the contrary, like i say - within a few minutes, i swear on my daughter's viking-flecked red-blonde hair, i was already thinking that i was in for something very special, a possible all-time favourite - and i repeat, nothing in that first 45 minutes happened to make me rethink, never mind change my mind.

it begins very very very quiety - so much so that for the first thirty seconds, i found myself checking volume control, etc and it's really almost total silence except for the odd borderline-subliminal flutter, and when it commences, even, it's quiet and closely-involved, demands commitment and suspended judgement from the listener. (didn't get it from mr kelsey... anyway, )it got it from me... i started running a bath anyway, having planned to fill the house with the music, then felt stymied (again! couldn't play this at all, the first night i had it) when the time came to get it ready - how could i listen to such a quiet and subdued, intimate recording from upstairs in the bathroom? and when it was time to get in i hung around for several more minutes, unable to tear myself away from the fascinating, fully-focussed, forth-and-back forensic foraging which was unfolding, second-by-second, with me for a rapt witness. in the end i needn't have worried anyway: once upstairs, the previously-attained closeness with the music meant that i could still hear it in crystal clarity despite the quiet dynamics. (and it is deliberate. they are holding much in reserve; when (seven mins?) one reed player begins snaking a more loud and forceful attack up into the space, the effect is almost shocking because even such a restrained increase in the dynamic cogency of the attack is amplified by the unearthly softness which characterises much of the music. and no, that's in no way faint praise.

no, now is not the time to dissect this remarkable album. now is the time to say to mr kelsey, you know your stuff in general sir, but too much of this one came issued forth from your arse, and the best thing to do with it is grab it in a hermetically-sealed specimen-glove, withdraw the receiving arm to the point of inertia, then ram it back bodily, up whence it came. indeed, if we are talking exclusively here about the cloaca, the orifices and organs governed by the lower jiao (burner), then it might just turn out to be a blessing if the point of return-ingress does turn out to be, indeed, the target between the perineum and the coccyx ;-)

that's about as (over-educatedly) combative as i've permitted myself to be for quite some time, i think. no, it doesn't herald the coming of a brutal new age of dissing people whom i don't agree with. far from it... i felt the need to overturn this one, but in general, having done so, i am happy to return to my former position of regarding mr kelsey as a good and astute critic, well-informed on the history of the music, and very good on techical analysis; and i'm still (more or less) happy to take it on trust that he is a good (and/if unsung) player. peace and love, and all that jazz :)

- 'cos hey, this is really damn good music, and thanks to the guys involved for getting it to fruition: the seven finns, keeping a flame alight where sibelius spent his summers; b. himself, for knowing what music to use, and how to magick the eight voices into an inexhaustible panoply of singularities and combining-experiences (...*3), and the producers jukka wasama, on-site presence and leo feigin, head office. (another one of the nailed-on certs for "desert island braxton" is on leo, namely this masterpiece which is sadly out of print; i have purchased a copy online, though, having only previously owned a cd-r of it... merry xmas to me, etc etc...). thanks are due again to mr feigin for continuing to publish important, nay crucial material... as for the finnish 'stravaganza,  i am itching to hear the rest of it, and feel suitably inspired (as i have for a week and a half now, give or take a day) to post on further (interrelated) subjects and sub-subjects, etc. don't hold-your-breath but, watch this space... this space... this space... (*4)

* see comments

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

(reawakened) just in time for the end of the world

so... guess who didn't even make it till then ;-)

no, in the end i came to the conclusion that this total abstinence lark just isn't for me either, at least not quite yet, anyway...

... and treated myself to a day with considerably less internal stress. and during the day, or rather the afternoon and evening, i was still listening to "rock" music (*). but in this state, again, i finally found i was not satisfied with that and needed sound-materials of considerably greater density (*) - so, after weeks and weeks spent listening almost exclusively to extreme metal and punk, with the odd bit of lighter-but-still-fringe "actual rock" thrown in for good measure, i ended up tonight with something which i haven't really heard properly for quite a while, but which impressed the shit out of me when i fist heard it, and that was this, still a definite high-water mark in free improv for me. i wrote about it when i posted my own (dropout-corrected) edit of the longer first piece; until this year i wasn't even aware that there was a second and, although i had heard that piece when the concert emerged as an official boot, this was the first time i really gave it my proper attention, at least for some of it - ! 'cos there was quite a lot of catching up to do tonight, and i couldn't give sustained attention to any one thing-

- nevertheless, if i've taken one thing away from the last hour or so, it is that this recording truly does capture some FUCKING INCREDIBLE MUSIC. if i'm not mistaken, i said something suitably and similarly hyperbolic when i first heard it, but well, it's that kind of music. actually, that first time, like many listeners typically do, i wasn't fully paying attention when the music began and therefore didn;t really engage with it until it first hit a peak of focussed intensity; from then on, it rarely drops for a second and as a result i remembered the whole thing almost as if it entices from the word go; but this is not necessarily the case, and that is fine: this sort of music is above all a process, not a product. tonight it took almost seven minutes before i realised i was fully under the spell. the opening entries - from bailey, starting then stopping then re-starting all on his own, then lewis then braxton practically on top of each other - were fascinating, hearing the sound being worked up literally from nothing and the players feel their way around each other; but i lost the thread within the first minute, in all probability, picking it up only for scattered seconds after that until around the 7.00 min mark like i say, when b. is stripping layers off the inside of his saxophone and the three of them are suddenly really really cooking.

it came up out of them organically, as if from nowhere - but inevitably.

- and it's true, once that peak is reached, there is scarcely a breath of let-up because the creative invention continues to be of a spectacularly high degree of skill and focus, and the discourse is conducted at a ludicrously advanced level. if we were to attempt the sanity-shredding task of mapping it, or rather the territory covered by it, it would spool out into something vastly more time-consuming than the second-munching clock trciks us into believing: with the ear-miscroscope attuned, the true pace of this music, in terms of actual distance covered (or conceptual discourse achieved) versus time elapsed, is very fast indeed. [and yeah... well, whether or not i am yet capable of hearing this properly without recourse to paregoric, i lack at least the inclination to fill my head with it - or have done, of late. that's all i can conclude about it, really, for the time being.]

tonight is not the time to ramble on at great length though - not tonight. cannot be up half the night... just can't be done... but at the same time, it seemed vitally important to post at last. (haha, rarely a day gors by that i don't beat myself up about not posting, especially when i have stated the intention to write about something, or several things...) no, i still haven't found the right set of circumstance to write about the italian concert video - not yet; though that'll definitely come, don't worry about that at least. but, yet again, the imperative to write tonight came from the repeated rediscovery that although b's voice may (betimes) be too intense for the uncommitted to approach, it justifies its own intensity many times over with the vital, wonderful, worthy-of-hearing wisdom which spills from that committed mouth. and on this occasion, at least, there was never any question that he shared the stage with two men who were fully operating at precisely the same level throughout. (*)

there was one more thing: i've failed yet again to write about james fei's album in time. this is as mucxh as anything else an acknowledgement of the fact that, with the best will in the world, it's pretty esoteric stuff and probably only really appreciable by serious reed-players. i haven't found time to re-listen to it, but then i never properly penetrated it, or was deeply moved by it, on the occasions when i've played it previously and i think (even) i would find it terribly difficult to write about. i kept the desire to do so for all this time because, in truth, mr fei is one of the experts as far as i'm concerned, and this blog is concerned; what he might be besides that, i'm really not sure but i daresay it'll all become clear eventually. meanwhile, there is yet a smidgen of time before the world's scheduled end, and the end of the final sale, therefore... the album can be found for a song, practically, in there.

* first comment
* second comment

Thursday, November 29, 2012

"going through changes..."

well... i did start this year talking of expectations of change. [and of course we still don't know whether all those 2012 predictions will come to anything. 21st december, right? i'm not expecting the end of the world, myself; but we do seem to be due some major changes, if the human race is going to continue at all. still time to squeeze those in, this year..? only if something drastic happens, i think. so who knows, maybe there will be some sort of cataclysm. don't have to wait too long to find out now, do we?] that has certainly turned out to be prophetic as far my own life is concerned... having had to make a whole series of adjustments as i got used to a new job, a different daily and weekly routine, and a lot less free time (not that i was making particularly good use of the time i got to myself before, it must be admitted), i then found myself adjusting again as i shifted to permanent lates at work... and then i went through a sort of nervous breakdown. (i'm still not sure exactly how much of a breakdown this really was, bearing in mind that even in the middle of it, i was still working - just about - but in any case, i seem to be over the worst of it.) i can't actually remember what really triggered this, but it's not at all irrelevant that i stopped smoking ganja almost two months ago. hence i now find myself rebuilding from the inside, with a certain amount of help and support available to me, but without the old familiar self-medication to fall back on. changes... you bet.

one of the most significant knock-on effects of this (as if the loss of my habitual mood-regulator and sedative were not quite enough) is the withdrawal of psychoactive benefits. for far too long now, i have generally relied on external help for my bursts of inspiration and insight... but of course there is now a nagging fear in my mind that without external help, certain things might remain inaccessible to me, one of these being my insights into creative music.  simply put, my breakthrough in understanding avant-garde/free jazz and related musics (which itself is detailed here) was itself very much cannabis-assisted; needless to say the same is true of the inception of the braxtothon; and although since then things have not always been quite that simple (there have been occasions when i was able to get deeply into music when "straight", and others when i didn't manage to get into anything much, despite being as high as a kite), it has usually been the case that i hear improvised music, in particular, with a great deal more clarity when i am in that state. there has often seemed to be something crucial missing, otherwise: it's as if a necessary backdrop, an inaudible (but nevertheless present) sonic context is only accessible to me when i'm high. some recordings of free improv in particular have sounded completely different to me in those two headstates: straight, all i've heard has been dissonant sounds without shape or coherence, whereas the same recordings heard when high have revealed themselves within context right from the very first notes, each successive entry then slotting neatly into an established framework.

i don't know what to do about this; i only know that after months and years of promising myself that i was going to get my smoking habits properly under my control, i have finally acknowledged that it's not happening and isn't likely to, any time soon. hence, for the time being at least, i have quit altogether. what does that leave me with? well, funnily enough i am listening to a lot of music at the moment. (the irony here is that for much of this year i found myself with no desire to listen to anything at all, despite smoking heavily - more often than not.) so far, though, it's been almost exclusively metal or hardcore punk, and very little else... with scattered exceptions, i have not yet felt like delving back into creative music, and very possibly i am afraid of what'll happen - or won't happen - if and when i do; but at least i am listening to stuff, and enjoying it, and for the time being that might have to be enough. call it warming up, or flexing my ear muscles, or whatever; all too often during these last few years i have found it impossible to get interested in anything unless i was high, so the fact that i am getting heavily back into music again may even represent real progress :)

sigh... this was not intended to be any sort of moratorium. what it was intended to be, following yet another of my (periodic but increasingly frequent) "blog silences", was a quick roundup of some things i'd not dealt with yet:

1. first and foremost there is the not-so-small matter of this video clip. mcclintic sphere drew my attention to it in a comment, weeks ago now - and it took me ages to get round to watching it. (see above for one obvious reason. but also, even more simply, my new schedule means that i rarely get 75 mins to sit in one place and watch something these days...) - anyway, although i didn't necessarily get much "out" of it, i did enjoy it and i was planning to write about it. unlike some of my recent plans, this one is still likely to turn into an actual post. coming very soon, so i shan't so anything more about it here.

2. i did finally sort out the ludicrous situation with my lack of a functioning cassette-player... and still haven't found the time (or indeed the inclination, just yet - again, see above) to listen to any tapes. ah, but they're not going anywhere...

3. leo feigin, at least, apparently thinks the world will end on the winter solstice, and is therefore having the leo records sale a little early this year. (then again, not all of the catalogue is going in the sale, so perhaps mr feigin is expecting to survive the apocalypse after all. as far as our guy's stuff is concerned, i notice that this one is not on offer, and neither is this one. not quite sure what sets those two apart, but something evidently does. i don't actually have either of those albums yet, which is why i know they aren't in the sale...) hmm, so if i'm actually going to do a piece on that james fei solo album i'd better get my finger out. otherwise, there goes another year. [when it comes to the question of what happened to the blog this year - no, i don't fully understand it myself. these things do tend to be a bit cyclical though, so please bear with me and i'm sure the activity will return. if the world doesn't end next month, naturally...]

4. mary halvorson's last album... yes, i did buy it and yes, i did play it several times in the week that followed. actually, this was pretty much the last music of this type i did listen to before the well dried up. and yes, i was going to write about it, wasn't i? that didn't happen. not to say that it won't... although it has to be said, thus far i didn't draw any particular interesting conclusions about it. it's definitely a good album though and i will be going back to it for sure - perhaps it might even help me "cut my teeth" again, so to speak.

5. creative musicians have been dropping like flies over the last few years, indeed every year since i got into this sort of music. normally, i don't have much to say, and therefore don't say anything. this is not because i'm callous (although i don't necessarily regard death with as much sorrow as is customary in western culture); if there is anything calculated in this at all, it is possibly the fact the blog was always intended to be about celebrating the living and thus avoiding the usual critical stereotype of not bothering to say anything much about a musician until he or she is safely dead and gone, then suddenly making out that one was always a huge fan. yeah, ok, there was probably an element of deliberately eschewing that at times but most of the time, it was just because i really didn't have much to contribute. one occasional reader (and fellow former user of the bbc messagebored) posted a comment here when lol coxhill died, asking whether i was going to make my own tribute - but although i respected the man and enjoyed everything i heard of his playing (and hey, if he was good enough for b. then that's good enough for me), the truth of the matter is, i never really knew his music well at all. other players have passed in the last few years whose music i know far better - andrew hill, for example, or more recently sam rivers - and i still didn't feel i had much to say that would have been worthwhile.

but i did want to say just a few words about david s. ware, even if i am embarrassingly late in doing so. something about the man's playing did speak to me quite directly, whether this was solo (superb solo record came out last year, iirc) or in a group context; and again, those groups were not limited to ware's "great quartet" with matthew shipp and william parker (plus revolving drum chair). yes, this group achieved something significant in its own right (and surely provided the last word on the coltrane quartet, if you know what i'm saying... once that group was done, any need for further digging in that well-mined ground disappeared with them imo), but the subsequent quartet with joe morris was just as good, to my ears, and i enjoyed listening to them just as much. i am not so familiar with ware's earlier work, just the odd album here and there (e.g. flight of i, obviously - though i haven't heard it for a while) - but like i say, in whatever context i encountered his sound, i always found it extremely compelling and powerful. i am sure that he will be greatly missed.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

the invisible anniversary

my daughter turned four recently (frightening thought, but undeniable) - which tells me that the blog turned five round about the same time. i realised several weeks ago that this was coming up, and - in one of my bursts of enthusiasm - came up with an idea of how to celebrate it, but just a day or two later the idea was gone... and the enthusiasm went with it. (i genuinely can't think for the life of me what i was planning to do.) at the moment i have less time than ever to work on this project and find it very difficult to focus on it for any length of time. that, i'm sure, will pass - though whether i'll get the time back remains to be seen. but the business os trying to get a tape player back in the house is becoming farcical: just over a week ago i found myself unexpectedly near a car-boot sale, so popped in the off-chance, and sure enough, i managed to pick up a portable double-cassette player for just a few quid. so caught up was i in the excitement of my purchase that i failed to notice until afterwards that it lacked the right power adapter -! subsequent investigations revealed that the device was evidently imported from somewhere in europe, and now i'm not even sure what sort of adapter it requires for a british electrical supply. the previous moves to get my old machine repaired came to nothing as my new schedule makes it very difficult to arrange a time for it to be picked up and delivered back again... so i currently have *two* unusable players and STILL can't play any of my fucken tapes!!!  *

ok, so i can and will overcome that problem - i will eventually find someone with more technical savvy than me, who can set me straight on what sort of adapter i need. but somehow this just seems perfectly emblematic of my recent lack of activity on the blog. there's more, too: even as i write, the maestro is in the middle of a nine-date european tour, and as usual, there are no british concerts on the schedule. (as usual: british promoters just don't book our guy. haha, maybe in some parallel universe i myself have rectified this. in *this* universe i am nowhere near organised enough.) that's pretty weakening... though hardly surprising. still, look at it another way entirely: it's good that there are still venues in europe which can find a suitable audience for b's music, and i hope the tour is going very well! (same goes for the recent concert at roulette in new york.) it's just a damn shame that i am unable to get to any of the gigs... but this was never an option for me.

ah well... one thing i did get hold of recently is mary halvorson's bending bridges, bought directly from firehouse 12. i will be playing this as many times as i can squeeze it in, with the intention of writing something about it as soon as i can. but for the time being... that's all the news that's fit to print. i do hope that next time i post there will be something a bit more upbeat to write about...

* see comments

Thursday, September 20, 2012

2 by 2 (little by little)

ahhh.... much to my (genuine) surprise, people seem to read this blog more now that i am scarcely finding the time - or headspace - to post on it: hits are on the up. [apparently some of you are belatedly attempting to download the pic folder(s)..? ok, if i remember i will try and get round to reposting live links for those.] now that i am no longer able to pretend that i don't even know how many readers i do or don't have - and for years this was absolutely the case, at my own bloody-minded insistence - i have been quite curious to see what sort of attention the blog's been getting... there is some evidence to show that readers are using it as i hoped, i.e. as a reference. (just let's all remember that i very often leave my mistakes in and don't always get round to adding corrections/updates on very timely fashion... nothing you read here should be taken as a fully-formed, crystallised judgement. but then... what can? ahem.)

anyway, as i cryptically hinted (in the comments) last time, i had intended to force myself into getting the details written up, but it just wasn't happening - and, maddeningly, i responded to this self-induced pressure in the end by drifting away from (any) music altogether for a few weeks, scarcely ever even feeling like listening to any (*1)... and getting a quick, visceral "uff, no" from somewhere deep down inside every time i thought about "tackling" something demanding, something with real detail and density to it. but there we are back again, and again: demanding? tackling? that's all just part of the procrastination process... if and when i "surprise" myself by putting some creative music on, usually what results is delight, pure and simple enough (*2). we have been here before.

- but sometimes, for better or worse, it is after all just a matter of waiting until the propitious moment - and suffering the frustrations in the meantime. can't force these things... or perhaps sometimes one can and at others, not... in any case, this time it was just about that: a few days ago it suddenly clikced back into place, and i found myself aware of a pressing need to get the maestro's music into my ears and beyond... and when that came to pass in due course, more thoughts came issuing forth to greet the sounds, as always. as you can see from the picture, the music on this occasion was from the one-off (?) evening of duetitude between b. and buell neidlinger, released just this year on K2B2 (the label co-founded by neidlinger and marty krystall, in case anyone needs that blank filling in). little by little..? well, that's because this is mighty music and not to be trifled with, in terms of detailed analysis; nor am i even tempted to undertake such a thing, never mind a proper "review" or critique. (what, with my recent track record? fuggeddaboudit.) - it's nevertheless long overdue really, to say a few things about this remarkable double-document, which really does stand out even amidst the master's extensive list of recorded duo encounters (as has been claimed on its behalf).

basically the reason it stands out is very siomple: these are two freakish individuals! neidlinger is still best remembered by history for being a sort of "second charlie haden", the white cat with shades on playing the bass in an ensemble led and totally dominated by a black pioneer-genius (*3); in other words, he's still known to many people primarily known for a gig he landed when he was still in his teens. but this is peculiarly appropriate: the young buell was a child prodigy, not on the contrabass of course but on the 'cello, until that became a source of emotional trauma for him (*4) - much later in life he became as celebrated for his contribution to emotional healing as for his association with creative music, if not more so, and (as i understand it) has co-authored several works on divorce mediation *, wearing his counsellor's hat... but back to music, the voice lost to the smaller instrument found the fullest possible expression in the larger one, once he made the switch. neidlinger's total confidence of attack and tone is matched only by his complete (non-arrogant) refusal to give a fuck about any time schedule other than his own; and this, indeed, may turn out to be the overall emblem of his contribution(s) to the art: as with richard davis, another orchestrally-trained maestro of course, neidlinger was a favourite of stravinsky's - the bassist tells an anecdote of how the composer rushed to meet him after a performance of l'histoire du soldat, declaring it the best rendition he had ever heard, and when asked why this was so, answering "because you go forward" - as the bassist continues to explain, to a player who has properly absorbed the meaning of jazz, and especially of free jazz, there is no time, just a starting point and a journey. nor, of course, is this true solely of time; this musician permits himself complete freedom of address in all directions, and his sureness of utterance immediately provides all the licence he might require (*5).

one of the things i found charming about this trecording when i first played it was the way in which they don't quite sound fully warmed-up at the start; they have not yet fully found each other in the soundspace and b's faster runs tend to misfire at certain points, but this does not last for long - ha, far from it. they are just warming up in public, as it were, using monk to work out any kinks or whatever, and to get into the music; by the time the second piece begins they are both on, and of course this is demonstrable every second after. this piece, which encompasses several moods and textures, has been titled (by neidlinger) "tonight the night" and is here dedicated to xenakis; the liners refer only to the time which has passed and the difficulty of establishing authorship over music which was co-created on the night, but this number sounds suspiciously braxtonesque and begins, indeed, with one of b's signature birdcalls, a prolonged horn line which toys with both linear displacement and pan-tonality. [argh... ok, by now i "should" be able to say definitively which piece this is, or most resembles and i can't. even if i refuse to accept any external pressures on me to provide that information, i have fallen short of my own hopes and expectations in this regard - ! well, i forgive me ;-) ] - the second set includes the same number and sure enough, it begins exactly the same way so i really do wonder whether b. didn't just bring this to the gig, however informally, and then they forgot to sort out the details afterwards... who knows. (if so... it's another paris concert. but in this case they possibly never expected it to get released.)

in any case titles don't mean so very much, here, not when this is ultimately just about two freakishly talented and unique individuals enjoying each other's exalted company and exploring as much ground as they can. that second rendition of "tonight"/comp. #? bleeds back into "off minor", which is where we came in at the beginning of the evening, but buell's been hanging out there for a good couple of minutes anyway: cue up "tonight" on your player, run forward eight mins and you'll hear him just suddenly click into the monk number out of nowhere, as if it had never actually gone away. (and maybe it hadn't. indeed, perhaps it never does... i know myself that monk's music can feel that way, and i don't even play it.) and this, of course, just brings us back to the braxtonesque, since cross-territorial transitions are a part of the maestro's stock-in-trade, at least in a live context.

and you know what/ i think that might be it. i don't really have anything more to say about it, other than: buy it!! b. is a duettist non-pareil, and his discog most emphatically proves it, but this one will always stand out as one of the peaks therein... essential. (*6)

* see comments 
* no he hasn't... see comment dated 16th oct

Friday, July 20, 2012

what i missed last term

despite (what for me was) a brief flurry in june, during (what for me was) an unusually productive week, there's just been nothing going on round here at all. i admit it, currently 75% of my attention that is not already filtered away into the day (and evening) job, the parenting,etc etc... has disappeared mainly into comics (again, damn, there's a lot of very high-quality stuff been produced in that medium and much of it has not yet been fully explicated... rmmmmmarrragggghhhhrrrrmmmmmhhhmmm...) anyway :-

- that's right, there is a big gap where there was s'posed to be something else, just something in fact, as opposed to nothing. what was scheduled to happen was this: get tape player sorted, start munching through all those fascinating bootlegs, no pressure, just curious to see what does come up (since there is bound to be something, and more than just one thing while we're at it, in this case!)... report back, pref. little and often, (ha!)... well, there were two reasons i think, namely the adjustment(s) which had to take place, stage by stage, as i got used to a completely different working week and also a very different working environment, job conditions, etc etc ad nauseam (*1); the other reason being, when am i ever now near a place where i could get a tape player?, and all that. most "kids" under 25 these days have never even owned a cd player, never mind records or tapes; what was still common enough 15 years ago might now just as well be laserdisc or eight-track.

anyway... gonna get that sorted, i am... just turned 42 last week. the big one, as d.adams would insist on having it (*2). so, gonna be some changes around here (and indeed elsewhere in my life). incidentally, it's come as rather a surprise to find that people do actually read this blog, whether they "still" read it or otherwise... i had ducked for as long as i could the trap of knowing how many page views we wuz gettin, having been a slave to this in my tenure at c#9 (*3), but recently blogger changed completely as we all know (and thus lost at least one of its leading lights, from my point of view anyway... 'bye mr lucky, the blogosphere is not and never could be the same without you *4) - with considerable trepidation i peeked at the figures that were suddenly laid bare on my new blogger dashboard, fearing confirmation that all this time i had been talking quietly, or indeed raving into a void with only the occasional dim and distant echo, or flurry of echoes... but it turns out that more people actually read it, even these days apparently when i don't, haven't been posting much. well, you know, thanks for sticking around and let's try and move things forward again.

- 'cos far from putting the braxtothon back yet again, i am hoping that a renewed energy-blast (such as that to be unleashed from a collection of previously-unheard music) will see me get that done too, since all it lacks now is to get started, really, it's not as if i don't already know more or less what i'm going to say about the duets - ok, so, can i actually pull my finger out and do it, now? i am about to find out ;-)

(admittedly, since i started this post, things have suffered a bit of a setback, in that i tried and failed to locate a source for a "new" tape player in swansea... i may have found a repair service online, though... watch this space)


some music, then: like i say, there has been all too little of this recently (*5), but i have found time for some braxton... three very different sets of (friendly!) experiences:

a) large chunk of this hot item, albeit cut off abruptly in media res on this occasion as i got rudely interrupted - this concert, incidentally, was just one of a series of european dates by this "one-off" trio, some (all?) of which are in circulation among traders and collectors. (the aforementioned uranian boot box offers me the tantalising promise of london, angers and two successive nights in aubervilliers, all a little later in march.)

this music represents something very unusual: to wit, b's taking his own music on the road and presenting it in recital form rather than via open-ended exploration; the only thing that will probably have changed is the order in which the primary sets of materials were engaged, since after all the running order for the wuppertal concert is different from that of the album, recorded mid-tour in amiens (*6); but still, the music i heard on this occasion struck me as oddly crystallised, certainly not sterile, but (to a far greater extent than usual) reproduced rather than just, well, produced i suppose. and don't get me wrong, the performances are of the very highest calibre as one would expect, the audience would be in no doubt that they had attended something of considerable artisitic value, but for me there is nonetheless something missing from the music here. or at least, that's how it came across to me on this occasion, and before i was cut off... whatever. it will be interesting (eventually!!) to hear the various tapes. are both nights in aubervilliers the same primary setlist, again? all will (one day) be revealed ;-)

b) on my birthday itself this year i didn't get a lot of music time. and what i did have, i had to grab quickly so i couldn't really pick and choose from my whole collection, it had to be something to hand, which then turned out to be the ninetets. actually i started with vol. 3 disc one, moving on to disc 2 in what turned out to be misplaced optimism (my time ran out, ten minutes in); the next day, with a bit more time, i carried on with both discs of vol. 4.

now this stuff just sounds better and better every time i hear it, regardless of how much attention i pay at first... when one looks at the line-up, not just for these performances but for many of the next few years, what is most glaringly missing is at least one brass player (*7) - yet in the listening, one would be hard at work listing many qualities present in the music before ever getting round to the concept of anything missing: the variety of mood, texture, atmosphere, timbral permutation (...) herein must have blown away any of the audience who were alert enough to be aware of how new and fresh this stuff was (and still is, let's face it... it's not as if the rest of the world has exactly caught up), alert enough and therefore paying close enough attention - ideas change hands with such swiftness that spacing out for a few minutes during the performance (which might see one miss a couple of solos at a jazz concert) sees one lose whole sections of a very large overall map. yeah, the only bit i remember now is a perfectly-formed, encapsulated quote from comp. 6k (lasting rather less than one second) which kevin o'neil tosses out there (*8), whether conscious or otherwise of whence he derived the pattern; struck me at the time as being beautifully holographic, a tiny cell expressing something of the totality (in this case - more than usually - a totality of possibilities, beyond the "actual" totality of the performance). i actually have all eight of the ninetets of the mp3 player but i'm not sure what chance i would get to hear the whole lot more or less uninterrupted ;-)

c ) a friend just provided me with a cd rip of this album, which i have been missing up till now (and which in principle is up for examination within the next braxtothon phase). and what do you know, it's remarkable... not that one would expect otherwise, but any of the typical responses to the notion "with strings" can be chucked out the wondow here: some of this is seriously knotty and even aggressive music, absolutely fantastic as far as i am concerned. what the album actually contains is a live (live!) performance (*9) originally broadcast on german radio, (in contrast with the trios from a decade later) a real double-dig exploration of comp. 17, one version with the maestro and one without, the programme fleshed out with six relatively short alto solo pieces.

- the ambience on the string pieces is thrillingly fresh and real, the sound of boundaries being torn back. obviously (as with comp. 22, et al) the pages of the score can be arranged in any order, guaranteeing a different experience each time (which shuffling the pack in '89 perhaps didn't..?), and the musicians just sound as if they can't wait to get their hands on the music. or, well, that's how it came across to me at any rate... the solo performances, it really goes without saying, are of the highest standard, but they inevitably lack a little drama compared to what has taken place amongst the strings. then again... look at it a different way, maybe it's just a perfectly-balanced programme of musical delectation... i must confess i have not (yet) taken in the whole thing, or at least not in its original order. (will definitely be coming back to this, but not too much in case i spoil it for later>>> arf arf)

* see comments

Friday, June 15, 2012

mining deeper...

taylor ho bynum sextet at saalfelden revisited

(first three paras and most of the fourth written months ago - c.)

final wednesmonday - haha - was the occasion of that slightly delirious prior post, but part of what made it psychedelic in the first place was a(nother) return here... having said excitedly at the time that i would be listening to it again, i then did nothing of the sort for a while as it turned out - old friend contacted me again after a long gap and got me back into metal again for a while, catching up with some stuff i'd missed... so no more thb sextet - at least not until that week, at which point i ended up replaying "apparent distance" three times in 24 hrs, extending it to take in the complete concert twice with the addition of the blues, the delightful encore as previously detailed. (and how did i not simply think of mingus for that one, before..? i mean first, last and throughout, never mind anything more recent in vintage... "pussy cat dues" in particular, the whole thing has a beautifully laid-back "ah um" feel to it for sure)

and - well. apart from "encounter" by john carter - which i wrote about once, then revisited later - "apparent distance" is the first non-braxton piece to have passed twice under my microscope here, at whatever degree of magnification; and all i can say up front is that it really merits the extra attention... or, i can spoil my own entrance and tell you right off that the "piece" is nothing less than a profound meditation on human perspectives on time, on temporality-as-construct - in other words it is postgrad-degree standard philosophy delivered within the framework of (fully realised) art... doesn't exactly trip off the tongue, does it (thb won't be soundbiting it for the cd inlay) - but it's probably the highest sort of praise i know how to give. and, you know, i still haven't "finished" understanding it yet (by any means). (*1)

first off, it was (i trust) made clear before that i was not listening in close detail, merely recording my lasting impressions; so, no need to apologise for having missed stuff, particularly deep or long-range strategic stuff, the first time around. really this is the point (i hope) of what i'm doing here: relating the private autopsy in public so that the learning process is actually exposed for all to see... it is a myth that once one arrives at lofty criticdom, one merely has to be within half a block of an artistic event or presentation for the detailed schematics on said happening to be transmitted to one's back-library instantly, via osmosis... and of course it's a total crock, and the guys who try to pull that particular trick on you are indeed just bullshitting. nobody's ears just work like magic. if you were sitting there with it on in the background, doing several different things at once, flirting online etc etc then regardless of your hardware setup, and listening experience, your account of proceedings ain't gonna stand up to scrutiny. in truth there isn't a problem with that, the problem comes when one is still being asked to believe - for the sake of social nicety - that the opinions volunteered after such "listening" are actually worth something.

anyway... first time out, i picked up a number of useful signposts, so to speak, which enabled me to follow some of the energetic flow of the work and even to remember it, to recognise it next time; and helped encapsulate it to some extent (all the while taking care to state that i was not trying to summarise it); and i sure as hell enjoyed it, and moved along with it... but there was plenty i didn't take in or pick up at all. indeed, the process of non-pickupage began right at the outset, since i (must have) heard a few seconds of solo cornet, slipped at once into a semi-reverie state and did not notice the second horn's entry, never mind the third. so - and admittedly i am leaving it rather late to say this (about an article i published five months ago) - any references to thb playing a series of solo cadenzas throughout the performance are not exactly accurate... though, again, it remains the case that i did pick up something of value at least: the returns to unaccompanied horns (where horns directly represent human voices relating individual experiences) do mark the insterstices between sections, and very quickly come to represent a self-reflexive, dignified examination of accumulated experience - this, again, is what it means to be here, alive... and with each headlong dash through a phase of experience, the knowledge deepens ("like a coastal shelf" indeed *2) and the quiet miracle can occur, as youthful arrogance and brashness subsides to humility and wonder at the ever-increasing understanding of what it means to be human.

the hot free jazz section which follows the first exposition from the horns contains all sorts of subtle and complex details - something which i completely failed to capture on my first listen. rhythmically, what occurs in this section is as difficult to learn and replicate as anything by meshuggah or the dillinger escape plan (*3), or to bring it back to something more familiar to listeners here, as anything by tim berne; yet the casual ear remembers it, as mine did, as being as simple and effortlessly groove-based as one could wish, allowing the lazy listener to be swept off in an irresistible tide of rhythm. this, don't forget, is the part which reminded me of messrs tyler and reid. (with no disrespect to them at all, but they are not especially known for (post-)deconstructed rhythm, excelling, as they do, precisely at creating fabulous free jazz rhythm-n-soundscapes which can carry the listener away, ... )  - the core building block in this phase is three bars of hard-swung fours, followed by - well, that didn't half surprise the shit out of me when i listened more closely, next time around. first time, the fourth measure comprises literally one beat. the second, two, so that it comes as no great surprise when the third lasts for three and the fourth seems now oddly predictable - back as you were, then, yes? 1,2,3,4 like that - whoops, no, hang on. the second time this whole small sequence is enjoined, the order of the "tail" bars is switched up - and in fact from this very moment on in, there is no point is trying to second-guess the sequence as one would only miss everything else that's happening in a maddeningly futile attempt to follow the count - which meanwhile, and throughout, shifts and changes time after time, endless permutations opening up amidst this constant basic (near-)repetition; this again being the way in which we live our lives, let's be clear about this. (how this very demanding effect is achieved - when this sort of music rarely requires the sort of "robotic" precision of advanced rock and metal strategies - and when it doesn't sound remotely robotic anyway, feeling indeed as natural as breathing... which is why the lazy ear remembers it as regular rhythm - god only knows, but taylor is obviously not kidding when he confides to the audience that the piece is hard to play - !)

right, so, next time we get the (greek) chorus we have learned a lot more, right? that hectic, blurred-vision sweep through a chunk of our lives, it takes some silence and space to reflect upon it. - this the horns proceed to tell us, again. 

note that i am not attempting a full tissue dissection of this piece (not yet anyway..! who knows) - so with the depth of ambition established and the hermeneutic parameters set, one can fill in the blanks for oneself as regards individual sections of the piece (*4). in terms of my own relistening so far it was enough to get more of a handle on the half-formed impression i'd grasped at before, which was to do with "solos which are more than just solos", something i later found out was very deliberately part of the design. (not just here... thb is known apparently to be very deeply inspired by ellington, which i didn't know until recently - though of course it instantly made sense, was indeed only not obvious to me because of my relative unfamiliarity with the duke's work; the acknowledged influence places bynum in very good company of course, and situates him very much on a direct line with regard to mingus, again.) so yes, each section basically showcases one of the individuals which make up this remarkably versatile small ensemble, and as such each is constructed according to that individual's strengths (if that choice of vocabulary doesn't sound too macho by this point in our contemplations..!).

no, but with the whole, partially-filled-in map stretching out to both sides of my vision, what does the overall configuration seem to tell me? what is the meaning of the title, "apparent distance"? this can (and doubtless does) have many possible interpretations, and we could spend a good long time unpacking it, i'm sure... for the time being, two main threads of meaning emerged for me when i began to ask this question. in (quasi-)linear terms, according to the illusion of (finite) continuation within time, or living a life as we blithely call it, each long-sighted, questioning perspective on one's own existence will have a quality of apparent distance, since as humans (as kant knew full well, though his followers tend to forget it all too easily *5) we are trapped within a basic matrix of spatio-temporality and our consciousness at least cannot ever truly escape it: every viewpoint is situated within a framework of relative distance. but from the point of view of the universe? no distance, anywhere. and of course... the other one is to do with the apparent distance which grows up everywhere between questing souls, incarnate in the learning maze we call this earth, encountering each other daily, yet held in reserve behind layer upon layer of personal, social and societal boundaries as manifold as a gypsy bride's skirts. but here is another miracle: in eye contact, one soul directly encounters another on a different plane altogether (or more probably several at once), and once again, the "apparent distance" is annihilated at once. lack of distance, at this stage, is what becomes truly apparent.

(ok, this is not braxtothon as such... i'm getting out while i still can, lacking a suitably pithy final sentence or two and wanting oh-so-much to get this thing published now i have actually succeeding it getting it down in words!! peace)

* see second comment

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

a "great moment in jazz"

i don't watch a lot of video online - actually i don't watch a lot full stop these days, have long since lost touch with new movies (cinema used to be one of my great interests, and was for a long time one of the things mrs c. and i had in common) and rarely sit still for live footage of concerts etc. i've just never really been into it for some reason. so when people forward things to me or otherwise tip me off about live clips, even of our man, it can take ages for me to get round to seeing them... heh... ages and ages (ahem). the artist formerly known as king kennytone sent me something last year (i think - damn these months are flying by..!) which i always intended to write about, but of course i never even got round to watching it (yet). similarly, i stumbled across this page some time ago now and just didn't do anything about it (*1).  however, in this instance i did get there in the end ;-)

the clip is from "spain, 1983" (and evidently represents a teaser from some trader's personal collection), featuring the not-yet-quite-great quartet with piano (as opposed to trombone).since - like i say - i don't see much of this stuff in the normal course of events, it was a fascinating watch for me. just the sight of the diminutive ms crispell, bouncing around like a possessed glove puppet during her more animated moments (late in the clip, after the maestro's "metal-stripping" freak-out) was remarkable - and memorable, not so much for any potential comedic value as for the knowledge that that is how close and precise her control: she can seemingly jerk around in her seat, arms floppy from the elbow down, and yet strike exactly the right key at the appropriate angle, depth of attack, etc etc (because, as always - and allowing for the freakish moments of genuine stochasticity which emerge betimes from these obsessive, self-scratching-in-public-and-private, exercises in personal repetition we might call creative working -  there is nothing much "random" about any of this music, contrary to initial appearance). it's interesting also to watch the maestro in full flight, but of course this is one sight i have witnessed before, and indeed first-hand on a couple of occasions (*2).

- now, the group, not yet quite great? damning with faint praise, obviously, but i'm only reflecting the way this incarnation of the band must inevitably be viewed. in this clip (and i can't identify the piece, nor am i gonna break my back trying just yet *3), hemingway is now indentifiable to me within a couple of seconds, his sound completely imprinted on my ear-memory - really, no-one else sounds like that (*4) - and of course the piano dominates a large portion of the soundscape from the word go, but lindberg is barely audible until the others drop out at the end of the clip (this presumably signals a transition phase approaching, as so often in a live set)... and it's simply this, above all, that elevates dresser because he, too, dominates his portion of the soundscape whenever he's playing and it's really, really not everyone who can do that in this fast fluid, highly volatile company.

obviously the music itself is already pretty complex by this point, although not as complex as it would become later - no collaging here yet, just a dense piece being explored (fully opened up in public actually!), and even then the performance does take the form of solo-plus backing for the duration of the clip (hence the legitimacy of labelling this as jazz - besides the usual flag-of-convenience stuff; though as we know, many older and more conservative jazzers consider braxton to be offically worthless after 1978-9... erm, to say this is their loss would be putting it mildly). but, i mean, 1983... who else was digging this deep at the time? the usual suspects, of course... and a handful of others, in europe, but really, this is advanced music without a doubt. and the band playing it... - is very very advanced indeed. it's just that... it becomes that much more fully great with the addition of the white-haired wonder, mr oak-and-granite-tones (*5) himself, mark dresser. please note that in stressing this (all over again, and somewhat prematurely since i will eventually have so much more to say about all of this business, assuming the braxtothon ever gets there..!) i am not looking to belittle john lindberg, who gave such good and hard-working service over several years, until whatever happened, happened; but (in hindsight it's strikingly obvious that) his relevance to the music extends backwards in time from this point, not forwards. the lack of audibility he suffers here may well just be a flaw inherent to the medium, an unfortunate side-effect of watching a compressed clip on a computer without an amp etc (...), but it seems decidedly appropriate.

- incidentally, if you are curious to learn about metal-stripping and for some reason have not already watched the clip, just forward it to the 5.30 mark and go from there. it's not even one of b's better efforts in that regard, just good-as-always, but it sure feels good anyway, urgent and hot and intense.


[as for the article - well, surprise surprise, mr fordham does not really say anything much: indeed the most telling two words occur when he falls back on the epithet "impenetrably complex" to describe b's music - well, phew, that's all you critics off the hook then... bear in mind that this was put together for broadsheet readers in britain (and presumably beyond), meaning it will meet its target audience amongst uni graduates whose idea of a good time socially is to drop educated references casually into the conversation, scoring extra points for a couple of sentences of factoids to back up ones assertions, immediately preceding a hasty change of subject if any searching questions are asked... takes one to know one? well, i don't hang out there any more, at any rate... look, john fordham seems decent enough really, always comes across as affable and largely unpretentious (which is quite an achievement for a jazz critic) but - like i say - he makes a point of not actually telling you anything here. this is what they always do... and - like i say! - they all allow each other to get away with it. so it goes... anyway, no, i haven't looked at the other 49 entries funnily enough, but i did enjoy this one, at least the musical part thereof. and hey, john chucks in a link to his namesake's zornfest right at the end there; but that's another story..! coming... soon??]

* see comments

Sunday, June 10, 2012

birthday card (LATE AGAIN - !!)

shocking state of affairs. where the hell is my head at anyway?! granted, the maestro himself probably attaches little importance to these occasions, but still... if a thing's worth doing... and the worst of it is, i realised a couple of days ago that i'd missed the actual day (which was the fourth, i.e. last monday), then somehow managed to forget again until just now. wtf??  *

enough moaning... late or otherwise, this is supposed to be a celebratory post! so i will do as i usually do, and wish our guy all the best, and

 ***many happy returns of the day***

 - !

this was meant to be a year of change... well, so far it's been that, for sure, and i'm not just talking about myself here; it's still not clear exactly how far-reaching or how radical that change is going to be. but b. himself (in a brief email to me at the start of the year) was very optimistic about 2012 as a year of new opportunities in music, and i trust that this optimism will be borne out in due course. the concerts of last october (link still good at time of writing!) saw a number of new projects launched: the syntactical ghost trance choir, echo echo mirror house music, pine top aerial music... ok, the second of those is a term which has been drifting around for a few years now, but i'm not aware of any actual public performance of it prior to last year. the point: those concerts represent a very wide variety of approaches to one man's conception of music (a conception which is admittedly pretty wide to begin with), and some of them have not yet been captured in recorded form. this must surely be rectified in the near future..? what's more, i am guessing that still more new ideas, new approaches, have yet to be unveiled. so here's hoping that this year (and those to come) will witness plenty in the way of new music... keep it up, sir, we are counting on you :))

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Friday, May 18, 2012

return to the source

(i suppose that shd really be return to the thourthe *1)

finally some nice spring weather. absolutely filthy april. (*2) (don't think may is necessarily gonna bring too much to cheer about either, in that regard.) ok, so in the eventuality it only lasted one day before the rain came back with a vengeance (sigh...), but still, it was a nice morning and i took full advantage of it with a solo walk into the forest (*3)... wave after wave of nourishing, green qi unfurling from the massed vegetation, all just now thinking about expressing itself after weeks of cold rain... i really needed it too, as i have not been well and although my recovery was swift enough in terms of retreating primary symptoms, the foul weather and the full-time employment combined to rob me of chances to do any tai chi (which would surely otherwise have nurtured me back to health /full strength in no time)... that, when set against the noisy background of my continuing struggle to shed some deep-rooted habits and patterns from my own energetic matrix, gives an undesired end result: i still feel as weak as a kitten in the mornings and don't tend to shed that feeling until much later in the day. even then, i am never at more than 50% strength at present. it's weird.

but we'll get there... "we" in this case being the friendly experiencers of this world, because b's music in itself has power to heal... yes, it's true and i don't exaggerate... nor do i suggest that it is only b's music; on the contrary, i'm sure that a lot of free/creative music has this power to some extent, since it (almost) always comes from the heart; but in b's case it is definitely true since the composer has such an advanced understanding of resonance and vibration, and the ways in which sound affects a listener. part of the reason for my weakness (and the above para was actually written a couple of weeks ago...) was that i found myself in one of my "non-musical" phases, just not listening to anything much, and not feeling any desire to do so (despite knowing from experience that i feel better when i do); but eventually i forced myself to overcome this "ear apathy" and just play some damn music, and lo and behold, i did indeed feel much better afterwards. my recovery was much hastened in the end by a couple of days with plenty of creative sounds.

this is not just psychosomatic. i have written before (most notably soon after the birth of my daughter, but also more recently) of this ameliorative effect of b's music, and have noticed generally that it is often enough just to be in the room while the music is playing; but on these recent occasions i tried at times to pay a bit more attention, to go into it a bit more deeply. what i discovered is that the combined frequencies of the music can act directly on the body's energies: it really can make you feel better. this has been particularly noticeable when listening (as i repeatedly have) to gtm (syntax) 2003. now, i never did find out what the precise role is here of the electronics, there being no mention of them on the cd or anywhere else that i can see; but whoever was responsible for them, and however they were generated, they do a lot more than just create a background dreamscape. to a casual ear, the electronic frequencies do not seem to be especially tuneful; they don't even necessarily seem to support what is being played at any time, but this is a misapprehension. if one pays careful attention, it becomes clear that the synthetic sounds provide a perfect foundation for the two musicians at all times - and yes, the overall result provides complex sounds which appear to do more and more, the harder the listener concentrates. tune right into it, you can feel the vibrations raising you up. preoccupied as i was, i only monitored this effect for short periods at a time, and still i felt much better for it. what might the effect have been if i'd kept it up for a whole disc?


like i said above, the first part of this article was written a couple of weeks ago, and i had originally intended to finish it and post it right away. what happened in between? well... i was still gradually recovering, but i was also anticipating a week's holiday from work - nine days actually, including two weekends... and had just assumed that i would get plenty of chances to write during that time. didn't happen!! when i think about this i still scratch my head a bit over where it went wrong, as it were, why there was such a gulf between my casual expectations and the eventual reality; for whatever reason, weeks off in my previous (part-time) job seemed to give me more free time... this time around, it may have been nine days without going to work; but i never got more than a couple of hours to myself at any one time, and the disappointment which settled on me as i gradually realised how things were(n't) going to work pretty much ruined the entire week. it's definitely the case that i still don't seize my opportunities, don't tend to make the best use of my time when i do get some; but i expected more, in any case. (yes, i even thought i would get back into the braxtothon after all this time... but i'm tired of hearing myself talk about that project rather than getting on with it, so...)

things have been happening in the musical world: thb has a new sextet album out - actually it's been out for a few months now, i just didn't find out about it until very recently - which comprises the suite which was played at saalfelden (as you can see, i still haven't finished the "revisit" article... it is gonna get done, it is it is it is!); and just in the last week or so, mary halvorson has put out her second quintet release. i have listened to this one (the website allows one to preview the material) and was very impressed indeed: much as i did enjoy saturn sings, it never really had the feel to me of a proper quintet, as such; the music still seemed to be written for the core trio, with horn parts added on top as it were (and only in certain cases; some of the tracks only featured the trio, which very much reinforced my impression). this new one is undeniably quintet music, and a lot more complex and ambitious... fantastic stuff and highly recommended.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

yes, i'm still here

horgh, ouf, even by my standards that was a fairly long silence. funny thing is, the intense playlisting (as detailed in the previous post) actually continued for more than a week, on and off, taking in more than fifteen hours of b-lists, all mixed up in there and predominated by the latest batch o'boots... some previous old faves chucked in afterwards for good measure... and several albums played again (and again - like this one - not that i like to name-drop round here, but i was absolutely delighted to receive a comment from anne rhodes recently) - plus a couple of purchases, the aforementioned duo-double-disc with buell neidlinger for example, which really is extraordinary and, again, deserves a post of its own if i can only get round to feeling like writing it - and also this one (snapped up someone's unwanted copy) which is, of course, also very good indeed. the return of the 'tet... hey, just think, somewhere in a parallel timestream there may be a version of me who actually converts all these thoughts and ideas into actual posts. (terrfying thought isn't it)

ANYway... more on what i haven't been writing below; in the meantime (and here i'm acting on an eleven-day-old tip from mcclintic sphere - thanks again man) check this out, an upcoming event in (b's) music so nearly upon us i'm ashamed i've left it this long to plug it... though at the same time acutely aware that any readers who might happen to see this are probably relatively unlikely to just drop everything and fly to sweden for a frigging music festival [- which is a damn shame by the look of it, since that's one hell of a promising saturday night, having actually scanned through the list properly i am potentially right in there from (french pianist) sophie agnel (*1) on down, would be absolutely fascinated to witness ikue mori, especially solo; dunno anything about the next guy but then the trio with gustafsson (umeå's favourite son!) sounds great, might need to pop out for a few mins during the next one but would try and catch at least some of it; but fuck, then the chance to see joëlle léandre - and no disrespect to strid and houle - this is one serious night here, and if not all the names immediately shriek off the page at me it all still looks very very interesting right on down into the after-party... the large ensemble at 10pm looks pretty intriguing (unless it turn out to be overly influenced by anyone in particular... hope not, if you know what i'm saying) and mats solo would be great too i'm sure. (heard one of those solo releases a while back. yep, very good and compelling...) smegma... i know the name in a noise context, but i can't say i associate any memories with it so who knows. it's not exactly the kind of name you want to remember, now is it ;-) ]

BUT YES yes yes we'll go back to the top of that page and remind ourselves of what drew mcc's attention in the first place, namely the latest in a series of braxtonian one-offs around the world (and long may they sprout and promulgate and mingle):- to wit, twenty minutes of b's music interpreted by a local master of the rarely-encountered carillon - an instrument with which, funnily enough, i am already familiar since i first went to primary school right next to a (once?) very famous one, in bournville (*2), birmingham - our class had a guided tour of the playing room, whatever it's called, and peeked through into the belfry... anyway, what a great fucking idea this is, shame it couldn't be a bit longer - but we have to be realistic here ;-)  let's just say, what a great fucking way to kick off the day's music. (or any day's music dammit!)

- and i could scarcely think of a finer location for it, if the truth be known... i just went into the photos from västerås, and reminded myself all over again what an image-capturer's dream it truly is... definitely an enchanted location... as many places in scandinavia are (in both cases), but even by those standards, mrs c. and i commented on what an extraordinary place this was, right away, and rented bikes the next day to get a proper look around... there are plenty more i can use on the blog (this was one), but as an aside, this always made me laugh - you have to look closely to see which country it definitely isn't:


yes, more - well, like i said the listening went on for quite a while and there was a lot of it - some of it came and went in a haze, much of it got more attention than that and some of it really made a great impression on me even first time round - like the duo concert with gunter "baby" sommer which must have been thrilling to witness... get over to TCF and check it out. erm, i still haven't polished off the revisit piece which analyses the thb sextet from saalfelden in rather closer detail - which is silly really as i've already written about half of it and the rest is more or less written out in my head - but it's the mood... not always there, these days (and the time ain't either - my last two weeks of late shifts, i had precious few mornings to myself *4). obviously this unresolved-plan status applies to many other posts too, as previously detailed, though in this case (at least) the sextet revisit will definitely be done, for reasons which will become clear on publication; i repeat, though in the past my associating the small brass with the role of melody-carrier in the jazz mainstream has led me to overlook to a large extent taylor ho bynum (and other important players such as wooley, kelley et al - not to mention some earlier masters such as wadada leo smith *5), two things about that: first, it was always only because someone else, or more than one person, was doing something equally elevated in discourse simultaneously and besides, those were the voices that needed to claim my attention at that time; later there has been time enough, as it turns out, to allow a love of the (free/d) trombone and some careful listening to some excellent master-teacher-students to nurture in me a love of the (free/d) small brass too: i now am pretty much in awe of this guy's playing. i mean, in terms of density you really are looking towards the great aacm masters and the st louis crew, the bag or whatever other names they may have employed, for comparison - or else only over to europe where everyone knows they take the arts deadly seriously, dahling. (*6) the point, finally: mr bynum is a very, very good player and really thinks about what goes into his music.

'nuff gushing... for one post - ! ha, once again, get yer arse over to sweden pronto, like that's gonna happen but i tell you what, if i had the readies and a free weekend, that is exactly where i would be on saturday for damn certain, wouldn't miss it - and i never even checked out the rest of the bill yet, in all honesty... i mean what's the point, only potentially torture myself, but...

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