Saturday, March 10, 2012
the opinion upgrade from uranus
ok, so... the other night i was awoken by a strange greenish flash and a whirring noise, seemingly emanating from just outside the house yet apparently inaudible to the rest of the family. y'know, just ordinary stuff so i turned over and went right on back to sleep. imagine my surprise when the next morning i let the whippets out to relieve themselves and saw in the corner of the back garden a large, sturdy box... wisps of smoke still uncoiling therefrom into the chilly post-dawn air.
- and upon closer inspection, what should turn out to be in this box but a shitload of anthony braxton bootlegs. no, really (*1). a handful of cd-rs and a BUNCH of tapes. yeah, tapes. audio cassettes... obsolete format etc etc - the task will fall to me at some point to digitise some of this stuff, assuming there remains an internet onto which to upload it by the time i get round to it, because let's be clear, this is me we're talking about and i don't do anything today which i could do some other time, and so on and so forth... well, even allowing for forward motion (and since the new year/new job situation i can definitely affirm that i am in forward motion, ridiculously so compared to the last few years) i can but try to set realistic goals for deprocrastinating, but then i'm not kidding about one thing at least: there were a lot of tapes in that box and a frighteningly high percentage of it represents stuff that's totally new to me. (needless to say i have collected every single scrap (*2) i could find by this guy ever since late 2006... i have a lot of braxton boots already.) in other words there's no rush to get it all up since it will need to be assimilated a little at a time.
besides, the joke is that i don't have a damn cassette player in the house any more, or rather i do, but not a functional one. i have to make it a priority to sort that out - ! because there really really is some fucking primo shit in there. as i catalogued it - the mysterious "source" had kindly chronologised it already - i started to get very excited. i mean, for a start there is a great run of concerts from c.1982-5, documenting the working group's metamorphosis from manic hypercarnival vehicle to dimension-shifting superstragegic visionaries - around the pivot of john lindberg, the "fallen from grace", well documented in this remarkable collection up until literally the very moment of his eventual departure mid-tour in '85: that is to say, the amsterdam show from 16th june apparently saw a trio plus a bass onstage, while the bassist sat at the bar. (i say mid-tour; i don't have any idea yet of the actual itinerary: what i have so far is a june which kicks off with three solo gigs before that fateful "final concert", and prior to that the nearest quartet tape in the list is salzburg, 19th may.) the night of the 17th, in eindhoven, ernst reijseger sat in; when they reached east berlin, jens saleh was on duty; but of course the name on gerry hemingway's lips early on had been mark dresser (*3) - and by the 22nd, there he is, already in place for the legendary events of later-that-year - though from this one, in ljubljana (yugoslavia, as it was then) i am promised as yet only 25 tantalising minutes. (*4)
now, barely having started on the music (see final para below) yet, just listing this little lot gave me many pauses for thought. i have been trying to lead by example in drawing open and close attention to my mistakes, especially when this involves various parts of the hypothetical braxto-continuum i have been fabricating ever since the inception of the 'thon. i mean, y'know, piecing it all together from a fragmentary series of recordings in chronological order - that does not and cannot give the full picture; i wasn't there, so it can't be complete or completely accurate. but, hahaha, it can be easy at times to run away with a clear idea and declare it probably so (or whatever i'm doing on such occasions). the eternal problem with such a "spontaneous hypothesis": it may explain everything neatly, take into account all available evidence and answer many possible questions but it can also be wrong. like i say, i am committed to bringing this to my own attention when i catch myself out, and then to sharing it with whoever actually reads this stuff ;-)
sometimes it's not even a question of correcting myself or setting the record straight, simply new information which helps build a fuller picture. anyway, with all that in mind... some points of interest from the first part of the collection:
1. in may 1972 there was a performance at studio rivBea, effectively circle with sam rivers himself in for corea. or rather (since circle was already brown bread by this point) the earliest actual anthony braxton quartet with rivers in for wheeler. i don't know yet what music they played but i'm guessing it wasn't the same set list as was rolled out on the first of december that year, at the same venue, the day after conference was recorded. the may date is news to me. (and exhilarating news too, since i otherwise only knew of the famous '78 san francisco gig with b. guesting in rivers' band.)
2. from the "empty years", 1972-3, there is still half-of-fuck-all unfortunately, but there is one snippet of interest, a twenty-minute extract from a film soundtrack recorded in paris for la coupe a dix francs. (hmm, just looked that up on imdb and you can forget any notions of chic parisian crime movies or whatever...). probably recorded 1972 but there's not much info on it.
3. right, so here's a mistake of sorts for starters and guess what, it concerns my old mate dave holland. i finally had to 'fess up last year to feeling a bit guilty about mr holland, or rather what i've said about him at times on this blog. (but then again... etc.) more to the point, though, i have (still) thus far allowed myself to get away with drawing a very firm line under berlin 1976, marking the end of the holland years, regardless of what friendship may have persisted between the two men thereafter; and prior to that even, my journey through (bits of) 1975-6 has been characterised by an increasing and ineluctable feeling that holland was fundamentally unsuited to music on b's scale. which may or may not have some validity (*6), but there was not so much of a firm line anyway as it turns out: duo concerts with holland continue through 1975 (april, philadelphia) and 1976 (well... no date or venue on that one but still) and crucially, this is the deal breaker, into early '77 if 19th feb, buffalo is to be believed, a full 90 minutes' worth from that one. back in '76, 18th august sees an impromptu presentation of solos, duos and trios with steve potts and kent carter, holland having been taken ill at the last minute; the point here is that according to braxtothon lore, once duets had been undertaken with lewis in particular, there was no way holland could measure up (supposedly). so much for that idea. (yep, back to *6 again)
4. 12th june 1975, another rivBea appearance, this time the working group with wheeler. 28th june, back at the same loftspace again but this time with richard teitelbaum. (hmmm...!)
5. 26th july 1975, the day after the antibes quartet, our man is back onstage again but this time with evan parker and derek bailey. man..! (the 27th, b. is in viareggio, north of pisa, playing a solo show. that's a pretty gruelling journey, chances are. this man spent far too many hours and days travelling steerage or the equivalent - true of him and of anyone else on the creative music circuit, but b. played a lot of solo concerts. again, i was basically wrong(ish) in my core assumption about that but this is not the place to detail it.)
6. 14th sept '75, somewhere or other in NYC - details on tape but not on my master list (yet!) - the art ensemble of chicago played with b. and frank lowe both sitting in. omfg, etc :)) (*7)
7. jan '76, a detroit show with phillip wilson in for altschul. yet more evidence (as frequently-ish discussed on these pages) that there was never anything set-in-stone about any version of the early quartet - regardless of how fondly some may look back upon it.
8. march '76, one from san francisco with wilson again (the latter a dab hand of course, having played with b way back when, captured on a recording with him as early as 1972), but this time in an intriguing double-brass group comprising leo smith, baikida carroll and a guitarist called - j. leary? maybe, maybe not... and i'm really not sure whether b. appears as leader or sideman. anyway, there's at least one other (small-group) appearance by carroll in that box but i'm struggling to find it in the list. it'll turn up :)
9. 25th july 1976, washington d.c. - a quintet featuring lewis, muhal, holland and steve mccall...
10. ... and in september of that year, the same line-up with altschul in minneapolis. you see, i didn't know that lewis-abrams line-up from before 1977 really but the r-section dates it pretty firmly i think. even in the case of the gig with mccall, holland's presence makes it that much more likely that it really is 1976... and yes, i am mindful of what i wrote in point 3 above... courting the possibility therefore of falling on my arse again :)
11. october 1976, and i was very pleased about this, the one-off quartet of b. and teitelbaum, roscoe mitchell - and allan strange, whoever he is or was, but he played a synthesiser too. double duo, then... a fragment of this was posted by "the rare music curator" (as mentioned here - though as you can see the original link is long since deceased) who never answered my emails. well, hey... it was a good idea he had anyway, but it's reassuring to know that several of the treasures he excerpted for that podcast are now available to me in full. (just, i can't actually hear them yet... ) there's another, even better example of the same thing in the next batch of observations... coming up (some time)
12. i wondered a few times here whether or not lewis plus mark helias and charles "bobo" shaw was the line-up of the working group during 1977. it never seemed consistent that muhal would have agreed to join someone else's band as a regular member. but we know he played plenty of gigs with b. around this time, however that worked out; and these always featured b's music (afaik) - of course, b. appeared as a sideman with abrams also... anyway, one more to add to the list (of mra's braxton quintet gigs) in june of that year and then a quartet the following week in hamburg, no piano. this quartet always seemed plausible as a working concern but i read elsewhere a while ago (*8) that the line-up for that year was supposed to be something totally different..?
that's about it for now... being human i am never totally satisfied with anything (much... it's no longer quite true of me actually, but not far off) and there was one thing i sort of expected to see, namely a (near-)complete set of the '85 uk tour tapes which didn't materialise at all - and one thing i really hoped to see, a long duo with buell neidlinger recorded (iirc) in a guitar shop in santa monica, which slipped through my fingers once, before i could grasp it and was gone: that wasn't in the box either. but man, what there IS in there, it's truly extraordinary. now, what am i gonna do about that damn k7 player...
* see comments
ps i did listen to two of the cd-rs already, both very good, one in distinctly lo-fi sound (even for me - though as always i found it perfectly listenable once it was underway, especially solos), one rather butchered in terms of actual content, but "that's boots for you" - i am considering uploading part of the butchered one, watch this space#
Posted by centrifuge at 4:04 PM