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 ;-)

(... *5)

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#


centrifuge said...

unreadable? you can tell me :)

1. well not *really*, obviously, but the bit about the box of boots is indeed totally true. and as far as origin stories go, that's the only one you're getting ;-)

2. ahem. there is actually a slight exception to this rule, in that i don't necessarily leap to add standards dates to the collection. would probably end up grabbing them anyway, of course, but... well, depends on other factors such as personnel and repertoire, etc

3. having initially studied under bertram turetzky, dresser went to italy on a fulbright scholarship to work directly with franco petracchi. thing is, by the look of it that was in 1983 and was only (iirc) supposed to be for a year. maybe he stuck around or something... in any case, g.h. recounts to lock that he knew dresser was already in europe when j.l. fell through the trap-door. it does make more sense that he would just up and leave when he *wasn't* in the middle of something special and important, such as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study under the direct supervision of a(nother) maestro. this is especially true because...

4. his own admission (lock again), when dresser joined the band, he had no idea what he was doing and did not understand how to play the music at all - nor could he even follow the scores. of course, a musician of this rarefied level is still going to play better than most in a situation like this, but it will be interesting nevertheless to hear what "exalted floundering" actually sounds like - ! and for this reason it's not worth shedding too many tears about having only a fragment of (what i'm presuming was) his first gig with the band.

5. - and yes, part of the motivation for this ruthless self-correction and opinion-upgrading is the fact that most people seem to refuse to engage in anything of the sort... indeed some older collector-fetishists appear to cling desperately to their own cherished opinions like a shipwreck survivor to a rubber ring. (of course i only understand this behaviour on the "takes one to know one" principle, but this is not an example of there-but-for-the-grace: i have undertaken a lot of hard work to ensure that i don't end up like that. hence my (genuine) lack of sympathy for those who never self-examine. it may not be warm or pretty, but it's not hypocritical either...)

centrifuge said...

6. ok... aha, here i bloody am all over again. let's keep it brief: dave's estimable strengths - aside from his honest and wholehearted commitment to music in the first place - include near-comprehensive technical facility, tireless stamina, discretion/taste, and clarity (and indeed identificity) of tone. i don't think anyone can really argue too vociferously with me if i assert that he lacks imagination.

the latter is one of the deciding factors in a player's adaptability to braxton's way of thinking [ = manner of asking complex questions in real-time environments, almost a sort of musique concrete abstraite ;-) ]

hence... i still ultimately will always (probably) conclude that what glued the two men together was a bond as between brothers, and to be honoured for all that, and (preferably now) questioned little if at all further.

7. the aeoc played with everyone sooner or later (like brotz and bailey etc - and c.t. and b. of course. they're never *as a band* at the very top of my list, though mitchell is right up at the top of my list as a player for sure (see third comment below..!) but the idea of a date with both braxton and lowe is just droolworthy, it really could see me losing the plot if it goes (went) well - did b. and f.l. play together otherwise..? off the top of my head i believe they did not... i'm a huge admirer of mr lowe's - his sound combines toughness and incredible visceral thrill with measured intellect; this is not a common meta-text to encounter, i can tell you... julius hemphill's sound combines the same qualities. early david murray, probably... (debate could continue endlessly)

8. - one of the interviews reproduced in the back of the composition notes. i am still planning to do that article (i.e. student studies 3) - but i confess that in the meantime i had long since forgotten about it...

centrifuge said...

and goddamn if i didn't hurt myself recently, by being so involved in my new job that i neglected my correspondence and thus never found out from any of my london friends that (probably) my second favourite reed player ever was doing a motherfucking two-day residency at cafe oto, with the same r-section that i saw with john tchicai - and i only found out the week it was about to take place, i.e. technically in time to make the saturday night, yet knowing full well that in practice it just wasn't gonna happen at such very short notice. so lo and behold it didn't, and boy did i ever have the mother-in-law of a nightmare day at work yesterday (not twigging till this morning that this always happens to me when i arrange to be elsewhere-than-i'm-supposed-to-be)... as i deserved to for allowing myself to miss out on the rare chance to see a living top-level master at close range (hell, tchicai was only feet away from us; i have never been that close to live-sound-of-braxton, alas... some way back from the stage on both of the occasions i have seen him live; i have NEVER seen mitchell). shit shit shit. just gotta eat it on this occasion and know that i missed out... it happens. will i get another chance? let's hope so. in the meantime, good on you messrs edwards and marsh, that's a nice one for the cv now isn't it :)

Frédito said...

Hi Cent' ; on the movie La coupe à dix francs, imdb has a wrong photo. Whoever added the picture of "la coupe" may have wanted to play on words : "coupe" can be a cup like a football cup or a drinking cup... or something completely different, an haircut, the latter applying to the film).
This is a drama that deals with social matters. Near a little village there is a factory that employs most of the young men. A conflict erupts between the boss and the workers, he wants them to cut their long hair. There is one worker who is hard to convince, his father takes part in the conflict by forcing him to go see the coiffeur, eventually the insurgent has his hair cut like the others. Being the target of mockery, his situation becomes unbearable and he makes self immolation before the horrified colleagues. A tough end for a movie I had never heard about.

centrifuge said...

p'tain de merde, chsavais pas du tout... now i gotta voir ce film, haven't i... merci mon pote :))

very very interesting - where the fuck did that lame-ass photo on imdb come from?? (or is there actually another movie of the same name? "la coupe" - didn't think of it in that sense at all, was thinking of a completely different word; so i didn't question the pic when i saw it)

but i mean yeah, i would now be really interested in tracking that down. being french it will, no doubt, be both brutal and very good :)

Frédito said...

I'd like to see it too. The music was recorded in three hours (after technical problems), between Braxton, Antoine Duhamel and bassist François Méchali.

"La coupe" (the image on imdb) takes place during the 1998 football world cup ; a group of tibetan monks (I took them for Shaolin at first sight) try to go see the event, from what I gathered.

Hoping to find more on La coupe à dix francs, and watch it one day !