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


centrifuge said...

1. not quite true. i loaded the page, left a tab open for it in my browser and it stayed for, ooh, a good few days before the computer next got rebooted and i forgot all about it. sort of... occasionally reminded in passing... like i say, the impulse is not normally there for video... mrs c. is still very much more into it than i am, it must be said...

2. - but never yet at close range. certainly nowhere near how close i *could* have been to mr roscoe mitchell earlier this year, if the timing had been better. bugger, damn, shit, fuck etc etc

3. fwiw i don't reckon it'd be difficult to identify. check the recordings around that time, and look for opus numbers probably in the low hundreds. could even be one of the 105s.

4. of course this "musical passport" stuff is precisely the appeal of jazz (etc) in the first place, or at least a crucial part of it. i'm certainly not wishing to imply that GH is unique in this. he's just extra-recognisable to ME.

5. thanks to gidouille for the image of dresser's "sound etched in granite". lucky blighter saw him live a while ago, i shd be so lucky :)

centrifuge said...


all those critics eh. and what does that make me, exactly? among other things, i seem to be the one who has shouldered the unpopular burden of standing off in the corner with a megaphone going "you're all lying! shut the fuck up!!", a calling which has won me (predictably) few friends, but which i know to be of vlaue to the world nonetheless.

thing is, the world itself is actually *listening*... it's just those pesky humans who aren't yet, for the most part ;-)