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