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)

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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)

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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.

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