Sunday, January 13, 2013

tzadik presents braxton (enlightened version b)

- and da capo al fine, after placing the lens up close:

- tracks not re-examined in album sequence... details follow...

so, comp. 40n then, and this (slightly vexed) question of the role of mr dresser's bow... yeah ok, so as it turns out this really was a straightforward case of my not paying attention, on several successive occasions - which also, in fairness, would normally be taken (by me as well as most others) as indicative, or at least temptingly suggestive, of some lack of desire in the music to captivate the listening ear. well, sixty-forty at best, that one; more often than not, in other words, one will be missing things of note and (consequently) not stopping to take stock of that at all. BUT at the same time, this rendition remains an odd contrast with holland's treatment(s) of the piece. (*1) when dresser wants to do special things with the bow, he can really raise hairs on the back of one's neck - raise whole choirs of ghosts all on his own, so he can - so to undertake to interpret the (all arco) bass parts of the written chart (which i haven't read or read about in detail yet anyway *2) in a manner entirely different from the accepted way of playing the piece; - and in summary, i always considered 40n to be a non-schizoid twin of the mighty comp. 23e; this twin is stable, in my mind, but equally planetary in its scale and concerns. this time round? in "reclaiming" the piece, if that's what they are doing, the three players succeed only in demoting it, scaling ita ambitions right back and down. for what it's worth (something), dresser's arco work on the piece is fine and graceful, and he does eventually hit a flat drone... for maybe ten seconds. he also modulates it before it's finished. anyway, for whatever reason, the group reinterprets the written text as something much less dramatic than it was previously, with no great advance in understanding, necessarily. or it just feels subdued...

... in any case it still comes about quickly enough that hemingway swings his way easily into a semi-urgent groove-pulse, and after several bars of keeping her own counsel crispell jumps right on into the very tricky, superbly satisfying theme. yes, and i said last time out, i am a fool for this number when there's a good piano player on it - but i discovered last night, listening with the close ear-lenses on, that there's another essential ingredient to this piece... and when there's no reed voice involved, i find it hard to sustain my interest fully. somehow, somehow this does all feel like a very tasteful, rather bathetic end to what could, should dammit, have been a fantastic album. 'cos this time out, brothers and sisters, that's all i learned anew about this-here jazzy cooker.

right, well - so i knew (sort of) for sure what my overall conclusions were bound to be, but hey, i found myself needing to stand up and stretch my legs for a while so i stayed away from the computer and continued listening more or less intently, with attempted continuous focus, starting with the opening salvo, comp. 116. can't remember off the top of my head whether i "know" this'n from elsewhere - but it does, for sure, offer a cracking start to the set, ripping along at a fair old pace while sprinkling spikes and broken accents all over the road in front of itself... the ensuing negotiation is not so hectic (or so condensed) as what this most reminds me of on this occasion: another small-but-powerful lady pianist, satoko fujii, writing her own music for this album, and kicking off with the alchemical wedding "sandstorm", two minutes of infernal blast [which, contrary to what that professional reviewer seems to infer, sounds to me (unless i am very much mistaken) not chaos-improvised at all really, more like 95% written-out]. who was the bassist on that one again..? oh yes, some unknown lanky american called mark dresser ;-)  ... anyway, back to 2012... this particular fast number of b's is supple and agile, tailor-made seemingly for the wonderfully whippet-springy, zestful ms crispell, though for all its smashed-off corners and busted-up road surface, the opener doesn't quite break stuff down into its smallest possible parts, the vehicle therefore failing to take off to full extent for me, enjoyable though it is. the mix is volatile enough, absolutely, and crispell actually does revel in tearing this sort of music to bits, in principle; and she has done so on plenty of occasions. but in the eventuality, what i found with the ear-spex on was that beyond the frantically-exciting tessitura itself, nothing too out-of -the-ordinary ends up taking place; and yes, again, even when listening closely, it still seems to be cut a bit short...

... which in turn brings me back again to something i could scarcely shut up about last time, i.e. poor old comp. 23c and my apparent snobbery towards it. no, no, not snobbery, but here's the thing: first, it brings me back to it again because the opener is too short for this to work as a "palate-cleanser" (as previously advised), and let's be clear about this, the initial effect noted back in the early-mid seventies was on concert audiences, who were probably hearing the piece for the first time. and second, and crucially: this time out, i recognised dresser's opening cadenzas - his toying around with segments of the theme and embellishing them in the time-honoured bass-solo fashion - for what they really represent: and in reclaiming (for sure) this one as a territory worthy (potentially) of supporting limited structural and/or thematic improvisation, they then seriously miss a trick by electing to follow it up with the actual piece. - yes, in all honesty the bass solo was all they needed and it would have worked just as a one-minute snippet. it would. as it is? it doesn't. a better choice would still have been 40(o), 40(o) or 40(o). and that would still have allowed the bass-solo-only 23c to come off. great idea. ok, i'll leave this one now. (*3)

- and skipping that, as i then did, brought me, all too quickly, to the medley/collage whose title i fixed last time out: comp. 110a (+108c)/comp. 69q. and back to the bow, and to some more graceful wizardry from the iron-haired giant (who bestrides like a colossus, blah-de-blah wank wank)... but i quickly found myself wanting to come back to this one, indeed needing to revisit it since, again as with the album closer (the re-inspection of which occasioned this article coming into existence), i was leaning on an assumed memory and know from experience that i can't trust myself 100%, not if i wasn't really trying to pay attention in the first place... far from it. (*a) i actually said (as a critic would, and as i tried not to do too often during my five or six years as a small-scale freelance music journo *b) that the pulse track only gets going once the piece is underway. true? er, not really as it turns out, but in any case i did skip it (slightly guiltily) and cut straight to the album's clear, indisputable highlight: comp. 69b (8.2).

- marilyn crispell quite clearly loves this piece, and why the hell would she not? it wasn't even written with a piano in the band, and b. did not always have access to one at this time (though muhal and anthony davis both got hit up for a spot every once in a while), but its pecking, drilling trill attacks really get the lady's creative juices flowing. now, what 8.2 might mean is really anyone's guess. did they attempt eight different strategies, and record multiple takes of each, or of some? surely not. (though it could explain why the actual final set-list is short on both length and weight..!) but whatever it is, like i say, three times i'd "listened" to it and three times i'd "loved" it, always finding my body hitting a complex (but very cathartic and positive-feeling) groove in the pelvic girdle; and freaking out a bit each time towards the climax, which is extremely satisfying. now, ironically perhaps, this motherfucker turns out when viewed up close to feature some real wizardry, dresser reminding us at times (in the first third of the piece) of the advanced classical studies he underwent for years before b. got hold of him (on gerry hemingway's recommendation): the fine-fingered weirdness the bassist conjures forth in his free spaces during the build-up, then, of a quantum-exploratory inside-out re-examination of a piece which crispell has made her own (she wanted it first up at the anniversary concert... and she wanted it on here also)... he leaves me speechless when i hear it for the fourth time, lenses in place. actually everyone gets plenty of time to shine on this, 'cos it begins unusually for a start, not with the familiar pecking trills but with sweeps and swoops, etc, free and open entries setting something up in the background, out of which arises, indeed, the playful trills-and-pecks which signify 69b is indeed joined. and yes, the details in the build-up which follows are fascinating, the highlight being for me that liberal sprinkling of fingerboard magic from the bass, but it is a build-up, 'cos it does peak and when it does peak, it stays at a furiously intense level for quite some time, my friends... quite some time. graham lock seemed surprised when hemingway talked of violence in his music (at times), but it came as no surpise to me, by the time i read the book - i knew what the percussion master was talking about, having already heard him participate in it.

well this achieves pretty similar levels of harnessed power to some of those great quartet recordings (*4) at their most intense; and really, if the truth be known, this fourth cut alone fully justifies the decision to get the guys back into the studio at all. (ouch. yeah, but...) that's cool because, fuck, it really does justify it. and the end - well, it's just the end as always, the piano and bass picking out the pecks and signing off one last time, but here, after that maelstrom of intelligent sound, it has a punctiliousness which both intimidates and amuses all at once. it's an absolutely compelling, remarkable performance, from the trio - but nonetheless from the pianist, in particular.

and after that, my enthusiasm fully rekindled, i did at last skip back a track, to the medley and the last remaining unanswered question... and like i said above, the answer was that i *had* misremembered it, was probably (vaguely) mixing it up in my memory with the jump or die version of comp. 23d (+108a) - well, however i did it, the actuality is that the pulse track as such only really appears early on, and is never fully kicked into life if you ask me - again, strange (and perhaps even strangled - see last para). the treatment of comp. 110a, on the other hand, by dresser and crispell is very nice indeed, it's just that it seems to catch fire, if at all, in a very quiet and localised way. and speaking of jump or diecomp. 69q itself - ? well, that's fun enough, and again it's a piece not written with piano in mind at all, but which suits our pianist just fine. still and all, by now it's abundantly clear: comp. 69b, and to a lesser extent comp. 116, are where this session really took off.

- so, what do i come back to..? the sound seems muffled and it's not the rip (which i admittedly heard first), the cd does the same thing to me. the production seems skewed towards giving crispell the most sympathetic sound imaginable, her tone being above all one which invokes both softness and great tensility and potentiality all at once, very quickly whenever she begins to play; perhaps they think that in providing an ambience which will emphasise the softness in (or around the edges of) her basic timbre, they are doing her a favour - in which case they forgot that the true favour would have been to provide a great sound for everybody, and then everybody could automatically stretch out and thrive. hemingway - who name i have scarcely mentioned in the above piece - feels suffocated inside the production here and dresser has been, as it were, chemically castrated. the piano leaps and sparkles and hammers, but the others? hemingway, whom i recognised within seconds on a bootleg live clip from the eighties, in the "final prototype" band; here i honestly think i would struggle to identify him at all if i needed to. i mean, is there not something ludicrous about that? (*5) no, when it comes down to it the release could have been better than it is, and really we "should" all be pestering mr zorn to make sure he doesn't forget about vol. 2 - and doesn't neglect to mention that this time we want to try and get a whole set going, of wildly unpredictable materials. that didn't happen yet... but the wild unknown that did get (un)covered is worth the price of admission on its own, at the right price. peace out. c x

* see first comment

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centrifuge said...

***personal notes***

a. yep, this is exactly where most pros (and online bores) fall down... 'cos they just *will not* admit their own habits and flaws. whatever "it" is that i'm spouting about - you can count on me to have checked it eventually, at least..!

b. i wrote mainly (almost wholly) for a magazine called terrorizer, which none of you will have heard of (unless hank shteamer strays in here). silly name, quite well thought-of and still in print. i haven't been involved since - ooh, since about 2001 i guess. and i wasn't exactly enamoured of the whole thing anyway... as you may have gathered..!

centrifuge said...

1. mmm. could just mean that no other attempt to unlock the piece was ever made, while DH was in the band. stick to his strengths and all that. i mean, it's possible, but whatever the cause and the mechanism, despite some familiar lines in comp. 40n, the feel of it is totally different from what i was expecting, or hoping for.

2, well, i could have done, couldn't i..? but let's be thankful that i actually got the frigging articles both written for a start! - and not expect me to have gone through the relevant pages of the composition notes yet, at any rate ;-)

3. it's beginning to sound by this point as if i'm rocking with it, even to me. but the flatness of it and the problem of the sound - addressed fully in the final para - are issues which exacerbate each other and the result - i've said it! no tricking me into opening it up again!!

4. no urls here: strictly speaking, none of them have been examined closely yet round these parts... and for that reason i'm not going to select meaningful examples :)

5. one of my new year purchases was the special 4-cd duo extravaganza *old dogs (2007)*, more than four hours of reunions between braxton and hemingway. i shall be very interested to see how quickly i recognise GH in there...