Saturday, January 26, 2013

*viewpoint update alert*

right, yeah: like i said recently, i've been listening to the "meta-talisman" which is willisau 91. a lot, ish. actually more managing files on a computer and less listening as such, but... there's been plenty of that too, since a little goes a long way in a sympathetic set of ears, so... the album is either changing me, or bearing witness to change which was happening anyway. (if you know what i'm saying.) i'm now totally clear in my mind that this group, the (truly) great quartet, is my all-time favourite band in this field (whatever that is...). and that, in turn - i've decided this morning - is entirely natural and all "as it shd be", since in my previous misbegotten role as failed-perpetual-apprentice hard bop aficionado i would have said, to anyone foolish enough to ask me the question to begin with, that my fave jazz unit was miles' second great quintet (especially the four all-acoustic studio albums and the plugged nickel sets, etc). one (now-famous; i shan't name-drop him!) former college friend expressed astonishment at that and said "i'd have expected you to be into, y'know, late coltrane or something" - to which i replied, "well, yes - i like that too" but was privately concerned about my friend's lack of (deeper) knowledge, assuming when i mentioned miles davis that i was talking about "kind of blue/sketches of spain dahling" and not understanding how much freedom the second great quintet enjoyed - "time no changes" is one of those weak soundbites i steer clear of, as you know {koff} but here it sort of really was that simple, the leader fully trusting his young geniuses to co-create the most interesting, fertile ground possible for the soloists to explore, navigate and/or clash against;

- and the eventual true heritage from that shows up with this unbelievable anthony braxton quartet, the true great one, the apex of that continuum, c.1985-94 (*1).

now, willisau represents (pretty much, give or take) the triumphant return for a band "on hold" since late 1985; and this is where we get to the "opinion upgrade" because one of the group's apparent aims, this time round, is to represent precisely some sort of apical level with regard to the continuum of "american (free) jazz as such", to show how it's done when all group-members are not just reading from the same sheet, but communicating at the same speed, crucially. hence, in the two studio, each  disc ends with a "braxton jazz staple", b. quietly acknowledging the fact that in a sane and civilised parallel universe comps. 40b & 40m are staple fixtures in modern jazz "songbook" rep. and, well, this is exactly the sort of thing i'd been saying this band, this exultant set of exalted players, really needn't be getting involved with in 2012; in 1991 at least, and '93 as well i think (*2), this was deemed to be a valid way to use the group's resources - so some element of nostalgia might be thought to be acceptable ("friendship closes its eyes" and all that) last year. (and beyond? mmm, think not all the same). and boy, when the music reaches peaks of (complex/evolved/superintelligent) intensity like these numbers did in willisau, this more than justifies the decision to let the band loose on a straightforward (and non-collaged) reading of an old third songbook piece or two, picking natural closers in both cases, and benefiting obviously from the presence of the piano. this in place, and dimensional shifts are accessible to this interplanetary unit which could not really have been more-than-glimpsed by the '74 group, for example. comp. 40m willisau-style is a very slow-building cooker but when it reaches full intensity, it's a blast furnace. or something hotter... a fission or fusion reaction. when lock talked of incredible energy being channelled through/by the tiny and naturally (perhaps) rather diffident ms crispell - when she plays of course, it not being otherwise visible in her at all - this is some of what he had in mind, six years (or five and a half more like) down the line. cooks aint even in it.

- and apparently also i suck, duuude, cuz on the same album, studio half again, there is a track listed as comp. 23c +32 +105b (+30), where there is quite definitely no appearance of 23c until several minutes have elapsed. so, in other words, it's not up to me which way the composites are titled, it's up to the musicians ;-)  sure enough, late in the mix on this one there does eventually come a fully collaged, smeared-all-over-the-musical-landscape 23c, after it's been played straight. (yeah, so please note: none of this automatically justifies playing it straight and not collaging it on the trio date. ah, shut the fuck up man, enough on this already!) - the real point here is that no, not every piece undertaken by this group had to be linked to the same one identical agenda; it's perfectly fine and fitting for these guys to take on very new and unexplored territories, and also to show at other times that they can treat much-played, supposedly-done-with pieces like the 40 series with the utmost seriousness as repertoire, and so tear the material completely apart and inside-out, refashioning it until it finally fulfills and expresses its own ambitions rather than just establishing its potential. this, in fact, must have been one essential part of what the composer-leader wanted to use the band for at this stage.

does it mean that it's still valid and not just nostalgia-driven, to do in 2012 these pieces, or to take this same approach and not reach those same previous levels, never mind advance the music in any way? (well yes, there was one exception to that as we know... i have to ration myself on that version of comp. 69b from last year so i don't end up risking an aneurysm or something!) i'm really not sure still. it does seem a little perverse... at best. safe at worst, and we're back to dear old nostalgia again. ahhhh, but even that is not what it used to be, alas... and i am rapidly running out of the desire to keep talking about the same album, over and over again (*3). luckily... i don't have to for a bit ;-)


- salut f. - & hello to my old mucker, the artist formerly known as king kennytone - thanks! will be in touch soonest  :-D

* see comments

1 comment:

centrifuge said...

1. they weren't really active for much (if any) of the time between 1986-90 inclusive... and people talk about them as if they were. (this isn't important as such, it just needs to be borne in mind.)

2. ok, i haven't checked. sanity and all that. besides, most of the live sets from '93 haven't been tracklisted yet...

3. there is still no such thing as "comp. 110" with no letter appended. and you can't start a collage with a pulse track surely. nyah nyah :-P