Friday, February 1, 2013

falling river *music*

- as in, i finally got the chance to listen to it properly... actually as i type this sentence, the hour mark is coming up on the clock though this is a slow-hourglass night, and we still have nine minutes to go...

it is new music

- as in, when i said before that this was genuine cutting edge stuff, it was more by way of an article of faith than born from experiential conviction; now i can confirm (if there's been any doubt) that actual, authentic unexplored territories are being navigated here. falling river music is not, in itself, brand new; the name was put in circulation at around the same time that diamond curtain wall music was first mentioned, and all the while, the composer's head was still principally occupied with working out all the various components of the ghost trance music meta-system. but reports of live performances are - well, hang on, i was gonna say "rare" and i've just realised i don't recall ever hearing of more than one (see third para) until now. the only release that i am aware of, and certainly the only one i have heard, which contains any frm is ABCD (itself yet another example of that aristocratic sub-species, the reed-bass duets session - there will be more on this topic next month *1), recorded over two days in july 2003. and that was far from a whole album of it. so, you know, almost a decade ago and the concept itself simply had to take a back seat to every other dam' thing  which was goin' down ;-)  (*2)

heard properly, without environmental distractions, this grips loose-tightly (*3) from the off because, like at järvenpää (and unlike some other great meetings which required warm-up), the "sound-mesh" is in place right from the first attacks (*), and throughout its lengthy, variegated and subdivisible playing-time there is never any doubt that we are hearing one piece, one territory. there is a cohesion to it that quite simply seems to come down to the experience of hearing one fibrous, endlessly unwinding and infinitely curious tendril push and twist its way from left to right (and very possibly back again) through the strangest, most unimagined of landscapes. there is real tensility to this unbroken line and the piece is knitted together around it, and the result, astonishingly, is that which has not been heard before, even though a cross section taken at any time would very likely reveal the leader, thb and mary h at least seemingly play what they already know. yet the shape of that cross-section, again, irrespective of its component layers, is still unrecognised from previous long-range exploratory structures. what this shares in common with dcw or gtm is that it's never predictable and always resteless, continuously shape-shifting into something-other-than-itself; but it doesn't remind me of listening to, inhabiting those musical-energetic strategies at all. no, this really does feel different... and hey music fans, it's very listenable too for the most part! [ok... admitedly my tolerance levels for unusual sounds and structures in music are way higher than most people's. i really couldn't tell you how easy the recent ulrichsberg outing would be to penetrate for a neophyte.]

the name which is missing from the para above is that of ingrid laubrock. this german expat moved to london a few (action-packed!) years ago and quickly found herself immersed in the city's nice-middle-class jazz scene, that is to say the socially acceptable face of young british "upwardly mobile" jazz players as typified by the f-ire collective, julian siegel, &c et al... so, something she certainly didn't do much in that company was any high-end free improv - and the young saxophonist's compositions had never (yet) struck me as having outgrown that perpetually-callow scene by much (if at all *); hence, i was surprised when her name appeared on a list of coming events over at new tcf central a while back; this was not just any event either, coming under the auspices of "Energies, Ideas, Intuitions" - which itself was received terribly gratefully by me even though i couldn't go, since it was not long earlier that b. had told me that he had no bookings on the horizon at all (that was a dark day which received that news, let me tell you *4) - and two things immediately leapt to meet the eye, namely that falling river music was to be played, among many other (mainly new) things; and that the maestro had finally gone the whole way (ish) and formed an all-female ensemble; (ish) because he still took part in it / steered, guided it himself. but we know that our guy has long maintained it's crucial to introduce more women to the creative music scene, among other fields of activity, and in this i wholeheartedly agree with him (immediately and on purely spiritual grounds, without even pausing to consider any ethical/socio-political concerns). so, if occasionally there might appear (to the cynical eye) to be a faint touch of affirmative action in the maestro's choice of personnel for this or that project, the results do rather tend to bear him out. [anyone actually heard a bad braxton show? answers on a postcard...] part of this may be the "rahsaan effect" by which a great and inspired leader raises the level of his crew by example (and with good-enough parenting, so to speak), but some of it will have been brought to the date by (some/all of) the various participants.

so, anyway, there i was, ingrid laubrock soon to be playing braxton in an important series of happenings, and i talked before of how this was an eyebrow-raiser, and elsewhere herr spring day pointed out (as always, with exquisite courtesy) that ms/fraulein laubrock was pretty well-regarded these days and had been getting about a bit. well, good for her like i say, and it's interesting that she should have taken so well to the role, going out on the road with it, taking (bringing) the news (back) to europe. one thing's for sure, no-one enjoyed the bienniale gtm happening more than ingrid laubrock. [this is - honestly - coming soon btw!] and in this piece - getting back to the matter in hand, the ulrichsberg 2012 "barnstormer" - she could almost not be there, one thinks, for much of the first half; one hears the other three constantly, continually. from about halfway on, then, the tenor player asserts her presence in the soundscape more and more confidently, and this amps up the power a notch, inevitably. (this isn't really about power, though.) leading up to the 42-min mark and beyond, laubrock is just blowing air, barely even troubling the mouthpiece with it but completely owning the portion of the soundscape she inhabits, and (more to the point) supporting the contributions of her colleagues magnificently in the process, indeed completely transforming what might otherwise sound like "routine" (*5) utterances, from three thoroughly-travelled players, into something entirely fresh and unfamiliar. as i said above, this is above all a new musical experience... and laubrock's role on tenor may in fact have been similar all along to the one played so successfully by george lewis (in the '82 pisa trio with bailey, &c). the glue, the glue... the sticky sound-mesh which holds the rest together, binds it and gives it continuous form amidst literally constant flux. the lady takes right and proper ownership of this role, as i say, and in doing so may even be the crucial secret ingredient which allows the mix to work its new, new magic/k. highly recommended, to say the least. spread the word :))

[this bit will be replace in due course by a d/l link. at some point, though, i would expect this to turn up as a monthly nbh release so the link won't be kept alive forever anyway. meantime, watch this space... and until then, for about the next three weeks you can still "here" the group's encore c/o the jazz on 3 team. kudos to them for getting this stuff out there, even though as usual jez nelson tried his best to ruin it for me - never even came close;-)  ]


thanks to the artist formerly known as king kennytone for providing me with the opportunity to do what i couldn't on the night of the broadcast - listen to the music properly! and he also nudged me belatedly about this, which has been up for over a year: braxton all-stars at the contemporary, chicago,1978

- check it out! the sound is laughably compromised when you first hear it, yet bringing your attention openly to it is instantly rewarded, and anyone with a listener's heart and ears will enjoy the shit outta this, which in truth is not really exploration as such, just "let's blow some serious free jazz and take it in turns to burn the place down with our red-hot solos" - even though the pieces "are" all braxton originals; but, y'know, even serious-as-your-life aacm-ers deserve some time away from the coalface once in a while... - i've listened to the whole thing, both sets (in one sitting no less) and can confirm that the players' relaxation will = your educated enjoyment :)))

more on the way...

(*) see second comment

 * see third comment

* see fourth comment

this will be replaced by an opus number just as soon as i find where i put it..! 
(i'm sure i've seen it somewhere)