Wednesday, June 12, 2013

next-level studies, inst. 2: the reed(s) and the bass (pt. 1)

- or, the duets with mark dresser are on permanent hold -

... and when it comes to duo encounters with bassists specifically, our man really comes into his natural element. he has explored this one over and over again...which is why the omission, at time of writing, of dresser's name from the list of contrabass collocutors seems striking, egregious even. i mean... still not ready yet? well, it only took twenty-four years, give or take, to get hemingway in there... so far we are up to twenty-eight with m.d. ... and counting.

but bassists - and their prevalence among these myriad, multifarious duet meetings: a significant major trend and/or preference, or just a freak statistic to be noted and not built around? see, it could so very easily be the latter, but i keep coming back to the former and here's why:

- b's reed already reveals itself (over/over) as the mass of compressed strings it is;

- hence a chordophone is an ideal counterpart and collocutor;

- and the lower frequencies are themselves an endless source of fascination for our intrepid explorer


- that's pretty much it really, i think it's no statistical anomaly at all: i think b. very possibly above all gets genuinely excited at the chance to dance with (yet) a(nother) contrabass, and one could hardly blame him. and besides - goddamn but there have been some amazing players of that instrument. b's own (extensive) cv is in this regard putatively deficient only in terms of transatlantic meetings, logistics and total lack of funding etc, but altena (*1), guy, kowald, and yes even texier and tommaso, are all names "missing". well, but europe is not entirely unrepresented after all, as we will discover in due course -

now let's just run through all those damn bass duos in chronologorder, and make a few pertinent observations about each in turn:

a) the earliest (as-yet) documented duet with a bassist is - i believe i am right in saying - with a brit, and a long-serving (and possibly much-maligned, perhaps not for me to say... at any further length) one at that: david holland, as he was wont to be billed later that same year ('72) ... but it's only a fragment; and in any case it's a ringer, holland was playing 'cello on this'n. ok, so moving on to the list proper, then, and leaving fragments much as they were before i rudely disturbed them...

b) to (base/bass) business: we actually don't get started, amazingly, until 1982 (after all that build-up), to wit
i)  with john lindberg, six duets (1982) 
- starting the (as yet) faithful student. it's not necessarily widely known, but lindberg was actually named as a member of the new working group as early as maybe even 1977, if the dates given for the interviews in the appendices to the collected writings are to be taken as strictly correct (dubious... but, ) - '77, ground zero for british punk and the year david murray finally "made the scene", was a mystery year for me for ages as it happens, in that the personnel of b's working group at this point becomes immediately far from clear, since the various quintet appearances with muhal cannot really be taken as "working group" workouts as such, mra participating always on the euro festival circuit and ever the special guest, i would hazard a guess (?); so who was in the band? well, according to that interview (*2), john lindberg certainly was, before the year was out. hence, by now he is in his fifth or sixth year of tenure and no greenhorn at all. 

so, the programme is suitably academic-oriented - as regards the six core compositions themselves, all from the songbooks, but including what are ostensibly some odd choices, such as comp. 23j which is normally used a tension-vehicle for group interplay and development, but which works here just fine, albeit still sounding a little underweight. suitably academic, because wherever the leader found lindberg, it wasn't just in some club or whatever, he came from a background which i'm sure (not checked) must include plenty of time behind  and among the cloistered and closeted confines of some conservatory or other... he learned fast, thrown in with very fast company in a band including clarence "bobo" shaw and (g. lewis' crosstown twin) ray anderson... anyway, it's lovely to see comp. 6a given the treatment on this one as well, since dave holland had played so well on the '71 version and all that. right, well, there is also a standard(ish) in there tacked on the end, "four" by miles davis (who rarely bothered to flex his muscles much as a writer), and included in two takes. ok, so moving swiftly(ish) on:

ii) with buell neidlinger, 2x2 as discussed previously
- two sets of high-end, frequently high-octane mutual encountering and coexploration of territories both esoteric and familiar, captured on an april evening at mccabe's guitar shop in santa monica, CA back in 1989. (and seven years further up the continuum from the previous entry - i know, i know, my thesis is looking pretty weak at this point...). understand that i am not (usually) relistening to any of these recordings as i type, just trying to allow the information to flow and drawing on absorbed memory... but i was sufficiently impressed by this double cd (despite its decidedly unappealing cover) to consider that all the krystallhype regarding the actual release (a high-point even among braxton's career as a duettist, etc) is pretty fully justified, there is something extra-special about what took place here - and the only reason they (neidlinger and marty k) sat on the material for as long as they did is cos they just could never decide which pieces to include and which to leave out, finally deciding once and for all that the only viable option was, indeed, to release both sets in toto and just allow the listener to wallow and drink deep. sufficiently impressed to attract the attention of buell himself, who sounded me out about whether i was the right guy maybe to undertake his life story (clearly he had never heard of me before mr krystall showed him my emails and pointed him to the blog, otherwise he would know what a space cadet / notorious lunch artist i am when it comes to following through on my stated intentions, &c, and as you can imagine nothing ultimately came of it, which is probably only fair since although i am an admirer of mr neidlinger and his playing, i have little or no experience of much of the music/s in which he has chosen to involve himself, and i'm sure a better ghost can be found, not to mention about 100000 more reliable ones as i say - still time for me to change all this mind, i will still only be 43 when the summer is out and my daughter not yet five..!).

- but yes, this recording pretty much answers any and all questions about why the experience of duetting with a contrabass would be so appealing to the maestro in the first place. 'nuff said, go lissen...

iii) with peter niklas wilson, 8 duets hamburg 1991
- haha, and this one is a bit good as well, indeed i got all hot under the collar when i finally strapped it on back in february (another story as-yet begun but not completed...), could barely sit still for the fidgets. the opus numbers on this - and btw i really know nothing about the late herr wilson, but whoever he was this is (funnily enough) another case where the label (in this case the well-established music and arts of san francisco) proclaims the release to be special even among b's career as a duettist, stop me if you have heard this one before and so on, but bugger me if they don't have a point there also, since as it turns out wilson, whoever he was, really throws himself into this incredibly challenging set of totally fucking new music fresh and quivering and still bleeding from the tender minstrations of the cutting edge - just go back and look at those opus numbers, the only thing missing from that fever-inducing list are comps. 158 & 159, explicitly to be unveiled as pieces for the reactivated working quartet, just round the corner, four months up the line to be precise, in willisau - comp. 159 in particular will obsess this band for several years to come, no doubt at the cost of many a night's sleep but yielding so much in terms of richly layered understanding of what it means to play group music in the first place (free-sliding tectonic plates underpinning, if that's the word, the potentially-maddening repetitive line which carries and defines this number) - wilson, i say, properly commits himself to the material (also including the mighty old warhorse comp. 40a for good measure, amidst the flurry of totally new music remember - as if i am about to let you forget) and these explorations are just thrillingly exciting to witness.

- woah, dear... [slap} thanks, i needed that... too much coffee (...) - i'm off for some fresh air and a shower and we'll reconvene.


(in keeping with my current - enforced - policy of shorter posts without cutting back on the barely-controlled rambling and playing-with-punctuation, all in the interests of helping it flow ..., i am cutting this one short for the time being. the entire thing would be a bit indigestible in one sitting anyway, even for me... but i am on it, this one will almost certainly be continued in the immediate future...)

* see third comment


Jeff Schwartz said...

Some of the tracks on "In the Tradition" (May 1974) are duets with NHOP, three duets with Holland are half of "Trio & Duet" (October 1974) and another leads of "Five Compositions 1975" (July 1975).

But those are all standards, so maybe you want to limit yourself to just Braxton compositions.

You'll be getting to "10 Compositions (Duet) 1995" (with Joe Fonda), "ABCD" (with Chris Dahlgren), and "Duo (Heidelberg Loppem) 2007" (with Joelle Leandre) in part 3, I assume.

Anyway, always fun to read your writing.

centrifuge said...

hi jeff - and thanks for your kind words :)

thanks also for the corrections. see, i knew i would miss things by skimming the recording index rather than laboriously trawling it with a fine-tooth comb... the album with NHOP is one which i didn't have access to at the time of braxtothon phase two; and i probably wouldn't have written about it anyway (?) but i did later get hold of a complete rip, which i think i only listened to once... still have it of course... i do need to dig those out then. and of course, of course you are right about the holland duets you mention above, and those ARE both albums i've written about, so no excuse (except the half-arsed, time-constrained "sweep strategy" outlined above -!)

i will have to make a note of that somewhere - otoh i'm unlikely to cover them in any depth since, inevitably, it would just to be drag up oft-repeated riffs round these parts and ones perhaps left to lie quiet for a while ;-)

the others are indeed (of course) on the way...

centrifuge said...

1. b. certainly met maarten van regteren altena in 1977 - if not before - when they were both heavily involved in bailey's company week. no duets, though... not with m(r)a anyway. as for kowald - well of course the two had played together (*pearls* for example, 1975 under the aegis of the GUO) - but again, no duo encounter alas, since either of these two - or guy for that matter - would have been ideal foils/collocutors for our man.

(henri texier... has remarkable control over microtones and a pleasingly light, supple touch which might remind b. somewhat of his old friend mario pavone. tommaso, i really don't know as a player come to think of it)

2. ahhh, the planned (and indeed promised, though most readers will have long since given up on it) follow-up to "student studies 2" (of 3rd may 2011 - can't be arsed to hyperlink that soz) was going to unpack all these lovely useful details i'd gleaned from the interview transcripts included at the back of the books of composition notes. well, er, trying to get unfinished ideas finished right now so you never know..!