Molly Bloom was enquiring about jazz harp players recently – and female jazz musicians. Alice Coltrane can fit the bill for both categories ... 'The Blue Nile' could have been a schlocky disaster... but is a shimmering, hazy, warm and spiritual track, earthed by the bass of Ron Carter. The alto flutes are more for decoration than solo power but work well enough within the overall rubric (Sanders on the left, Henderson on the right). Coltrane's swirling harp plays a bluesy swinging solo. I don't know whether I could listen to much of this in one go, as this type of playing will sound one-dimensional after a while - but here it's damn good. Warm and evocative...
No other reason than I like the tune... here's 'Jordu' played by the late Clifford Brown with his co-led quintet avec Max Roach, recorded in 1954. Burning, soulful, fast and accurate trumpet with soaring double time runs on display here - Brown was a supreme and unhurriedly elegant melodicist.. Harold Land holds his end up as ever – an underrated talent. I remember hearing him for the first time on a Curtis Counce-led session way back in my youth with Jack Sheldon in the front line – an old Contemporary EP which I wish I still had.. Bud's younger brother Richie Powell (who died in the same car crash as the trumpeter in 1956) takes a crisp solo. A round robin of fours between horns and drums before Roach displays his solo talents – some fascinating shifting bass drum rhythms here. There's an interesting MySpace site devoted to Brownie – here
More or less up to date – coming in on thumps and scrapes from Fred Frith as the Braxton saxophone snake charms, building to long reeling lines that give a resonance of Evan Parker (or should that be the other way round?), threaded through the rising noise. That eventually subsides... more conversational now, Braxton almost quizzical in response to distant deep resonations, gong-like timbres, occasional echoes of the mad iron clatter of gamelan. The saxophone becomes elegaic as the piece ends on a low electronic thrum. A fascinating mixture of jazz timbre from the saxophone and Frith's extended guitar soundworld – a wide and deep orchestrally noisy space which is broad enough to accommodate Braxton without any discomfort. Of course these areas interlap as the cross-currents of free improv and freejazz have splashed across each other down the years. This was recorded at the same festival as Braxton's appearance with Wolf Eyes at Victoriaville 2005. Over on Point of Departure, the rather good online jazz mag, they don't think much of the latter...(click here and scroll down) Word the Cat still has 'Rationed Rot' up from this session here... When I saw Hair Police the other week, whose guitar player Mike Hennessy is also a member of Wolf Eyes, I was struck by the rhythmic connections to freejazz – something many freenoise bands have in common, taking much of the energies and instrumentation of rock but often discarding the rhythms as too restrictive to allow the music to breathe. After all, when noise is invoked, it has a beautiful unpredictability – you may have some idea of what a prepared instrument like an electric guitar (for example) can do sonically – but it will always surprise you. (Which is the idea, after all... ) So you need plenty of acoustic/conceptual space to accommodate the results – and the backbeat doesn't always hack it in the Electronic Sublime...
An earlier improv session... Derek Bailey, George Lewis (the trombonist, not the New Orleans clarinettist – although – that would have been an interesting session...) and John Zorn. 'On Golden Pond.' Not sure what Hank Fonda would have made of this... Unlike some in the world of free improv, the late-lamented Bailey (who died round Christmas last year) had a mordant sense of humour. The 1983 album that this track is taken from – 'Yankees' is apparently devoted to sound pictures and improvisations on sports themes. Zorn's duck calls here set the scene over bubbling watery sounds, occasional rising and falling trombone lines that are the only reference point to 'jazz' and the astringency of Bailey's guitar. So far now from the broad idiom of 'jazz.' Yet music from three players with strong jazz roots – which Zorn is still exploring. Bailey famously turned his back on jazz to further his experiments in non-idiomatic guitar improvisations, (declaring that 'jazz' had died with Charlie Parker). George Lewis, a superb trombone player, second generation member of AACM and composer has also been very active in multi-media and electronic developments – writing the software for the Voyager interactive music program, for example. Yet all of them are linked by the improvisation ethic that came mainly out of twentieth century jazz - here used to explore sounds/noise in a wide open space, a far from serious yet fascinating excursion...
In the Videodrome
Braxton plays Coltrane here...
and... a 100 Tubas!
(Alice Coltrane (harp); Joe Henderson, Pharaoh Sanders (alto flutes); Ron Carter (bass); Ben Riley (drums)
The Blue Nile
Clifford Brown/Max Roach Quintet
(Clifford Brown (trumpet); Harold Land (tenor saxophone); Richie Powell (piano); George Borrow (bass); Max Roach (drums) ).
Anthony Braxton/Fred Frith
Improvisation no 5
Derek Bailey/George Lewis/John Zorn
On Golden Pond