Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Anthony Braxton... Jimmy Reed - straight and chopped... Lightnin' Hopkins... DJ Screw/2Pac... Ben Webster/Coleman Hawkins...Cecil Taylor...
'This mammoth document of the final year of the famous Braxton Quartet shows exactly why that group finally split: they had reached a creative apex as a group that -- arguably -- could not be furthered.' (Thom Jurek from a very good introduction to these recordings here...).
Track one from the Willisau Quartet recordings – studio and live – 1991.
Commencing in a rather stately way, the cool tones of Braxton's clarinet giving his music even more of a European edge than usual, perhaps... I like this quote on the BBC web site: 'the missing link between Charlie Parker and John Cage.' Mark Dresser takes a solo and shows his mastery - the gamut of scrapes and scratches and bouncing the bow off the strings to rapid-fire arco sawing, ending on swooning figures as piano and clarinet return. Hemingway rejoins the trio, the drum/tom tom figures reminding you of the music's jazz origins - although the implied rhythms of the participants are another grounding that takes the classical ethos and bends it to Braxton's imperious compositional and improvisational will. The title refers, I gather, to three Braxton compositions... this compounding and blending of the notated sources in performance on the fly adds another layer of complexity to his music... what the thirdstream should have sounded like but rarely did in the balance of technique,genres - and emotion...
Back to the blues... Jimmy Reed was very popular in the UK during the r and b boom years. Yes, his music is a bit formulaic – but there was always something appealing about that shuffle beat of his. Not so heavy on the emotional freight, perhaps – without the shattering power of the Wolf or Muddy Waters, for example – maybe that was one reason for his popularity – social blues for dancing and drinking. And I'm going to New York sometime soon...
Some more Lightnin'... 'West Texas Blues.' Mr Hopkins on his own from the 1960's, stinging guitar tracking the voice, the amplification taking the country blues to somewhere different – able to hold its own in a crowded bar or club better than an acoustic performance yet retaining some degree of intimacy as played solo - when he uses a drummer it gives a different, more extroverted feel... it can be easy to forget that this music was played in more rowdy atmospheres and venues than would seem evident from its arrival on the festival and concert stages when it was taken up by a white audience...
Today's hard blues in Houston – chopped and screwed via the late lamented DJ Screw. Here is his version of 2Pac's 'So Many Tears.' The slowed down track gives a weird combination of menace, poignancy and despair: 'Lord, I suffered through the years, and shed so many tears..
Lord, I lost so many peers, and shed so many tears .' A ghostly harmonica(?) wafts in and out – ghost of older bluesmen... Unable to source this as it's from an old mixtape...
One plays one's games: I wondered what would happen if I took the Jimmy Reed track and slowed it down... get the syrup out, boys and girls...
More from the Hawk and Ben: By the time this session was recorded they were venerable tenor statesmen – the soloing is as much about texture, nuance and rhythm than the usual tenor speed lines. A thoughtful piano intro then Webster takes the tune: 'It never entered my mind.' It suddenly came to me listening to the slurs and bends he employs that there is some Johnny Hodges here, translated to the tenor – well, they sat in the same section for some time... although that after-note vibrato swoosh is classic Webster. Hawk comes in and follows the mood, his tone with that slightly harder edge, staying down and dark for much of his solo. Distilled essence of jazz saxophone... Webster returns for more swoosh... the band frame the two front-liners admirably – Peterson especially restrained and sympathetic.
Cecil Taylor, from the album 'Into the Hot' that went out under Gil Evan's name and showcased Johnny Carisi and the pianist, a side each. This is 'Mixed,' introduced by the horns, starting on a repeated 4 note melody – some nice muted trumpet from Curson. A piercing alto entry from Lyons – the breath of the Bird very much in evidence here. Taylor takes a section – almost rhapsodic as Lyons joins him. Then it starts to cook... churning ensemble and fiery piano taking the foreground, supported by Murray (a little drowned in the mix but his accents and rhythmic concepts come through despite the murk). A strange mutated riff sets up which echoes back into the history as well as pointing forward – the evidence for continuity was always there... The harmonic textures evoke the conservatory – the fire and passion and timbres channel the blues... I must put up some of the Carisi as a contrast – interesting music but conceptually a long way from Taylor's vision...
Great news that Ornette Coleman has received a Pulitzer - I'll put up a tribute asap - so glad I bought my tickets for his London concert (and Cecil - and Braxton - July looking good...). Straight No Chaser has a good piece on this and also a track from 'Sound Grammar.'
Anthony Braxton (as, cl, cbcl, fl, sss), Marilyn Crispell (p), Marc Dresser (b),
Gerry Hemingway (d, mba)
Composition 160(+5) (+40J)
Going to New York
West Texas Blues
So many tears
Going to New York/Slow
Coleman Hawkins/Ben Webster
Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster (ts) Oscar Peterson (p) Herb Ellis (g) Ray Brown (b) Alvin Stoller (d)
You'd be so nice to come home to
(Cecil Taylor (p) Jimmy Lyons (as) Archie Shepp (ts) Ted Curson (t) Roswell Rudd (tr) Henry Grimes (b) Sunny Murray (d)