Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Twisted Taste for Avant Garde

Today I made up a quick playlist and enjoyed it on my way from Aberdeen South Dakota to Fargo North Dakota.  I am training for my 200 hour certification as a yoga instructor.  By chance, I listened to a brilliant horror story just before listening to 'Dogdays' from Nuclear Assembly Hall, a double CD by Atomic/School Days.

The story was 'The Ana Log', by Michael Gray Baughan.  It is available for free on my favorite podcast, Pseudopod.  This podcast presents weekly horror tales selected with what must be magic genius and read aloud by superb narrators.  If you like spooky tales, this is one for you.

This particular story concerns a series of video tapes which you watch at your own peril.  It is one of the rare stories that gives me the amazing sense of the otherworldly that I got when I first watched the great Asian Horror films such as Ringu or Juon.  It put me in that mood, let me tell you.

By chance, the next item on the playlist was that piece from A/SD.  Here is the lineup:

Magnus Broo — trumpet
Jeb Bishop — trombone
Fredrik Ljungkvist — reeds
Ken Vandermark — reeds
Havard Wiik — Piano
Kjell Nordeson — vibraphone
Ingebrigt HÃ¥ker-Flaten — double bass
Paal Nilssen-Love — drums and percussion 

I consider Vandermark to be one of the greatest living horn masters in jazz.  I could say much the same about Paal Nilssen-Love.  You can order this direct from Okka Disc.  The weird, chaotic music perfectly fit my mood.

This may be an accident.  Perhaps what I felt when listening to the music had nothing to do with the intentions of the musicians or the spirit of the music.  Or... maybe it is like a brilliant wine.  You can only appreciate it if your pallet is properly prepared.  I first got my wife to like a good stout by telling her to think of dark chocolate before she sipped it.  Now she's a beer snob.

I think that there is something deliciously twisted about the taste for good horror and the taste for avant garde jazz.  Just saying.  I am not playing this cut, but I did upload the next cut from the second disc: 'Light Compulsion.'  Enjoy.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Kind of Blue Too

One thing I can never get enough of is Kind of Blue.  For all sorts of reasons, it is generally acknowledged as one of the best albums every produced.  It is certainly the best selling jazz album.  I first heard it after I joined the Columbia Music club.  Four free jazz albums!  I also got Ornette Coleman’s The Shape of Jazz to Come.  That was worth whatever I paid. 
Tonight I am reviewing Blue, a note by note reproduction of KOB by a group called Mostly Other People Do the Killing.  Here is some info:
The audacious project, first conceived by Moppa Elliott and Peter Evans in 2002, intends to challenge the way people listen to jazz. By transcribing and recording what is arguably the greatest jazz album of all time, Mostly Other People Do the Killing affirms the greatness of the original while questioning the direction of jazz in the 21st century. The thought-experiment-cum-album forces to listener to examine what makes jazz actually jazz and brings the non-notatable elements music to the foreground: timbre, articulation and the ineffable nature of tone and feel.
Standing in for Davis' classic band are Peter Evans on trumpet, Jon Irabagon on alto and tenor saxophone, Ron Stabinsky on piano, Moppa Elliott on bass and Kevin Shea on drums.
I am not sure about the “questioning the direction of jazz in the 21st century” part.  Maybe this is a protest against the hold that jazz classics have and the situation of contemporary artists in breaking through that glass ceiling.  I must confess, but my jazz station and this blog certainly are stodgy in that regard. 
So what if someone reproduced KOB so accurately that it is indistinguishable from the original?  Would that mean that the greatness of the album was a mere accident of history?  Maybe.  But history is not to be denied. 
I haven’t yet digested this recording, but I do wonder whether one could tell which was the real one and which was Memorex.  So give it a listen and let me know what you think. 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Low Down on Frank Lowe

Frank Lowe didn’t like the studio system much and so didn’t leave behind the kind of legacy that he deserved.  He was an avant garde jazzman to his core but, as is often the case, there were deep streaks of tradition in his locks.  I have been listening today to a new acquisition: Decision in Paradise (1985).  All the comments on the recording I have read describe it as “conservative”.  It is in fact a genuine exploration of the bop sentiment.  In many ways, this is my favorite kind of jazz recording: an avant garde revolutionary trying out the old whiskey. 
I chose the album mostly for the band.  Don Cherry on trumpet suggests wild, but the suggestion goes wide of the mark.  Grachan Moncur III on trombone also misleads.  But I am a big fan of Moncur.  Geri Allen on piano, well, what’s not to like?  Charnette Moffett plays bass and Charles Moffett beats the skins. 
I am playing the title cut and ‘You Dig!’  This is one album that you will dig.  It’s available from Amazon for about $5.  Get it and dig it. 
I am also playing a cut from The Flam (1976), a more characteristic Lowe recording, I suspect, and a flamboyant avant garde document.  Joseph Bowie plays a spitting trumpet, Leo Smith draws from a quiver of horns, Alex Blake is on bass and Charles Bobo Shaw is on drums.  Lowe’s tenor is squelching and screechy, in a Charles Gaye sort of way.  Let it run. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Andrew Hadro Makes Me Happy Sometimes you just want to hit play and hear something that you were waiting for, something that joins to your heart like a key to a lock.  It isn’t easy to find that key, even when you have a large jazz library.  There is too much to choose from. 
Tonight the lock and the key met.  I am presenting a paper at the International Political Science Association in Montreal next week and I have been making notes all day.  I wanted some music to settle me in as I anticipate the plane ride and a city I have never seen.  I got this CD to review and boy did it do the trick. 
Andrew Hadro’s For Us, The Living is just splendid jazz.  Hadro plays baritone sax and flute.  I am very fond of the low horn.  It just seems to dig down into my heart.  Here is some info on the band:
Hadro's band is a powerhouse, starting with veteran drummer and bandleader Matt Wilson, whose unerring time and creative use of sound give the rest of the band a strong foundation for exploration. Pianist Carmen Staaf, recently accepted to the exclusive Monk Institute, shows again why she's one of the current jazz scene's most sensitive and inventive players. Bassist Daniel Foose works well with Wilson rhythmically and with Staaf harmonically. Together the quartet creates a rich sonic world for each of these compositions.
The album's title comes from President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Lincoln's speech, which marked its 150th anniversary in 2013, urged Americans to appreciate, honor and respect the unsung and fallen heroes, and to further their unfinished work and thus usher in a new era. Hadro felt it a fitting title for an album featuring current American composers who are carrying on the tradition of those who came before.
As I was schooled under a Lincoln scholar, Harry Jaffa, I cannot but salute the historical reference in the title.  Lincoln saved the United States both by preserving the Union and by returning it to the founding principle that “All men are created equal”.  That is the root from which all American culture flowers.  I am profoundly grateful to see this brilliant flower. 
Hadro’s band erupts with moody significance.  It lifts all sails.  All the band is superb.  Staaf’s piano makes me want to learn to play the damn thing and makes me despair of ever doing so.  Foose keeps laying down pegs into the soil.  Wilson’s drumming punctuates my mood. 
This is excellent jazz.  Buy the disc, if ever you listened to good advice.  I am playing
‘Allegrecia’ and ‘Wadding the Sea’ on my Live365 Station.