Wednesday, August 24, 2011

BYOV - Meeting #3

On a rainy, rainy Sunday, August 14th, a handful of brave souls (geeks) gathered in the back of Barbés for the third meeting of BYOV. Though the group was small, the discussion, music selections and opinions were all strong. Personally, I really enjoyed the frank discussion we were able to have. Not to mention, we heard our most obscure record to date… Read on, read on…

Here were our working themes, BYOVites:

a) Favorite duo performances. Two musicians, one stage. No holds barred. Well, no genres barred.

b) Unusual instrumental combinations. Mouth harp and tuba? Orchestra and helicopter? Bring your fav bizarro combinations.

Left field pick...

c) Blast from the past! Fav old-timer coming out of retirement or mixing it up with youngsters.

As you’d probably expect, there were a bunch of duo selections. Many presenters pulled a double and provided a selection covering two themes, mostly duos and unusual instrument combos. Only one old timer showed up, but on two different selections. Every selection was presented as a blindfold test.

Here goes!

1. Anthony Braxton / Richard Teitelbaum – “Behemoth Dreams” from Time Zones (Arista Freedom AL1037, 1977)
Presented by David Adler (in absentia) – Theme: A & B – MP3

Our new friend Steve Futterman quickly buzzed in with Braxton followed by a Teitelbaum assist from Macnie.

Braxton had to show up. Had to. Couldn’t think of another musician that has performed in so many different configurations on such a wide array of instruments.

This composition from September 16, 1976, recorded at Bearsville Sound in Woodstock, NY, showcased Braxton on contrabass clarinet and Mr. Teitelbaum on Moog synth. “Behemoth Dreams” was dedicated to the composer/installation artist Maryanne Amacher.

An odd mixture of timbres and textures. The Moog provided sounds from low rumble to ringing high tones while Braxton’s clarinet resonated with a very gruff, woody tone. The ideas were plentiful on this long track.

This got us talking about a bunch of stuff, especially Braxton and the Arista Freedom label. The label was in a unique position as it was able to release very advanced, “difficult” music through a major label’s distribution chain. The 1970s were a time of musical glut that allowed daring individuals an opportunity to release music that wouldn’t otherwise get into the mainstream marketplace, even though financial success wouldn’t be realized. It definitely helped kick start the careers of some of the artists affiliated. Maybe Steve Backer or Michael Cuscuna would like to weigh in?

The effect on the music world was interesting. The availability of these distinctive musical streams had direct influence on new music of all types and music culture in general. Avant-garde music in Rolling Stone reviews and record store chains? Would Pere Ubu sound like Pere Ubu without these records having been available in cutout bins everywhere?

2. Vinny Golia – “Eye My” from A Gift for the Unusual: Music for the Contrabass Saxophone (NineWinds 0239, 2004)
Presented by Richard Gehr – Theme: A & B – CD

Another low horn player we had to guess. Too fleet of finger to be a tuba or sousaphone. Darker than a bass or bari sax.

Everyone started going through mental checklists of low woodwind players. Scott Robinson? J.D. Parran? Braxton?

No one got Vinny on Tubax (a type of contrabass sax). I was able to guess Wayne Peet on piano due to his association with Vinny and Los Angeles residency.

Golia has been playing a huge array of woodwinds for the majority of his career. This piece came from a record that featured him entirely on this big daddy sax.

Great, great track featuring a unique instrument. Off kilter piano work and obscenely low tones.

3. Django Reinhardt & Rex Stewart & His Feetwarmers – “Finesse”
Presented by Steve Futterman – Theme: B – MP3

A cornet theme was played over a quiet and fairly subdued set of guitar changes. Clarinet followed the cornet before the guitarist took his solo over what seemed to be a simple brush on snare.

Django was obvious on guitar. We heard Rex Stewart play a warm cornet. Billy Taylor played a loping bass. So what was the odd instrument? Barney Bigard was featured on clarinet and… suitcase? Yep. Brushes on suitcase.

Steve mentioned that this was recorded in April of 1939 while Duke Ellington was on tour in France. This performance was an impromptu session where the musicians had to utilize whatever they had lying around in a hotel room. Excellent under the circumstances, no?

Hear it here.

4. Anthony Braxton / Taylor Ho Bynum – “All Roads Lead to Middletown” from Duets (Wesleyen) 2002 (Innova 576, 2003)
Presented by Jeff Golick – Theme: A – CD

As Mark Jackson would say, “There goes that man!”

Mr. Heberer got Braxton from his intonation and phrasing. Good ears. Mr. Etkin assured us it was an alto sax. Cornet guesses included Bobby Bradford. Golick saved us from further mining by giving Ho Bynum away.

Braxton has been a professor at Wesleyan (in Middletown, Connecticut) for some time. He has helped turn out a fine crop of young composers, improvisers and performers, including his featured duet partner, cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum.

No strange instruments played here. The alto sax brandishing Braxton and Ho Bynum swung through as “jazzy” a selection as I’ve heard either perform.

It was interesting hearing Braxton in a more “jazzy” vein. It gave a better perspective on how far his experiments and developments have expanded the music. The jazz tradition may have been left behind but it has managed to stay in the rear view.

Our Braxton discussion continued. Earlier, I had asked what everyone’s favorite Braxton recording was. Seemed that most preferred Braxton’s earlier projects, his recent ones deemed a little difficult to relate to. There was also mention of the strength added while performing with his peers rather than students. Though many of his students have become highly esteemed peers at this point.

There was certainly an appreciation for what he had done, especially in his concepts. But most were attracted to his early leader recordings or as a sideman, reigning it in to “yield to friends.” The collective fav was Dave Holland’s Conference of the Birds (ECM, 1973), a solid classic.

Another question came up. As challenging and isolated as his music has been, would it be considered as significant if it had been performed/composed by someone other than Braxton? A cult of personality? Brought us back to the Arista Freedom’s influence and the benefits of the label's wide availability during the 1970s.

But really who would have been better? The mold was broken after Braxton. How could you hate his professorial image and wildly imaginative ideas? He was a perfect face for the new avant-garde. An intriguing dude whether you listen or not.

5. Archie Shepp / Horace Parlan – “Backwater Blues” from Trouble In Mind (SteepleChase SCS-1139, 1980)
Presented by Zak Shelby-Syszko – Theme: A – MP3

Shepp was a fire music man. Untempered. His unique voice was especially suited for going for gusto. A loose, gutbucket sound. Completely unique.

The lovely music that he made with pianist Horace Parlan on four records from the late 1970s and early 1980s (Goin’ Home, Duo Reunion, Trouble In Mind and Mama Rose) was unexpected. While Shepp always had a link to the blues, these duo sessions were the most revealing testaments to that heritage. Parlan came from more mainstream stock, having come up playing with the likes of Dexter Gordon, Stanley Turrentine and Charles Mingus.

Though his embouchure remained loose, Shepp’s sound was more focused here than on many other performances (immediately noticeable). Without much fanfare, Parlan’s spare accompaniment set Shepp up beautifully.

6. Misha Mengelberg – “Instant Composition 5/VI/’72” from Eric Dolphy, Misha Mengelberg, Jacques Schols, Han Bennink playing: Epistrophy, June 1, 1964 in Eindhoven, Holland (ICP 015, 1974)
Presented by Thomas Heberer – Theme: A & B - LP

Wow. Wow. The rarest record we’ve heard thus far. The only way to hear this has been on original vinyl or rips. The record has gotten to be a pretty costly. Hopes/plans for ICP reissues have surfaced and continue, though no immediate plans.

Very proud to say I had the correct guess: Mengelberg and a parrot. Unfair advantage as I had just read about it in Kevin Whitehead’s New Dutch Swing.

Little background. Mengelberg’s girlfriend at the time owned a gray red-tailed parrot named Eeko. The pianist and bird didn’t get along as they were both vying for a lady’s attention. Conversations would end up in duels of escalating volume.

Mengelberg being Mengelberg decided to utilize the bird. He began whistling jazz tunes/licks around Eeko. The bird picked up on these easily enough. This track was recorded on June 6, 1972. Mengelberg played a fairly straight jazz piano with Eeko as the soloist. Remarkable thing was that the bird was able to keep up. Eeko even seemed to hear the changes. A prime example of the Dutch Dada-esque esthetic, allowing the absurd to mingle with the commonplace.

Voted “the track of the day.” Worst joke of the day: “This one was recorded in Polly-phonic.” Yuck, yuck, yuck…

7. Aliou Fane / Daouda Sangare / Djuru Diallo – “Dougou té mogoké Nalamayé” from Kamale Ngoni: Kelea – Mali (Indigo/Label Bleu, 1987)
Presented by Oran Etkin – Theme: B – CD

Of course, any African recording using indigenous instruments would have sufficed for unusual instrument combinations. Our African music expert found a track with an unusual instrument within the realm of unusual instruments.

The doso n’goni has been a sacred instrument in Malian culture. A hunter’s harp, 6-string kora, which contained power only to be used in sacred rites. The use of the doso n’goni in “secular” music has been strictly forbidden.

To combat this ban, the younger generation of musicians created a smaller version of the instrument called the Kamale N’goni (which means “young man’s harp”), featured on this track. The other instruments present were Karinyan (metal guiro played by scraping) and a wooden flute.

Oran mentioned that this development was akin to the “rock and roll revolution of Mali.” He also gave examples of how serious Malians have been in regard to their beliefs and rituals. While in Mali, Oran witnessed a summit of hunters from all over the region, the first of its kind, held in a soccer stadium. The summit was big news, generating concern over the dangerous accumulation of too much magic, which could have spelled disaster.

Talk of the doso n’goni led us to Don Cherry. His playing of the instrument would have been looked on as sacrilege. Definitely wasn’t a virtuoso, which didn’t help his cause. Heberer pointed out that though Cherry wasn’t a virtuoso on many of the instruments he tackled, he could make each work enough to communicate effectively to audiences, a rare musical talent.

8. Richard Davis / Jack DeJohnette – “Watergate” from Song For Wounded Knee (Flying Dutchman FD 10157, 1973)
Presented by Me – Theme: A – LP

“Beautiful so far…” Early guesses were: “South African?” Nope. “3D Family?” Uh uh… “Fred Hopkins?” Sorry…

Hints followed. Domestic release. Produced by Bob Thiele. On Flying Dutchman… Okay. Richard Davis.

Song For Wounded Knee was an eclectic recording led by Davis alongside a trio featuring guitarist Joe Beck and drummer Jack DeJohnette released in 1973. “Watergate” was a duo piece with the drummer. The entire album had explicit political overtones (check the song titles). It was the ‘70s, man.

Both Davis and DeJohnette played beautifully on the track. Extremely resonant and poignant.

Davis has been highly regarded in the worlds of jazz and popular music forever. He’s gotten props from Bruce Springsteen (invited on stage) and less props from Van Morrison (played on Astral Weeks but was never in the same room).

Oran mentioned he had had similar experience with Wyclef Jean, having played on gigs and recordings while never actually meeting Jean in person. Mr. Big Stuff…

9. Marshall Allen / Joe Morris – “Particle Physics” from Night Logic (RogueArt ROG-0028, 2010)
Presented by Jim Macnie – Theme: A & B – CD

Jim had to wrestle with the computer to get the CD going but it was well worth the trouble.

We initially heard strange low electronic drones and bowed bass. The gurgling, surging tones traversed from low hums to high squeals. The bass player really went for some testy harmonic ideas before finding a walking line as flute took a more balanced melodic approach.

No one was able to guess who these guys were.

The featured musicians were Sun Ra Arkestra leader/reedist Marshall Allen and bassist Joe Morris. “Particle Physics” featured Allen on flute and Electric Valve Instrument (EVI). The recording was part of a trio session at Roulette in NYC on July 26, 2009 that also featured pianist Matthew Shipp.

Allen has been performing with his EVI for years. The instrument was conceived like an electric trumpet with three valves and a twisting octave valve (range of 7 octaves). Naturally, he has typically used tones of the spacey variety.

EVI lesson from the master.

10. Michael Moore / Fred Hersch – “The Sad Bird” from This We Know (Palmetto, 2008)
Presented by Jim Macnie – Theme: A – CD

We had so much fun with the last one, we decided to let Jim go again.

The musicians on this selection were guessed pretty quickly. We did have one of Moore’s ICP band mates with us, although Hersch was uncovered first.

The moody piece began with a ruminative piano from Hersch with Moore’s languid clarinet floating over the top. Moore presented a little more outside the box style here. Heberer mentioned how both come from different traditions, though originating from the same place.

Moore and Hersch had studied together at New England Conservatory. Moore, originally from California, moved to Amsterdam and became involved in the Dutch improv music scene, a unique European musical flavor. Hersch has made quite a career for himself being at the helm of the US jazz piano tradition.

The two musicians together sounded like they were speaking the same language but with different dialects. Very nice blend.

11. Max Roach ft. Coleman Hawkins – “Driva’man” from We Insist: Max Roach’s – Freedom Now Suite (Candid CJM 8002, 1960)
Presented by Steve Futterman – Theme: C – MP3

“Too beautiful… Turn it off.” Abbey Lincoln, whew… Breathtaking.

We Insist was Roach’s moving suite written for the Centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation and was easily the most politically volatile jazz recording of its time. It was also a collection of all stars, young and old. Booker Little, Julian Priester, Olatunji and our old timer, Coleman Hawkins.

Steve was amazed that Hawk recorded this album with a bunch of musicians half his age and managed to fit in so well. He didn’t do any more than was required, an embellished melody and a brief solo. He was another part of the arrangement, as if Abbey had passed the baton.

Hawk’s presence was important. He gave an air of authenticity and authority on a relatively young label’s most alienating recording. He helped to create a masterpiece.

A tremendous result.

12. Sonny Rollins ft. Coleman Hawkins – “Yesterdays” from Sonny Meets Hawk! (RCA Victor LSP-2712, 1963)
Presented by Thomas Heberer – Theme: C – CD

“Driva’man” set this one up well.

Tenor colossus Rollins was a tremendous fan of Hawk. This recording came out a year after Rollins’s return to performing. He had taken a break to regroup from the arrival of Ornette Coleman. After woodshedding for two years, he was playing at his peak.

Rollins apparently was a neurotic mess around Hawk. His playing was a little jittery, but this kept the energy up. Hawk was on his toes and managed to maintain the energy that Rollins instigated. Each played off the other fantastically; e.g., Rollins solo concluding trill led seamlessly into a Hawk solo. It got to be that telling the two players apart became difficult.

Another stone classic.

1 comment:

  1. If you want to hear a killer orchestra, select all the box's at once!! Great stuff, Bret...Rez A