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Everything posted by ep1str0phy

  1. Members, Don't Git Weary

    Good God, I can't get enough of this album. On the face of it, Members seems like your standard late-60's fare--electric bass, hip grooves, Joel Dorn production. It's also phenomenally short, clocking in at just a little over 30 minutes (flat). What the album lacks in volume, however, it more than compensates for in verve. There's just so much to love. Roach leads a proto-Music Inc. group comprised of Gary Bartz (alto), Charles Tolliver (trumpet), Jymie Merritt (electric bass), and Stanley Cowell (piano and el. piano). The music is nothing too groundbreaking--mainstream jazz in a post-bop vein, reminiscent of some Strata East cuts--but it’s quite affecting nonetheless. Even with the short playing time, there’s more than enough to merit repeated listenings. Tolliver, especially, has never sounded better--he carries a great deal of the solo weight here, tearing through the ensemble with a facility, range, and power seldom demonstrated elsewhere. Bartz keeps his improvisations grounded, favoring light, earthy statements that contrast with Tolliver's fire. Cowell and Merritt keep the proceedings moving, aggravating, abetting the front-line torrent. Roach plays above his usual standards, showcasing a dizzying polyrhythmic attack that threatens to overwhelm the proceedings, tipping the ensemble work just so--but never falling into chaos. Fine compositions all around--three Cowell tunes, one apiece by Roach, Merritt, and Bartz (no Tolliver cuts, curiously). Strong contributions, but the ensemble takes them some place special. Listen to Effi, especially--when Tolliver starts soaring over the din, stretching his upper register, challenging the roar of the rhythm section, the effect is breathtaking. There are moments like that all over this album. Caveat--the Koch Jazz edition (the one I purchased) has slightly sub par sound quality. This one deserves the deluxe treatment.
  2. Members, Don't Git Weary

    I don't know... I can't really listen to this set with respect to social/historical context. Max's "sidemen" are such a dominant force that I can't fault the album on account of the leader's idiosyncrasies. I came into this one a lot later--after years and years of pop inculcation and what not--and it still sounds fresh in spite of itself. The fact that the guys are carrying on like they are even with electric instrumentation and Max's histrionics makes the album all the more extraordinary. Still, I wasn't around back then, and I can only imagine what it must have been like in 1968...
  3. Thirsty Ear Corner

    -_- That actually made me laugh out loud. Still, precisely what's your beef with the guy? Pretension is one thing, but that doesn't keep me from listening to, say, Anthony Braxton, who wrote the book on unintelligibility (and could easily be taken the wrong way). Not to put DJ Spooky on the same level as Braxton (et al.), but a lot of the greats--Ornette, Cecil Taylor, etc.--sound just as (verbally) inchoate. Now, if you hate the sounds... that's a different story. But a BS ideology shouldn't denigrate the music. If a hundred monkeys pounded out Ascension tomorrow, I'd buy their record. Maybe a banana.
  4. Thirsty Ear Corner

    I can certainly understand the criticism. No direct problems on this end, though. I guess it's just that the Blue Series commodifies innovation. Well-packaged, no-fuss, tied together with a nice little mission statement (and some zeal for measure). Good marketing, in short. The level/sort of experimentation cultivated by the Blue Series has been brewing since lord knows when, but the possibilities needed to be idiomized--free hop or whatever--for mass consumption. The music may not be better, but it's easier to digest this way--and half the revolution is in the hype, so at least it feels like we're making progress. Maybe some new labels can take the opening and run with it. That being said, the music is fine. I like that they're giving the young turks some press... BS... yeah, but that's the charm of it all for me. The younger generation (I'd include myself) came up in a post-free, post-rap environment where a synoptic view of the improv lexicon required detective work... there's nothing altogether epochal going on, so it's build your own revolution. But the angle is all different--improvisers aren't just coming out of jazz anymore, and a great deal of young cats lack discipline--or a sense of boundary, for that matter. The results may not sound pristine--or even altogether genuine--but I'll be damned if it isn't fun watching (hearing) people flail.
  5. Thirsty Ear Corner

    While I haven't heard that much Thirsty Ear material, I've always been impressed by the label aesthetic. The Blue Series is one of the rightful heirs to the ESP-Black Saint/Soul Note-Hat experimental tradition. The strong avant bent would be enough, but there's something wonderfully cohesive about the series oeuvre. At the same time, the Blue Series has one of the finest collaborative rosters of any modern improv label. There's something going on, a school, an ideology--there's this Blue Note vibe to the whole thing. That being said, I really love the Shipp albums. Equilibrium is my favorite, melding "contemporary" urban sounds with an Andrew Hill slant. I mean, where are you going to hear Khan Jamal these days? The DJ Spooky set--the non-remix album with Joe McPhee, Shipp, etc.--is pretty nice, too. I'm pleased to think that the rap/electronica contingency can make a positive contribution to improvised music--even pushing the boundaries a bit. There's a sort of manic recklessness to the younger cats, a willingness to experiment without recourse to conventional notions of "acceptability." I just hope that--somewhere down the line--the "urban" inflections don't sound as dated as they could.
  6. Happy Birthday Marion Brown

    Great news! I pray that he's feeling healthier these days (granted all the reports).
  7. CBBB - OPEN DOOR (Muse 5056)

    I've slowly accumulated several of the Rearward sets--all phenomenal. I actually bought the Sahib Shihab on a lark some ways ago... I was shocked at how good it was. Stellar repertoire, deft solos, and phenomenal sound quality make for some terrific listening. Shihab has always been the surprise of the CBBB for me--wonderfully versatile and quite idiosyncratic. An underrated baritone for sure... his trenchant, exciting solos on the Rearward set could be the highlight of the series.
  8. Happy Birthday Marion Brown

    A little late, but I'm a big fan of Marion Brown (one of my favorite altos). "Three for Shepp" is an all time favorite of mine. While I'd love to see him out and about again, he's already given more than enough... I just wish more of his old material would get reissued. Damn it, Impulse (although I'm pretty sure most of it was reissued--in excellent fidelity--in Japan some while ago).
  9. Night of the Cookers

    Long time listener, first time caller. I didn't see an actual topic for this gig, although it's been mentioned often enough. Regardless, I went to the 8 p.m. show last night... it was pretty hot. The lineup was phenomenal, the compositions were tight, the playing was excellent. Not one person should be worried by the recent lineup shuffle. Tolliver and Harper carried out the front line duties commendably. Harper was breathing fire from square one, intermittent microphone problems notwithstanding. Tolliver started off a little cold, but warmed up fast--by the second number, he was breaking the place apart. John Hicks was wonderful--I sat right in front of him--and provided an excellent foil for the horns' derring-do. Dwayne Burno and Roy McCurdy--the two "lesser" (take or leave the term, if you will) names in the group--held up the bottom end just fine. Altogether, the band was shockingly flexible, wrangling the difficult charts with ease. Then again, at this level, superlative is kind of redundant, right? I can't recall all the numbers, but they did play Harper's "Thy Will Be Done," "Pensativa," and "Right Now." Tolliver really let 'em have it with the last one... made me seriously reconsider his playing. The cat has a phenomenal command of the middle register, juggling loping harmonic twists with staggering timbral control. It's almost a pity he didn't play on McLean's version (right after the show, I ran out and bought "Jacknife," by the way). If you're in the bay area, drop what you're doing. Who knows how long these guys are going to last? It's nice to see that what once verged on the avant-garde--now the old guard--is still playing with fire. Thoughts? Violent criticism?