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Aggie87

Thirsty Ear Corner

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I have really been enjoying the releases on Thirsty Ear (primarily the Blue Series). I think Matthew Shipp is to be commended for what he's done here, yet I haven't really seen all that much discussion about this label in general here. I think they've issued some very creative recordings. I haven't found one that I'd consider a "clunker" yet.

I've enjoyed all of Shipp's leader recordings, as well as Mat Maneri, Roy Campbell, William Parker, David S. Ware, and the Springheel Jack releases. And the recent Groundtruther (Charlie Hunter/Bobby Previte/rotating third person) albums are Hunter's best work, IMO.

Any recommendations you want to share from this series?

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Really digging Spring Heel Jack's "Live". This one guests Shipp, Evan Parker, William Parker, & Han Bennink. Only two 30+ minute tracks, combining improvised jazz and electronica in a very creative way. This one inspired me to pick up both "Masses" and "Amassed", the studio recordings that came before it, and I haven't been disappointed.

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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.

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i feel like in general shipp and his friends in the thirsty ear blue series are giving themselves accolades and pats on the back for music which is not as far ahead of the pack as they might think and in some cases is actually behind the pack. i feel like shipp and his friends are playing catch-up and either refuse to accept it or aren't listening to what else is out there. i guess what i'm saying is there is a lot of music going on right now which is probably fusing jazz with whatever in a much more organic and less awkward and forced way and also isn't trying to make you think it is the future of music.

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perhaps check out the rune grammafon label for a much more dignified stab at what thirst ear blue series is trying to do.

i think guillermo brown, for instance, got to the 21st century a few years after everyone else musically.

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I might agree with you about Shipp's goals being a bit lofty, and that there may be some self-congratulatory blather in some of the Thirsty Ear text I've read. However, I'm still really enjoying the music itself, whatever it is or isn't intended to be. I'm not really concerned with whether it is cutting edge, but whether I enjoy what I'm hearing - and right now that's the case.

Edited by Aggie87

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I would highly recommend both Blue Decco and Sustain, by Mat Maneri (with William Parker, Craig Taborn, and Gerald Cleaver). Joe McPhee guests on Sustain, and plays on all, I think, of the tracks, apart from the solos, one a piece, by Taborn, Parker, and Maneri.

Then there is Painter's Spring (with Daniel Carter and Hamid Drake) and Scrapbook (with Billy Band and Hamind Drake) by William Parker. I think they're both well worth hearing. Scrapbook is more upbeat, overall, and easier to get into. I prefer Painter's Spring.

I have all the Spring Heel Jack discs but it's been a while since I listened to them with a critical ear. Anyway, I think I'd go with either Amassed or Masses before Live.

Oh, and let us (me) not forget Tim Berne's albums. I have Craig Taborn's Junk Magic, but not the earlier Light Made Lighter, and it's fun and would satisfy you, I think, if you do not have what a favorite poster of mine calls "cutting-edge anxiety." It's a fun program and I'm happy to have it, though I seldom return to it.

I have not heard much else, I think. In general, I'm much less interested in what Shipp has going with might be called cross-fertilization. But yes, I am happy, of course, for the existence of the label and the Blue Series, of which some of these albums are a part.

edit: I just listened to Scrapbook and though fine, as is Junk Magic - in a very different way, it's not one that I would recommend, really, just to make that clear.

Edited by gnhrtg

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it was probably a mistake bringing dj spooky on board to such a degree as that really adds to the bsness of the whole thing since he adds layers upon layers of pretension.

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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.

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My favorites so far have already been mentioned. The live Spring Heel Jack set, Sustain, Painter's Spring are all excellent. Duds for me have included the Roy Campbell disc It's Krunch Time (with a couple of exceptional moments), and the Good and Evil Sessions (a used purchase that made me more bored than I already was). I really wanted that Spooky Mad Professor collaboration to work, but it rarely does. I haven't listened to the Spooky discs in a long while, but I remember some great and dense collage occuring on some of those tracks. Hey, what's pretentious about making music?

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i think with dj spooky he isn't just making music, he is subverting the hypercosmic paradigm of cultural relativty or some bullshit. according to him.

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William Parker's "Raining on the Moon" is a very enjoyable album. I've been listening to this one for a few months now.

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Jsut a footnote to say that if you like the Spring Heel Jack/improv discs, it's worth checking out the excellent Bruised by Tony Bevan, Orphy Robinson, Ashley Wales (of SHJ), John Edwards & Mark Sanders. It's not on Thirsty Ear but on Foghorn.

I haven't heard much of this series--I think I had bad luck as the first one I got was David S Ware's clunking Threads, & I've been very cautious since that. But I do have Berne's Sublime And which is excellent.

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i think with dj spooky he isn't just making music, he is subverting the hypercosmic paradigm of cultural relativty or some bullshit.  according to him.

-_- 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.

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What's pretentious about subversion? Or don't you believe in the hypercosmic paradigm of cultural relativity? Seriously, I do find his stuff a little over the top, and I've never read a word!

Raining On The Moon is a good listen. That is a fun disc. I think Vint has seen that band live before. Sounded like a good one.

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Matthew Shipp's "New Orbit" with Leo Smith is really nice. I enjoy listening to that album early in the morning before the sun rises. With the exception of "Nu Bop", I've enjoyed all of Shipp's recordings on this label, even "Harmony & Abyss", which seemed to be controversial.

William Parker's albums are nice too, with my favorite being "Scrapbook". His most recent one, "Luc's Lantern" took a long time to get into but now I find it to be a very interesting album with many layers to peel back and discover.

Matt Maneri's "Sustain" is very nice, as is Craig Taborn's "Light Made Lighter", Tim Berne's "The Sublime and" & David S. Ware's "Live in the World".

Completely agree with impossible's comments below about Roy Campbell's "Its Krunch Time".

This is an interesting label.

Edited by sal

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I forgot about New Orbit. I bought a copy about a month ago and I think it got lost in the shuffle! I'll pull it out tonight. I also got a copy of the second Golden Quartet disc and I've been listening to that. New Orbit slipped out of mind. I had a good week... came across the live Air disc on Soul Note that week as well!

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i think with dj spooky he isn't just making music, he is subverting the hypercosmic paradigm of cultural relativty or some bullshit.  according to him.

-_- 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.

As far as Braxton, Ornette and Cecil go, maybe part of the "unintelligibility" problem lies in the very attempt to translate an abstract art form into words? Isadora Duncan once said "If I could explain it, I wouldn't have to dance it." I would be very hesitant to suggest that something that was unintelligible to me was BS. Chinese is unintelligible to me but that says something about me and nothing about the language. Ten years ago most of the music I love today would have been largely unitelligible to me. The BS tag should be applied very cautiously. My two cents.

Kevin

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  in fact this whole label is trite and pretentious.  maybe in ten years they will produce an album that sounds just like "get up with it" and pat themselves on the back.

Okayyy...you've made the point that you dislike this label quite a bit. Moving on.

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hey i was just responding to someone insinuating that i didn't "get" what dj spooky was doing or for some reason maybe in 2020 his transhyperdubunal transmissions would make sense to me.

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I agree with akanalog on the DJ Spooky thing. Having tried listening to many of his records and seeing him DJ in person, I was left with a bad taste in my brains. Little technique and plenty of jive.

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While I think Thirsty Ear is a very good series and I respect the motivations and the artists involved, I do think that it would be fair to admit that sometimes the "nu jazz" rhetoric gets ahead of the work produced, which, to my ears, is often not as groundbreaking as it seems to think it is or as it is presented. Plenty of the releases don't really do it for me...I've never warmed to Spring Heel Jack. And the majority of Shipp's work on this label doesn't do it for me in the way a lot of his other work w/ his trio (Multiplication Table being my favorite Shipp) or his String Trio, among others, has. I keep returning to Equilibrium and being disappointed at how uninteresting and thin it is to me. I do like New Orbit.

On the plus side, Mat Maneri's Sustain is easily my favorite Maneri album, and one of my favorite releases of the past few years. I heartily recommend it...it's really different, though not in an electronica-related way. It's really spacious-yet-coiled. Great playing all around. Of course, Tim Berne's "The Sublime And..." is astounding (go figure). And I also really enjoy Craig Taborn's Junk Magic, which is the most convincing and effective jazz/electronica melding I've heard to date.

nathan

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Of course, Tim Berne's "The Sublime And..." is astounding (go figure). ...

This is a great record indeed!

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hey i was just responding to someone insinuating that i didn't "get" what dj spooky was doing or for some reason maybe in 2020 his transhyperdubunal transmissions would make sense to me.

No such insinuation was made by me. I specifically referred to the unintelligibility of Braxton, Ornette and Taylor regarding their writing/speaking about music.

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