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ep1str0phy

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  1. I also think that the feel is pretty elusive, but it helps to find an anchor point. The first bass note is on the and of 1, and the phrase "You ain't..." starts on the 1 (i.e., "You aint" = "1 &"). I try to focus on the keyboard. I just listened to it again, and I feel like the time feel is a little easier to make sense of if you start at the chorus and move forward.
  2. Stopping by to leave my condolences. Wayne's music has meant so much to me at so many different stages of my life, and it's difficult to process a loss of this magnitude when his music is still virtually everywhere - on stage, at sessions, coming out of other peoples' horns, popping up on news feeds, and on and on. I will say this re: Wayne's taciturnity - the debate over whether he had receded a little too far into the wallpaper of Weather Report - and, indeed, if his late-career resurgence constituted a return to form vs. a mere change of scenery - always struck me as a little wrongheaded. Like, what was the alternative? Did he need to play a two minute solo on every Weather Report track? I feel as if the core principles of Wayne's improvisational ethos - the unerring patience, the care and intention of his phrasing, the unexpected densities and silences - are the same ideas that animated his participation in Weather Report, his later fusion efforts, etc. Maybe he didn't play because he didn't want to? This also gets into some artistically awkward territory with regard to the valuation of maximalism over minimalism. The liners to It's About That Time (the "Lost Quintet" FIllmore shows) touch on this a bit. I do not think that Wayne the "fierce maximalist" is as a rule more appealing than the Wayne who plays two notes and dips. Your milage may vary, yes, but we're dealing at that point in subjectivities rather than qualitative absolutes.
  3. Turn It Over does Bruce a disservice, I think, in that he's clearly peripheral to the trio dynamic. The quartet on that record is not a "band" so much as a "trio + guest" - which is a reality that seems to have been rendered by decision rather than fact. The Laswell reconstruction/remix of the album is far more comprehensive than the original LP, and even that project is hedging between Young and Bruce. There is an unrecorded (or possibly unrealized) version of Lifetime with a fully integrated Bruce that is just as interesting as the Emergency trio. I think that Williams was looking to hook into that liminal space between electric Miles and Cream, which would require that both Young recalibrate his role and the music lose some of its rhythmic dynamism. This semi-imaginary version of the band might have lost the mercurial energy of the trio, but it would have gained something that virtually all of the fusion projects of this era lacked: density of attack. It's not that Bruce was a better technical bass player than, say, Rick Laird - it's just that was arguably a better rock bassist than most of his contemporaries. In terms of audio quality - I agree that the crappiness of the original Lifetime recordings feels correct and oddly necessary, but the Laswell remix changed my mind on everything. It is actually a better album IMO - it's just lacking the original LP's brutal brevity. The improvisations are are more complete, the mix is better, and Bruce at least makes a little more sense:
  4. There's a thesis waiting to be written about how the rapid evolution of jazz in the 1960s produced a slew of musically innovative, improperly recorded albums. One could argue that part of the "problem" is that jazz culture as a gestalt has not (classically) incentivized the use of the recording studio as an editorial tool. I use the word "incentivized" carefully here - it's not as if the artists, producers, and engineers of the 60s were as a rule averse to making records that did more than simply "document" a live event. I do feel, however, that likeminded collaborations like Miles and Teo are the exception rather than the rule, and our cultural preoccupation with live performance and instrumental mastery has meant that jazz has seldom had to rely on the kinds of technical conceits that rock, hip-hop, etc. have ultimately found most durable. I actually prefer Turn It Over to Emergency - but I'll qualify that statement by saying that I think that both records sound poor. I've read a handful of articles - and have even had a number of in-person exchanges - relating out the Jack Bruce era of Lifetime was prohibitively loud. At the same time, I can't imagine that Lifetime was any louder than Cream - the difference being that Lifetime was shunted into jazz clubs and recorded without the assistance of a George Martin or Felix Pappalardi. Turn It Over was recorded by Ray Hall - if I have my info straight, dude was working with crossover fare like Gary Burton and Nina Simone. That band needed someone who could record the fucking Who. Ego sounds a little better, and (notwithstanding the change in concept) I imagine that at least part of that had to do with how studio techniques had evolved to better capture the band's sound. I maintain, however, that some aspect of jazz's cultural habitus continues to pace other genres in terms of utilizing constructive understanding of new technologies - it's just that in the 21st century, we're dealing with home recording, Ableton, live samples, etc. The most fruitful work in this regard is probably being done in jazz-inflected hip-hop, electronic/noise music, and other experimental genres, but we're now talking about variable cultural priorities vs. one genre being savvier than the other. (There are exceptions to everything, of course - I don't think you could level these criticisms against Shabaka Hutchings's stuff or Kassa Overall's studio work, for example.)
  5. This one really hurts - not unexpected, based on rumblings about his health that have been circulating for several years, but still difficult. From his work with the Coltranes to his now-legendary run on Impulse, stopping at some very crucial junctures to commune with the likes of Don Cherry, the Jazz Composer's Orchestra, Sonny Sharrock, and countless others, Pharoah's legacy as a performer and conceptualist is formidable. Regardless of what roses will be sent his way in the coming days, ranking among his greatest achievements must be his mastery of sound as a building block of jazz performance. I don't think that scholarship quite understands just how much this cat - kind of a paradigmatic enfant terrible - affected the vocabulary of this music. It's obvious from the recordings and any number of firsthand accounts that there was a Pharoah before Coltrane, but it's remarkable how Pharoah took the calculus of Coltrane and distilled it into a specific subset of ideas. Every time I listen to Meditations, I hear Coltrane - fleet, virtuosic, and somehow both larger than life and laborious - and then I hear Pharoah. Pharoah just got to it. A burst of sound suffices where a flurry of notes was formerly necessitated. Between his recognition of solo construction and his really unique grasp of compositional formats - minimalistic modal vamps, rubato balladry, and so on - Pharoah presaged both smooth jazz and the harshest European Free Improvisation. If that isn't a testament to an artistic life well lived, then I don't know what is.
  6. Damn. Grachan Moncur III was a huge part of my formative listening. Those two key aspects of his work - that boundlessly deep, economical trombone and his proficiency with a kind of intense jazz minimalism - left an indelible mark on volumes of musicians. In his prime, Moncur had this ability to command your full attention with only a modicum of content - as if the absence of information forced you to explore what was most assuredly - but only elusively - there. You just cannot deny that he had something. The Blue Notes are stellar - and Rooster, thank you for sharing that YouTube vid and the Masters record. Exploration is one of my favorite "recent" big band efforts: clean, conceptually clear, and absolutely true to the composer. However, my absolute favorite Moncur record is New Africa. That's everything right there. It has the grainy-ness and charismatic mystery of the best early free jazz, but the crackling ensemble interplay and the simple depth of the compositions are not merely a vibe. It's "just" a document of some of the best musicians who ever lived showing up to play. RIP - and thank you.
  7. I spent part of my youth around the corner from this place, and I took guitar lessons one building over for something like four years. I purchased my main instrument at Norm's back in 2000. The staff has always been cordial and positive - a not-insignificant thing, considering how forbidding and intimidating "guitar culture" can feel for new initiates. I most certainly wish Norm and co. well.
  8. Hello, all- I've had the good fortune to curate a festival slated for this coming Saturday, April 30, 4-9pm PT (streaming online + in-person from Temescal Art Center in Oakland). We're calling this one the Unlocked Festival - the seventh in a string of online events. This program is particularly stacked, including: Rova Saxophone Quartet, Positive Knowledge (Oluyemi + Ijeoma Thomas), Tom Weeks Trio (with Kazuto Sato + Gerald Cleaver), duo B. (Lisa Mezzcappa + Jason Levis), Lenora Lee + Francis Wong, Tongo Eisen-Martin, Evicshen, and Grex As with previous events, all proceeds will be directed to charitable causes, including Oakland arts spaces (Temescal Art Center and Oaktown Jazz Workshops) and Ukraine Relief. As has long been the case, proceeds collected from Grex's bandcamp sales will be directed to the Milford Graves Memorial Fund. Our streaming link and further details may be accessed here: https://www.grexsounds.com/unlocked.html Best wishes to all, K/ep1
  9. In a practical sense, I wouldn't doubt that that trio operated democratically. From my understanding, notation aside, Cecil gave little to no instruction regarding what the other instrumentalists were to play. I also don't think there there was any conscious subsumption into Cecil's concept on the part of Cyrille, Lyons, etc. It was a perfectly synergistic trio built out of consistent practice, intuitive musicality, and a little bit of unteachable genius. That being said, I think you could have assembled a different trio that put in exactly the same amount of work and not achieved a similar level of success. It's like these three guys were built for this particular music, and a big part of that is the way that Andrew is willing and able to play around (and not just under or on top of) Cecil. Big confession, but I vastly prefer this grouping to the Nefertiti trio. Sunny Murray was basically the first person to indisputably solve a really difficult problem (i.e., the role of free drums in a jazz-inflected context), but I think it's arguable from the peanut gallery that he didn't have the comprehensive technical ability to take that concept to its logical conclusion - that was down to guys like Cyrille, Oxley, Moholo, and others. All due respect to Sunny, of course - this thesis just feels supported by the recorded evidence.
  10. Akisakila is the paradigm for a certain type of collective improvisation, and the trio sounds unbelievable on it. My principal gripe is that it's recorded so terribly. Yes, all three instruments are fully audible - and I'd rather have a lo-fidelity masterpiece than crystal clear mediocrity - but the recording imbalances the energy a little too far toward the drums. In my very biased opinion, Andrew was what made this music click - but he was a horizontal improviser at heart, with an uncanny understanding of how melodic line translates to percussion. Akisakila is kind of an energy recording - still amazing, but the mix feels like a bit of a "lie" to me. "Autumn/Parade" better corroborates my understanding of what makes this music click than Akisakila does. "Prototypical Free Jazz" requires that the drummer instigate shifts in momentum, and middling/average free improvisation basically festoons a capable drummer with melodic and harmonic filigree. In the classic CT units, the piano is dictating the ideational energy, and so the drummer doesn't really have to play at any given moment. Cecil is the head of the snake - in Steph Curry fashion, so to speak - and so the drummer is free to operate as either a rhythmic driver or a surrogate melodist. It so happens that Andrew was and is, like, the all time best at operating in that liminal space. The Return Concert is an exceptional document of this.
  11. Prompted (in recursive fashion) by Clifford's Instagram post, I thought I'd swing by to see what the prevailing opinion on this was/is. IMO, this is one of the most extraordinary historical jazz releases of recent memory. The long track ("Autumn/Parade") could very well be the best thing on the program - which is saying something, considering how superlative the original Spring of Two Blue-J's is. This music is just exceptionally refined. When I last spoke to Andrew Cyrille about this, he mentioned that the core trio (Cecil/Lyons/Cyrille) played together a lot, even though documentation was (and remains) relatively scarce. The quartet with Sam Rivers had a bit of the same dynamism and ideational density, but by '73, the band had been working together for so long that the music manifested in a different way. The roles are so clearly defined on this new release - with Sirone slotting very elegantly into the mix - and much of the music is starkly gestural where you would expect it to be "merely" energetic. If there was any doubt that Cecil's music was motivic at its core, this release would put any uncertainties to rest. The level of communication here, with all four wheels of the car playing independently but in consort, is just completely off the chain. Seriously - this music should be on the Voyager spacecraft.
  12. Whoa, hold on a sec - maybe this is what you're getting at, but Sanborn and Kenny G should not be mentioned in the same breath. Each is an ethos, but whereas Sanborn is a reduction (or maybe simplification) of principles with some very legitimate provenance, Kenny G is almost sui generis with regard to the methodology and consistency of his blandness. That Kenny G lacks artistic validity says more about the frameworks with which we are geared to curate genre than it does Kenny G himself. Of course Kenny G sucks. He sucks in the same way that a Huffy Green Machine is not a suitable substitute for a high end Ducati. IMO the "real problem" is that [the universal we] tend to conflate visual markers with cultural identities. Kenny G, John Coltrane, and Braxton all play soprano, so of course they play the same kind of music. Keep in mind that I'm not arguing that Kenny G's music has any sort of inherent value - more that the controversy over his popularity overlays a more interesting discussion about how expressive art suffers in the face of commodification.
  13. Very early impressions - and keep in mind that all of this is visceral rather than considered, because my opinion could easily shift upon re-listen: This is a remarkable document that I feel tremendously privileged to have heard. I also think that mileage may vary. This is closer to The Olatunji Concert or Offering than it is the Antibes A Love Supreme. By this I mean that the imperfection of the recording is just distracting enough to color my view of the music, and insofar as Coltrane's voice is the focal point of the suite, having him recessed so far into the background sort of untethers things. I'd almost trade the sound on this for Olatunji, because although Olatunji is extremely harsh, the energy of the performance communicates the intentions of the performers very clearly. There's that aphoristic phrase (that I cannot source - maybe someone else will remember) about Albert Ayler's recordings being mere "rumors" of the real thing, and that's kind of how I feel about these archival Coltrane recordings. The recording is itself something that is meant to be consumed, because the actual live energy is lost to time. In the case of something like Olatunji, you can (a) choose to listen selectively, mentally blocking out all the clipping and filling in the blanks when it comes to inaudible piano, bass, etc., or (b) you can listen to Olatunji for what it is - i.e., a monolith of poorly recorded free jazz that that is played with virtuosity and passion. It's up to you. Most of the time, I choose the latter. That being said, the rhythm section on the Seattle A Love Supreme is recorded in stunning clarity, the restoration and mastering are exceptionally clean, and there are episodes of music here that are truly worthy of the hagiographic hype. Pharoah's solo on "Acknowledgement" is astonishing, in main because there isn't much other opportunity to hear the Pharoah of this vintage square his extended technique-focused playing into a groove this insistent. Carlos Ward's solo on "Resolution" is also a standout, superficially reminiscent of Dolphy on the Vanguard recordings - but much more abstract. There is also a lot of period appropriate filigree - including miscellaneous percussion on "Acknowledgement" and a battery of bass duos - that feels well-integrated. Under certain circumstances, I'd think that this was the best "new" Coltrane release in decades. At this moment - and I'm ashamed to even be typing this - I could use slightly less Elvin Jones and a lot more Trane. A Love Supreme may have been a collective effort, but that effort hinged on a kind of balance between pieces that feels - in this moment - absent on this recording. As it is, this is "just" a really, really good live Coltrane record - and a worthy appendix to Live In Seattle.
  14. I grabbed this album just a couple of days ago and have not been able to stop listening to it. It is exceptional. Maybe the biggest compliment I can give to this album is that it sounds nothing like Nommo and everything like both a Jason Moran record and a Milford Graves record - which is to say that it feels spontaneous, experimental, and intimate - basically everything you could ask for from a freely improvised duo. But - perhaps my favorite aspect of the album is that it is constructed and sequenced like a complete work (rather than a "mere" document). The processed tracks and Mind-Body pieces feel like they're part of a whole, and they tap into an aspect of the Professor's work that often goes ignored by musical appraisals of his oeuvre - i.e., the intersection between biology and technology as a platform for sound (see below). To put it another way, this record underlines something wildly deep about MG's approach - which is to say that insofar as all musical instruments are a kind of technology, bridging the gap between the inorganic/mechanical and the organic is a necessary part of producing art. The Professor did a lifetime of work in order to get us closer to ourselves. Legit album of the year for me (so far).
  15. I'll freely admit that I have my issues with victim mentality in free music, and I've had to excuse myself from certain situations where this psychology is the dominant one. More often than not, communities that freely trade in this language are undone by circular, feudalistic infighting. On the other hand - and this is a bit of a truism - but hustle is hard. "As Serious As Your Life" is not a joke. The danger/trouble with fighting back is that you're going to go through a world of hurt. Lots of people are cut out for this, but twice as many people are not - and I don't begrudge that, personally.
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