Wednesday, December 06, 2006

acquiring minds want to know

Been out and about too much lately to post, but there's been a certain amount of reflection, again spurred largely by Reading Jazz. My experience of almost the entire criticism section of that book was one of sustained outrage. More about that later.

On the recorded music front, a recent trip to the huge metropolis of Albuquerque resulted in my picking up the Arista Freedom double album by Dave Burrell, High Won-High Two, from 1968 with Sirone and Sunny Murray as well as Bobby Kapp on drums and Pharoah Sanders on...tambourine. Something odd about that. Anyway I have only listened to the West Side Story medley and I'm reminded again of how much is going on with Burrell, a player with whom I only have had passing familiarity. I saw him with David Murray and Andrew Cyrille and Amiri Baraka many years ago and was struck by the uniquely pianistic approach to phrasing and the deceptively "light" sounding touch/attack. I look forward to learning more.

I also picked up George Russell's Living Time Orchestra Blue Note record from 1983, The African Game. I've only given that one listen and I have no idea yet what I feel or really what I'm hearing. There are unfortunate and all-too-facile associations that leap up (in particular, echoes of television cop show soundtracks) and these are definitely unwanted associations. All in all, it's great to be experiencing music from both Burrell and Russell that expands the concept for me even further, a frequent recent experience.

The great windfall is a result of a friend of mine (the beginning of our friendship was playing in a trio when I was 12 years old, 33 years ago, tunes like Walk, Don't Run and Delta Dawn) transferring his vinyl to digital and offering to ship the vinyl to me. He sent me a four page list of such a huge variety of recordings, many of which fill in serious gaps in both my listening and my library. So after the holidays are blessedly over I'll be getting the best Christmas present I could imagine, probably about 80 albums or so, only a few of which are replacements for vinyl that I have but that's unplayable. He was more thorough than I over the years in getting a broader historical perspective so there's a significant amount of Bix, Fletcher Henderson and Duke. But there's also a Marion Brown solo album, for example, that I've never heard of, etc.

On the live music front, the inspiring and surreal and deeply moving Tatsuya Nakatani blew through town and I managed to catch his solo set at High Mayhem. This indirectly led to reconnecting with Gary Hassay who was a central figure in my musical experience in 1979-1980 in Allentown, PA. Nakatani is based in Easton PA and it turns out he's in a trio with Hassay. Hassay is still going strong and I'm looking forward to getting some of his recordings for possible air play on the radio show. Also, I'll be pitching a profile of Nakatani to a percussion mag or other publication in the next week or two.

The most extraordinary aspect for me about Nakatani's art is the complete reconfiguration of the trap set, despite its traditional (though stripped down)set up. On a technical note, I'd love to know how he gets such a warm, basso profundo tone out of his tiny bass drum. Anyway the overall aesthetic effect was trancelike, otherworldly, both beautiful and somewhat daunting. The use of metal (cymbals, bowls, metal wire beaters, gongs, bells, ratchety coils) in combination with the membrane of the drums (and Nakatani's "blowing" against the snare head, creating banshee wails and screeches) coalesces into a sound somehow simultaneously primal and ethereal. Nakatani's relationship to his materials allows for startling chance events, especially in his arrangements of bowls on either floor tom or the snare, sometimes muffled with a towel underneath and sometimes naked, either ringing against other bowls or not. The placement, especially of his largest bowl on the floor tom, also allows for constant swaying of the bowl itself, which creates a rolling, washing sound. His use of the bow is masterful. It was the kind of performance where I wanted the sound first and so closed my eyes often, but then absolutely could not help myself and would gawk again, wondering what the hell is that and how does he do it?

Finally, I'm hoping I can still get tickets for Public Enemy, playing a few blocks from where I live this Friday. Yeah, Public Enemy. Santa Fe is so very odd.

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