Friday, April 06, 2007
as an addendum to the John Carter powwow, i just wanted to throw out a few words on (and mp3s from) a record of his that i haven't seen too much written about, namely "Variations" (sometimes extended to "Variations on Selected Themes for Jazz Quintet"), recorded in August of '77 and released on Moers Music. i could be sorely mistaken, but it appears to me that you can actually order the CD reissue direct from the Moers homepage.
this record is impressively focused, but sorta skewed more towards lengthy, incisive improv than "Dauwhe." the lineup is sick--Carter, Bobby Bradford on trumpet, James Newton on flute, Bob Stewart on tuba and Philip Wilson on drums--and everyone shows up ready to listen and play really really hard. the lack of a bass gives the improvs a really appealing sparseness. the players dig really deep into extended techniques and abstract tangents, but with musicians this accomplished, you rarely feel like things are meandering. whereas on "Dauwhe" you're sort of struck with the compositional architecture of the whole thing, here you just constantly marvel at how deep the interplay goes, again and again.
i'm checking out the first track, "B.L.'s Delight," right now, and that's a lengthy suite of several melodies bridged by long improv passages. everyone has some pretty heavy statements to make, and the group is wonderfully atomized: Wilson and Bradford play a lengthy duo, Wilson and Stewart fly free as the other winds unite in a tight unison theme--the center shifts constantly. the melodies are really tricky and involved, and the improvs are really searching and open-ended--just as it should be.
there ain't many weak spots on the record. Carter's arrangements are ingenious. he's always splitting up the group into smaller units, like on "Echoes from Harlem," which is a telepathic and microdetailed duo for the leader and Newton. Carter's warbling flights are just wild on this one and the two get into some really piercing super-high-register stuff that's pretty intense. "And She Speaks" is just Bradford and Carter, and it's a patient, beautiful piece of work. is anyone very familiar with the Carter/Bradford duo canon, i.e., those Emanem records? i'm curious.
having a hard time deciding which tracks to post, but i gotta choose b/c i'm pretty sure this thing is still in print. try these for now; they should keep you plenty busy. overall, "Variations" acts as a nice sort of prologue for Carter's masterful cycle of records which began four years later with "Dauwhe"...
Echoes from Harlem
for more on "Variations," check out this really thorough 1981 New York Times article by Robert Palmer, which mentions the session.
also, check this out. it is basically a semi-official blog for Bill Dixon-related happenings. very cool. there's a great interview w/ Taylor Ho Bynum up there now, where THB talks about BD's specific influences on him as a player. i sense that Dixon is going to be my next major phase. i'm really not up on his discography like i should be. the '80s stuff on Black Saint (or is it Soul Note?) is especially intriguing to me, so i think i'm going to start there. lately, "Vade Mecum" has been kickin' total ass for me...