Sunday, April 01, 2007

Weekend update: Nels, Braxton, Ramirez // Brackeen sense // Free jazz on the telly

please check out Steve Smith's weekend blogging frenzy, which includes a very thorough recap of the Thursday night Nels-Cline-and-friends-play-Andrew-Hill show that he and i both attended. that was definitely a hot one--very much in line with the "New Monastery" disc released last year. two things in particular made me super happy: first, the band opened w/ "Dedication," the last tune from Hill's "Point of Departure" and one of the saddest, yet also most colorful and strange, pieces of music i know. check the liner notes to the "P.o.D." reissue for a tale of how the melody brought Kenny Dorham to tears during the original session. Bobby Bradford stepped into that role awesomely. he really sounded great throughout the the set. the second thing that got me was Ben Goldberg, who is an absolutely sick soloist. he took one uptempo solo that had me all like, "Jesus, man!" he definitely shreds and is worth checking out whenever possible.


ok, so i really enjoyed the Nels, but neither it nor the other show i went to (Anthony Braxton and his septet on Saturday night) eclipsed the incredible Dirty Projectors set described in the previous post. they swept the weekend, no doubt.

but the Braxton set was awesome. he had a stripped down band from the "12+1tet" he brought to Iridium last year, but the style was very similar: Ghost Trance stuff w/ a lot of freedom for all. (please see my recent "Time Out" piece, written in advance of this Iridium run, for a further discussion of this methodology. i interviewed Braxton and did my best to explain in 700 or so words what makes him such a genius.) gotta put it out there that i have friends in this band, so i might be biased, but all the sidepersons (or whatever you call them) played awesomeley. i can remember a really kick-ass conducted trilly "language-type" duet between Braxton and brass wizard Taylor Ho Bynum, some spacey, head-spinning glissando viola from Jess Pavone, some tense, squealing effects from Mary Halvorson and a whole bunch of other nice collage-style occurences, with multiple factions of the band blasting off in different directions.

the whole set was very sparse and almost creepy in parts, very tense and almost angry at others. Braxton took a lot of really, really, really sick solos, especially on sopranino and alto, demonstrating that awesome growly, howly, hoarse thing that he does so well. one particular oddity and awesomeness was watching him maneuver the contrabass sax (see above) which is, uh, fucking huge. it looks like a saxophone shot with a nuclear ray or something--just goddamn gigantic. he spent like probably five minutes total maneuvering the thing around and got barely like 20 notes out of it, but it sounded awesome. just like a comically deep tone. glad there's someone out there who's creatively committed enough to tote this thing around. most would just say, "fuck it." anyway, i hope Brax at Iridium becomes a yearly thing.


before that, Laal and i hit up the Martin Ramirez exhibit at the American Folk Art Museum. Ramirez was schizophrenic and made illustrations for something like 30 years in an institution. very intense and beautiful stuff. he has this obsessive use of curved lines and weird patterns and strange motifs, like cars or horsemen or the Madonna, etc. just really wondrous aesthetics going on and something y'all should all check out before the show closes on in mid-May. saw some Darger stuff while there too and goddamn, that stuff is something to see as well...


will leave you with a few recommendations and some media, namely this track...

Charles Brackeen Quartet - Worshippers Come Nigh

Charles Brackeen is defintely an overlooked dude in the '80s jazz pantheon. tenor and soprano player, originally from Oklahoma, but who spent some time in Texas and out west as well. worked w/ Paul Motian and Shannon Jackson and Dennis Gonzalez and also recorded a record called "Rhythm X" for Strata-East which features Ornette's inner-sanctum band. most of what i know comes from here, which is Silkheart's album page for "Bannar," one of three discs Brackeen made for the label. the track above is from the second of those, "Worshippers Come Nigh," which is a very sick record from (i think) '87.

you got Olu Dara on trumpet, Fred Hopkins on bass and Andrew Cyrille on drums, so basically: hell yeah. i hadn't heard too much Olu Dara before checking this out and i was really impressed by how bright and clear and funky and virtuosic his playing is. speaking of virtuosic, Fred Hopkins blows my fucking mind every single time i hear him on a session. Jesus Christ, he's just owns the bass, straight up. he just makes it sound so rubbery and sproingy; he really has the instrument doing his bidding. what a great, great player. anyway, the writing is, though, really what grabs me. the title track which is for the taking above is a really catchy, exuberant and deep piece. the two horns sound like about ten and the melody is really catchy but has all these subtle nooks and crannies.

Brackeen is a badass, powerful soloist. kind of in the Dewey Redman vein of superbluesy and soulful free tenors. his solo on this track is burly and mightily swinging. imagine if Fred Anderson were a lot more extroverted and brash and you might get something like this. he's just got a really warm, muscular sound but he's also comfortable with the high-range vibrato thing, as you hear right at the end of the solo. the rhythm section totally cooks under him, and Olu Dara is definitely feeling the vibe as well.

anyway, does anyone know what became of Mr. Brackeen? as far as i know, he's still alive, but no word on any recordings since the Silkhearts in the late '80s. too bad, b/c on the basis of his awesome writing and punchy soloing, this guy seems like he was on his way to becoming a legend at the time of this recording.


ok, has everyone who's into free jazz seen "Imagine the Sound"? if you haven't, for God's sake, watch this clip:

yes, i know. this is definitey a where-have-you-been-all-my-life doc! it was made in 1981 by Bill Smith, who's the Canadian journalist and musician behind "Coda" magazine and the Sackville label. it focuses on four cats: Cecil Taylor, Paul Bley, Bill Dixon and Archie Shepp, offering extensive interview and performance footage of each. as you can see above, the performances are fucking awesome (Dixon absolutely smokes in that trio w/ bassist Art Davis--trivia: he was a practicing psychologist!--and drummer Freddie Waits). the interviews are really crazy and loopy too; all such huge and weird personalities. Shepp speaks of having to come to terms with the fact that he was never going to have Coltrane's perfect golden tone; Bill Dixon talks about beating people up if they didn't listen to Trane; Bley reminisces about the rough early days playing w/ Ornette; and Cecil is just totally out, reciting poetry and saying cryptic stuff like "It seems to me that the music is everything that one does." (at one point, Cecil's talking about how all the arts are sort of interrelated (a pet topic of his, no doubt) and how one should generally be soaking up aesthetic info at all times, and he's like, "So when one walks down the street and one looks and if there is a fuchsia-colored awning sticking out on the 30th floor, one says, 'oh, wow!'" damn, man, Cecil rules indeed.)

and so does this flick. i'm annoyed b/c it's sitting on my hard drive as a Windows Media file, but i don't know how to edit it down so as to post clips here. anyone know any easy-to-use free video editing software for PC? don't think it's on DVD either, but VHS copies can seemingly be ordered here. someone put this damn thing out on DVD!


i leave you with a plug: if anyone in NYC is interested, Stay Fucked is playing tomorrow night, Monday, 4/2, at Lit Lounge, which is at 95 Second Ave between 5th and 6th Sts. we'll go on around 10pm. it is part of a weekly metal gala called Precious Metal. Stay Fucked isn't really metal, but we're certainly metal sympathizers.

as always, thx for stopping by...


Moandji Ezana said...

I like the steady flow of MP3s. Keep it up and you'll soon be rivaling Destination:Out! :)

Jason said...

Apparently a DVD version of "Imagine the Sound" is forthcoming this year; see here.

That Cecil footage is absolutely incredible. Another solo Cecil performance on video well worth watching is on the "One Night With Blue Note" DVD.

Mr Weird said...

The Brackeens on Silkheart, as well as the Dennis Gonzalez sessions recorded around the same time are amazing. What a head of steam!

And Fred Hopkins just nails me to the floor every time I hear him. Such a shame I never saw him live :-(